Personal access is the entry point for growing any brand. Here's how NASCAR creates memorable brand-fan connections--and ideas for how your company can put the pedal to the metal as well.
Many people think I’m a sports expert. Not so much. My expertise is in branding, research, and analytics. It just so happens that a good deal of my experience has been in the sports world. That said, people still expect me to know everything about every sport, which I don’t.
To my dad’s disappointment, I knew virtually nothing about NASCAR yet found myself with a hot pass to the Daytona 500 in 2011. (A hot pass is the king of all VIP passes in the world of racing. If there were backseats in those cars, they’d let you sit there if you had a hot pass.) My avid NASCAR fan of a father was slightly jealous of the laminated magic I wore around my neck.
I was one of those people who didn’t understand, or better yet “get,” NASCAR. Whether it was the complicated old points system (which recently changed. Who knew?) or just my lack of exposure, I was in the camp of those who secretly, okay shamefully, made fun of the so-called “monotonous day of left turns and mullets.” But I eventually discovered how misled I was.
Due to a personal endorsement deal with GM and Chevy, I attended the 2011 Daytona 500 as a complete NASCAR rookie--so much of a rookie that I wore black high heel boots to this gig. It was my first-ever experience at a live NASCAR race, and I can’t ever remember watching one on TV either. I knew nothing about the sport other than the fact that NASCAR had a very loyal fan base and its success revolved around the teams’ marketing sponsors.
The Daytona was a great learning experience on many levels. I obviously got to know what makes NASCAR so exciting. I also learned why fans are so loyal. And I swear on my iPhone, I didn’t see one mullet.
There I stood, a former NASCAR phobic by all accounts, suddenly filled with excitement, adrenaline, and loud engines--all the stuff that makes life fun. Was I actually liking NASCAR? Yes. What could bring on such a quick change?
I was given a more intimate experience with the brand by way of its primary consensus. I mingled with the loyalists, in other words. And when you meet passion face-to-face, it’s impossible to ignore. There were several reasons I couldn’t ignore people’s passion for NASCAR.
For starters, drivers are unusually accessible. They do fan Q&As and autograph sessions the day of the race. The Daytona 500 happens to be the biggest day of the year for NASCAR. I didn’t see quarterback Tom Brady (New England Patriots) or Eli Manning (New York Giants) chatting with fans on game day. In addition to the unscripted access to the sports stars, my hot pass allowed me to literally go anywhere--even the racetrack itself.
It was uncomfortably exciting having unlimited access, and at times I worried about getting in the crew’s way. Needless to say, I was in the middle of the action and got to experience firsthand what makes NASCAR such a fascinating sport.
Are you seeing a familiar thread here? Personal access is the entry point for growing any brand. Here’s why.