By on August 4, 2010

New vehicle buyers who are influenced by motorsports typically love cars and trucks and they are opinion leaders for other car buyers – they give an average of 25 or more vehicle recommendations per year to others. More importantly people follow their advice – and we have measured it.  So, there is a downstream impact from the races in the form of on-going word of mouth recommendations.  That’s why we say that the roar from a race car continues away from the track.

Steve Bruyn, President of Foresight Research breaks down an intriguing finding from his firm’s “2010: Automotive Marketing Return On Investment” study [via PRNewswire]. What makes Foresight’s finding so strange is that from Formula One to NASCAR, OEMs have been grumbling about the irrelevance of major race series to their automotive products.  Meanwhile, there’s no shortage of anecdotal evidence to suggest that automotive enthusiasm is on the decline in general, a reality which implies that racing is less important to automotive buying decisions than ever. So just how effective is the oldest form of automotive marketing?

Ironically, Foresight singles out the race series that have come under the greatest OEM pressure of late as examples of effective race-based auto marketing.

When it comes to the influence of various racing organizations, NASCAR, Formula 1 and IndyCar are heavy favorites. Geography also played a key role in the study with markets like Charlotte, Orlando/Daytona, Dallas and Northern California all more likely to attend a race and/or watch on TV. The incidence of TV viewership by brand was led by Dodge (36%), GMC (35%), Chevrolet (32%) and Ford (31%) followed by upscale and performance oriented brands. Buyers of large cars, sporty cars and pickup trucks are more likely to be influenced by motor sports.

OK, so those are the most popular racing series with American audiences… but what percentage of car buyers actually watch them?

In 2009, 10% of all new vehicle buyers surveyed attended one or more motorsports races in the 12 months prior to their purchase. Meanwhile, 25% of all new vehicle buyers surveyed watched at least one motorsports race on television in the same time period. Of those who watched motorsports on TV, the average number of races watched was a surprisingly high 11.

But Foresight only quantifies the real impact on the ten percent of car buyers who actually attend races. As Bruyn explains

When marketers have a display at a race, 63% of those highly influential buyers actually pre-planned their visits to include vehicle brand displays at the motorsports venue. These folks are there for the race but when they’re in the market for a new vehicle they take the opportunity to visit the display. There may not be a huge number of shoppers at any given race but there are definitely enough to make the race day pay off. Then after the race, they are far more inclined to spread vehicle recommendations versus the total market average (44% versus 18%, respectively).

Now, ten percent of the market isn’t something to be ignored, but with race fans statistically distributed in regional clusters, a market-wide commitment to motorsport still seems like a questionable move for mainstream brands. Perhaps then, the benefit of racing series like NASCAR is that it’s relatively cheap, and can be followed or ignored, depending on the consumer. On the other hand, if NASCAR’s vehicles only superficially resemble a brand’s road cars, one has to wonder how long the halo effect can last.

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23 Comments on “Quote Of The Day: Win On Sunday, Sell On Monday Edition...”

  • avatar

    This is a foolish supposition. Its true that enthusiast buyers go to races and that they are leaders in recommending to others, but there’s no data to point to race winners having any influence over what those enthusiasts might buy.

    I mean, I like watching F1 or WRC, but who wins doesn’t affect how likely I’ll be to suggest someone buy a minivan.

    Who commissioned the study, by the way? I’ll wager its someone who sells decal space at races.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed. Most people understand that the million-dollar car on the track bears no resemblance to what’s in the showroom, AND that racing results are as much dependent upon the driver, the team, and luck as they are upon the manufacturer of the car.

      Besides, if racing’s trickle-down effect was so strong, then you’d see more Jaguars, McLarens, and Ferraris on the road.

  • avatar

    “if NASCAR’s vehicles only superficially resemble a brand’s road cars”

    That may have been true 25 years ago. That’s not true today. The current NASCAR “Cars of Tomorrow” look *nothing* like real production cars. That’s why they have to be plastered with logos and model name stickers. Pathetic.

    • 0 avatar

      Nascar has nothing to do with the car I’ll buy unless I grow a mullet – forget proper dental hygiene and only consider cars with that still have an ohv and a carburetor (there is no innovation in Nascar). Hell just this year they modernized their safety and environmental stance by going to radial tires and unleaded gasoline. With Nascar we all know that marketing 1st / racing 2nd. In the end, Nascar is where mfgrs who can’t innovate go to race and get nowhere (like they are just running in circles – pun intended). Now since I’ve said this I’ll likely have a restrictor put on my mouth for saying that.

