Industry experts point to ‘totality’ of motor sports consumption

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LAS VEGAS -- A panel of motor sports leaders, including Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Doug Boles, stressed Wednesday that traditional television ratings are not the complete picture when judging the volume of motor sports consumers.

Keep in mind, the panelists said, there are numerous ways people are following the sport, counting video and social media.

“You can’t just say TV ratings are (challenged) so nobody’s watching,” NBC Sports’ Mike McCormack said at the Sports Business Journal’s Motorsports Marketing Forum at Mandalay Bay. “You have to account for digital consumption.”

“The media gets focused on television (ratings); television is the old metric,” Boles said. “We have to figure out what the new metric is, and (that’s) digital.”

Those numbers include followers on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, among other applications. IndyCar, for example, has more than 223,000 followers on Twitter and nearly a half of a million friends on Facebook, and by various measures IndyCar fans are extremely active on social media channels.

“If you focus just on TV, you’ve lost what (motor sports) can bring,” Boles said. “We bring a lot (of people) on race day, but even those who don’t (attend) we’re engaging in real time.

“My most fun part of the year is to sit in my basement during (NASCAR’s) Daytona 500 and sort of watch the broadcast but really interact with the fans who are interacting (on social media).

“As an industry, I think we have to come up with one common way to explain that to partners.”

Said Jill Gregory, NASCAR’s chief marketing officer: “It’s not just about one metric; it’s the totality.”

Boles was among the host of IMS and INDYCAR representatives speaking at this conference. Indianapolis 500 winners Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and reigning champion Alexander Rossi were on a panel Thursday. Team owner Chip Ganassi also spoke to the attendees.

IMS and INDYCAR are among the sponsors of the two-day marketing conference featuring numerous motor sports executives.

Boles: Indy 500 on pace for another big show

On the heels of this year’s record-setting Indianapolis 500, which included a sellout allowing for the lifting of the local television blackout, Boles said Wednesday ticket renewals for the 101st race have been strong.

“We’ve retained almost 75 percent of the lift we got out of 2016,” Boles said at the Sports Business Journal’s Motorsports Marketing Forum at Mandalay Bay.

Boles said ticket sales for the 500 started “an upward trend” in 2011, continuing through 2015. But this year’s demand, he said, blew previous numbers “out of the park.”

Final attendance numbers approached 350,000, Boles said, with 30,000 of them enjoying the Snakepit concert in the infield of Turn 3. The facility has an estimated 250,000 permanent seats.

Boles isn’t offering a prediction about the number of attendees at the 2017 race, to be held May 28, but it figures to be a robust number. Tickets went on sale earlier this week at indy500.com.

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