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The Fast Track to Loyalty


NASCAR offers marketers an impassioned fan base that leads the sports industry in brand loyalty

NASCAR might still be considered a niche sport, but its reach is expanding and its fans could very well be the most brand-loyal in the sports industry, experts say.

Corporate brands are part of the action for the Daytona Beach, Fla.-based National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing Inc. (NASCAR), their logos emblazoned on nearly every inch of the cars, and on the drivers themselves. Drivers regularly thank their sponsors in interviews—and fans are paying attention, says Bill Doyle, co-founder and vice president of Newport, R.I.-based sports marketing research firm Performance Research.

“The sport is about telling stories and following it week to week, and having a favorite driver and engaging with the products. If you love Dale Earnhardt Jr., you’re going to drink Amp energy drinks. It all feeds into each other,” he says. “NASCAR drivers were trained early on to thank the sponsors, teaching the fans that the sponsors make the sport possible. When a driver won, all the way back to the ’70s and ’80s, the first thing the driver says is: ‘I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my sponsor. We have to support our sponsors because without them, we wouldn’t have racing.’ ”

At least 40% of NASCAR fans can correctly identify brands such as Coors Light, Chevrolet and Nationwide Insurance as NASCAR sponsors. Further, 76% of NASCAR fans are likely to consider a brand that’s an official NASCAR sponsor, and 75% would recommend a NASCAR-sponsoring brand, according to research conducted by Haddonfield, N.J.-based sports marketing research firm Turnkey Sports & Entertainment for Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal. “NASCAR fans are … loyal to the sport, and sponsors associate themselves with the sport in the hopes of transferring some of that loyalty onto their brands,” says Nicolay Panchev, Turnkey’s vice president of consumer research.

According to Nielsen, NASCAR fans are 63% male and 37% female, and 49% are 55 years old or older. Ninety-four percent are white, while 2% are Hispanic and 2% are black.

In an effort to engage its existing fans, and also to expand beyond that predominantly white, male audience, NASCAR is looking to surveys, focus groups and consumer panels for insights, says Brian Moyer, managing director of market and media research at NASCAR. “We have an internal panel called the Official NASCAR Fan Council, which we utilize to better understand and communicate with our best customers, who we would call avid NASCAR fans. We harness their information to understand who they are and what makes them tick. We turn their feedback into insights so we can be nimble to make the right changes on the racetrack to keep them excited about the sport.”

The NASCAR fan base has expanded in recent years to include more consumers in the West and Northeast parts of the United States. “The Southeast part of the country was a very defined audience, but over the past 20 years, it’s become more general population, across the country, growing in different states,” Doyle says. “Ten or 15 years ago, NASCAR made a concerted effort to broaden their location base. The tracks used to only be in the Southeast, but they started opening tracks across the country in places like California and Las Vegas and Kansas. They also used to only be on ESPN, and once they signed with Fox and NBC, [that network coverage] brought the sport to a much more national audience.”

Avid NASCAR fans are 36% more likely to plan to buy a new car, and twice as likely to plan to buy a new truck in the next 12 months, according to Nielsen. “The obvious draw is automotive culture: They’re much more likely to have a car and drive more miles, so they’re leaders in that area,” Moyer says.

This article was written by the AMA contributor: Molly Soat and this post was re-purposed from the American Marketing Association. Read more Marketing News here.