  • avatar

    I look forward to seeing a NASCAR race featuring a “Chevy Volt.”

    • 0 avatar

      That’s real easy changing over their platforms. Just get some new vinyl stickers printed to look like its nose, headlights and badge and call it a day. Will they put the hybrid sticker on it too?

  • avatar
    Eric 0

    The last point about the race cars no longer resembling production cars is probably the key one. I lost interest in Nascar as the cars became standardized skins over custom frames, completely unrelated to their donor brands. F1 cars have turned into carbon origami cruise missiles. They are amazing machines, but the only thing they have in common with their brand backers is the logo and corporate colors. The only car company putting a lot of F1 technology into their production cars is Ferrari, and Ferrari buyers probably place a high value on owning a brand that dominates in F1.

    However, many buyers of Imprezas, WRXs and Lancers probably pay attention to who’s competitve in world rally, and the dominance of the corvette over more expensive donor cars in GT racing certainly helps corvette buyers rationalize the purchase of one of the least practical (but most awesome) road cars you can buy. BMW shocked many when they exited from Formula 1, but they continue to support GT racing like corvette, Aston, and so on.

    I like the races where people race versions of real cars you can buy. I think a lot of people feel this way.
    Now that Rally is part of the X-games, look for it to slowly, quietly begin to displace NASCAR as the signature redneck 4-wheel race series.

    • 0 avatar

      “I like the races where people race versions of real cars you can buy. I think a lot of people feel this way.”


      However that’s pretty limited to Speed’s Challenge series, British Touring Car, Grand Am and World Rally. Not many options to attend those races for me, so I go to Homestead and watch the IRL.

      I figure if I can’t watch real cars I’ll watch open wheel races where technology (like in F1) is really what is on display. Shame Honda, Toyota and BMW pulled out of F1 because at least their engine building muscle was being showcased.

      I can’t stand NASCRASH – its like the WWE of auto racing. The stickers of the headlights just proves how silly it is. BTW my mother had no idea those were stickers, she thought they were real so clearly the marketing is working, people still think a “Ford Fusion” is out there racing :(

    • 0 avatar

      Formula 1 has never been about production vehicles nor has it been about “win on Sunday, sell on Monday”. That’s Nascar.

      You need to do some research on the complete history of motorsports. Drag racing, circle track, formula 1, all of it.

  • avatar

    I really question the connection. NASCAR has become more IROCish as the sanctioning body dictates so many things and provides items like ignition boxes and shocks. I guess I am not exactly the typical NASCAR fan..Northeast, left of center politically but I really enjoy the sport. While the cars have become more generic, the drivers are transforming from fat good ol boys to good role models. What guy wouldn’t like to be a fit as Carl Edwards? But I just don’t see any of this translating into actual sales. Sure, there are the Chevy/Ford and even Toyota only guys but that narrow kind of thinking is disappearing fast. Which is a good thing. Car makers have really begun to question sponsorship because the drivers have become the stars, not the cars. Dale Earnhardt is going to be popular no matter what he drives. But I don’t see too many people wanting to drive “what Dale drives”…

  • avatar
    M 1

    I’m going to go ahead and say the complainers are applying the “relevance” test a little too literally.

    There IS such a thing as brand loyalty and excitement over what “your team” can accomplish. GM’s success with Vette in the Le Mans and ALMS series is the obvious example. Those cars have almost zero in common with the road cars, but it has been a hugely successful effort.

    Other examples abound. Hell, I bought my first Viper after watching Oreca finish first at Daytona. Will that one sale impact the bottom line? No, of course not.

    But if you don’t understand why it matters, then (a) you should look up “halo car”, and (b) you shouldn’t be commenting on the automotive industry, let alone work in it.

    • 0 avatar

      GT class ALMS cars must start from a factory chassis and engine/drivetrain. There the $ goes in there to alter everything – but it has a starting point. Nascar does nothing like this as they all buy the same block / head and frame. If you look under the skin of a Ford Chevy or Toyota without seeing the exterior – you’ll be hard kept to tell the difference unless you are lucky and they put some stickers on the engine.

