Don’t let the headlines fool you


Motorsports is still a great sponsorship investment

by: Rob McQueen (President, North America) 

Over Memorial Day weekend our motorsports team managed the activations of eight brand clients and watched 14 cars sponsored by them excite and engage consumers in Monaco, Charlotte and Indianapolis, including IndyCar’s presenting sponsor Verizon.
In addition, the production team produced the Circle K Speed Street presented by Coca-Cola, a part of the annual 600 Festival, and outdoor concerts around the Charlotte race featuring Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jake Owen and Big and Rich. Hundreds of thousands of people across the country cheered their favorite team or driver and interacted with brands in real, interesting and engaging ways.
It was a fantastic weekend in racing!


However, on Monday morning I read many news headlines that showcased a negative outlook:
“Missing Its Mark” – regarding the Indianapolis 500 and its 3.6 overnight rating
 “Coke 600 is Down” – regarding the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte and its 2.8 overnight rating
I am not sure whose Mark was missed (Miles?), and yes, a rain delay did contribute to a ratings slide in Charlotte, but the television ratings made the broadcasts of each race the two highest rated programs on Sunday, in primetime and anytime. That’s great news in an age when all ratings are declining.
This is also a confirmation, yet again, that live sports drive traditional television consumption in the U.S.
As a hockey fan, I also watched some of the Penguins 5-3 victory over the Predators that Sunday night on NBC. The headline the next day screamed, “Something to Celebrate,” regarding its 3.5 overnight rating. I also read that the Pittsburgh crowd that night was nearly 20,000, a complete sellout. Good for hockey!


But as always the curious thinker, I dove into the data and came to a different conclusion than others. It appeared that the headlines for motorsports coverage from the weekend were negative when they should have also screamed about something to celebrate.
The Indy 500 ratings outdrew the Stanley Cup Finals ratings and traditional entertainment programming across the board. Something to celebrate?
What about the affect the races had on social media? We know interest in the Indy 500 around the globe was increased by the participation of Spanish F1 star Fernando Alonso and the McLaren team. This year, 16 percent of all tweets around the #Indy500 hashtag were from Spain, which is up from less than 1 percent from last year. Overall, #Indy500 mentions on Twitter throughout race weekend were substantially more than double from 2016 and its 100th Running of the race, with positive sentiment estimated this year at 91 percent, which is up from 79 percent last year. 
This looks like something to celebrate.
A combined U.S. television audience of more than 6 million; onsite attendance of more than 600,000; social media metrics up over 100 percent across the board. 
What brand wouldn’t want to associate itself with motorsports?
As our recent F1 fan survey showed across the globe (18,000 respondents in 18 countries), the ”New Wave” fan (more than half under age 35, 49 percent female, early adopters of products) has embraced motorsports, and has made it once again something to celebrate and sponsor.
It’s time for the media and sports marketing industry to stop selling a negative storyline. At CSM, we are the leading motorsports agency working with many of the leading brands in the world, and we are doubling down on motorsports right now.