Another Look Into Brand Loyalty: featuring Die-Hard NASCAR fans

10 Mar

It is a Sunday afternoon and SURPRISE! I am sitting in front of my television, doing homework at a snail’s pace because I am watching the Kobalt Tools 400 in Vegas. Piddling through FastCompany articles, I came across an article that could not have been a better job at catching my eye: How NASCAR Uses Access to Build the Most Loyal Brand Fans Anywhere. Brand loyalty, a common theme we have been discussing in IMC and NASCAR. Sounds like a great Sunday afternoon read.

Martin’s First Lap (No, not Mark Martin)

Amy Jo Martin, founder and CEO of Digital Royalty, tells of her first NASCAR race, the 2011 Daytona 500. She prefaces the article with all the negative connotations she had of a “monotonous day of left turns and mullets.” Martin does not go into detail about who drove well or who won the race that day, but rather emphasizes the experience. She knew that NASCAR fans were as loyal as they come, but she did not understand why until she experienced a race herself.

To someone who does not follow NASCAR, the sport and the fans are both misunderstood. Martin will first claim and even “swear on her iPhone” that she did not see a single mullet. Take a look at the photo I have attached of NASCAR fans in the Grandstands. There are men, women, boys, and girls. Notice they are all standing. They’re engaged and they look just like me and you.

NASCAR fansphoto credit: mlovitt via photopin cc

NASCAR fans
photo credit: mlovitt via photopin cc

What she did see was accessibility. Interaction. Passion. It is a different experience than any other professional sport because of the accessibility to the track and the drivers. Drivers take pictures, sign autographs, and interact with fans literally until the second they enter their vehicles.  Fans are allowed to be on the track and capture memories that will last them a lifetime. Each driver interaction entices a fan to want to meet and connect with more drivers. It is a never-ending cycle.

Martin says that personal access is the “entry point for any growing brand.” Personal access? That is exactly what I experienced when I met Kasey Kahne at a Q&A session in Martinsville last April. I was even able to talk to him for a minute about a mutual friend we share, my mentor and NASCAR inspiration, Mr. Phillip Murdock.

Martin recalls fans at the Daytona 500 being called down from the Grandstands to sign the track.  This is essentially the same thing as the Red Socks fans summoned down to Fenway Park to stand on the pitchers mound. But let’s be honest, that does not happen unless you are the lucky winner of hundreds of thousands of fans entered into some kind of contest. For a kid who goes down to the track with his or her parent and signs the pavement, a connection is made, and a lifetime fan is born.

Martin’s Final Lap

Every NASCAR fan has the opportunity to access, connect, and create a relationship. This is easily why fans have a favorite driver who they are loyal to.  This loyalty all starts with first point of access the fan was exposed to.  And despite the fact that NASCAR drivers ride solo, NASCAR fans certainly do not. What Martin learned was that they not only have a connection to the brand and the drivers, but with each other. Let me support that statement by assuring you that every time I have been in the Grandstands, I have made friends. These are people I will never see again, but for three hours, we can enjoy cheering and watching the race with each other. At the end of the day, it was all about the experience.

There are two lessons to be learned here:

  1. Martin concluded her article by writing that with her #GiveNASCARaChance hashtag, she created an audience (that like her) gave NASCAR a chance and tuned in for the first time ever. In one day, Martin was made a believer. “The woman who never had a NASCAR bone in her body,” had gained an appreciation for the sport, no long ignorant to “left turns.”
  2. Brand loyalty all starts with accessibility. My point? There might be a thing or two to learn from NASCAR. Their fan loyalty speaks volumes.

I hope this shed some light for y’all! Thanks for reading to all my non-NASCAR readers.

This blog post is a part of a series of assignments for Integrated Marketing Communications at Elon University.

Source: How NASCAR Uses Access to Build the Most Loyal Brand Fans Anywhere

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