      Here are production car based racing series (some more than others).

      WTCC / ETCC
      TDI Cup
      World Challenge GT, GTS, ST
      Continental Challenge GT / ST
      ALMS GT Class and GTC (997 Cup Cars)
      Grand Am GT Class
      GT3 Cup
      Viper Racing Series
      Ferrari Challenge
      Mini Cup
      Tivo Cup (and no not the DVR system)
      500 Cup
      Australian V8 Supercars
      FIA GT Series
      LeMans Racing Series
      1000s of Amateur racing groups around the world

  • avatar

    …i believe the australian V8 supercar series still has a real effect on holden and ford sales over there; no doubt in large part because they’re still built up from stock models…

  • avatar

    I too would love to see a race series with real cars.

    And I’m talking REAL. Take them off the showroom floor, rip out the interiors, add a roll cage, go racing. Are they as fast as what’s circling the tracks today? No. But speed is relative, whether it’s a car going 90 mph or 200. Frankly, I’ve seen car chases on TV, ripping through LA, that looked way faster (and more exciting) than anything NASCAR has to offer.

    A series such as this would have real world relevance, from performance, to safety, to economy.

    I think it would be a hoot.

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      There are about five million nitpicky SCCA classes like that, and they aren’t a hoot, they’re tedious.

    • 0 avatar

      The problem with true “stock car” racing, as M 1 suggests, is it is very, very difficult to create races that put cars on equal footing. The tiniest detail can make one car have a huge performance advantage over another on the track. These stock series are constantly evolving and changing the rules to try to keep equity amongst the cars and it becomes very difficult and expensive to keep up. Anyone can race, but to be competitive takes very specific cars in every class.

      Also, people forget how manufacturers started gaming Nascar and other stock race series with limited production run automobiles that had huge advantages in their class. Take for example the ’69 Dodge Charger Daytona with its pointy front end and huge wing that dominated Nascar till it was outlawed in ’71.

      Finally, remember that a lot of changes made to Nascar were done for safety. No modern stock car would be as safe on the track as Nascar’s new Sprint series “Car of Tomorrow.”

      • 0 avatar

        The sponsors don’t like fatal crashes. The message immediately changes from “If I buy a BrandXCar, I’ll be a winner, just like that guy!” to “OMG, If I buy a BrandXCar, I could die in a horrific fireball, just like that guy!”.

    • 0 avatar

      @ disaster:


      Beyond safety and durability issues, competition would be hard to come by with actual stock car racing.

      You think NASCAR is boring to watch on television now? Just take a look at what races were like in the past. It was rare for more than 4 cars to finish on the lead lap and several races a season had someone winning by 2+ laps.

      I would like it if NASCAR designed their cars to look less goofy, but I’m not an advocate of showroom racing either.

  • avatar

    I look forward to seeing a NASCAR race featuring a “Chevy Volt.” How long is the race? I don’t know, how long of an extension cord do you have.

  • avatar

    Just discussed the new Nascar last week.

  • avatar
    George B

    Anyone else notice that engine failure disappeared in the IRL when Honda started supplying all the engines? I know the engines have almost no connection to Honda consumer products, but I think Honda uses the IRL to send the message that they know their stuff when it comes to engineering internal combustion engines.

  • avatar

    Ferrari, Lotus, Williams, BRM, McLaren, Benetton (a clothing manufacturer, fer chrissake), Brabham, etc.

    All are cottage-industry operations, and all have participated in F1. Large companies like Renault, BMW and Honda are rare in the annals of Formula 1 and even Ford only stuck its name on a Cosworth engine. Of those biggies I mentioned, only Renault and briefly Honda ever fielded a complete car and not just an engine.

    However, technologies developed in F1 do trickle down to production cars, maybe more so than in any other racing series. Credit improvements in aerodynamics, electronic engine management, , transmissions, driver aids like traction control and ABS, metallurgy, structural design, and many others to lessons learned in F1 over the last 30 years alone.

    The car in your driveway benefited more from F1 tech than it ever got from NASCAR.

    NASCAR, on the other hand, has always been really good at presenting its form of racing as FUN. The most common complaint about F1 these days is that it’s too clinical. NASCAR, on the other hand, has always been big on personalities.

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