The following article appears in The Fields of Green, a partnership between USC Marshall School of Business Sports Business Institute and USA Today by Gina Katzmark, communications director in North America for Repucom.
Many Americans will spend the Sunday of the extended holiday weekend watching motorsports programming with the famed Formula One event in Monaco, the historic Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s longest event, the Coca-Cola 600.
For sponsors involved in these racing series, there is more than $100 million of total television broadcast media exposure up for grabs in the U.S. alone.
Indianapolis 500: Driving the value of the Verizon IndyCar Series
The Indianapolis 500 is the most anticipated race in the Verizon IndyCar Series season. Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with a capacity of more than 260,000, hosts what is considered the world’s largest single-day sporting event each year.
Beyond the tradition and fanfare, the race is also responsible for driving the majority of media exposure value across the entire IndyCar season. Given the large viewership and its network television broadcast, more than half of the entire season’s media value comes from the Indianapolis 500 live race, pre-race and qualifying shows alone.
In 2014, the televised Indianapolis 500 events drove $37.3 million in media value, which was nearly 60% of the full 18-race schedule’s total exposure value, according to global sports and entertainment intelligence firm Repucom.
“The numbers are an indicator to demonstrate how important the Indianapolis 500 is to the IndyCar series. But as is often the case, too much of a good thing can be a risk. A weather delay, dip in viewership, or forbid a cancellation, could put the entire season’s value proposition in jeopardy,” said Peter Laatz, executive vice president, Repucom.
Television ratings show the Indianapolis 500 live race, pre-race and qualifying combined to equal nearly 44% of the total season viewership of the Verizon IndyCar Series programming in 2014.
Coca-Cola 600: NASCAR’s longest night
Even with the prestige associated with “the greatest spectacle in racing,” NASCAR’s longest event of the season outperforms the Indianapolis 500 on a number of metrics. For the past five years, the NASCAR race has been the highest rated motorsports event on television on Memorial Day weekend, and the exposure value delivered to sponsors by NASCAR’S Coca-Cola 600 is double that of the Indianapolis 500.
Repucom’s SponsorLink fan tracker shows a significant crossover of fans between the two domestic racing series with 93% of IndyCar fans identifying themselves and NASCAR fans; 79% of NASCAR fans are also IndyCar fans.
However, the two series have very different consumer loyalty and driver identification measures, said Laatz.
“Motorsports as a sport category globally always performs well on fan-to-sponsor loyalty measures, but there are important variances in those figures. NASCAR fans tend to gravitate to drivers and teams, and are able to recall sponsors quite well.”
More than 54% of IndyCar fans do not identify a favorite driver and 57% do not have a favorite team, which is in stark contrast to the same figures that accompany NASCAR.
According to CelebrityDBI powered by Repucom, general public awareness of IndyCar drivers is low, with the highest ranked active driver having just over 30% recognition compared to the 50-75% awareness of NASCAR’s top five marketable drivers.
Formula One Monaco Grand Prix: International Mystique
As the Eastern Time Zone sits down for breakfast on Sunday, Formula One drivers in the French Rivera will take the green flag for the Monaco Grand Prix.
The Monaco Grand Prix is watched by television viewers around the world, driving nearly $188 million in media value worldwide, with only $6.7 million through exposure in the U.S.
Nearly one million U.S. households watched the Monaco Grand Prix on NBC Sports last year, three times as many as back in 2012 when the Speed network had the broadcast rights to the race.
“Formula One, like global football, has seen interest levels rise in the United States, due in part to NBC’s acquisition of strategic TV broadcast rights in these sports. A lot of work has been done to capture the attention of American audiences for these global sports,” Laatz said.
Repucom’s global fan study, fielded across more than 20 global markets, shows the Formula One fan base is nearly one-and-a-half times larger than the entire population of the United States with 450 million fans worldwide. Only about one-tenth of that fan base are U.S. consumers.
The timing and locations make competing in all three races on the same day an impossible feat, but four drivers have attempted “the double” by running the Indianapolis 500 and flying to Charlotte in time to compete in the Coca-Cola 600. Last year, Kurt Busch started both races, but was only able to complete just over 900 total miles due to an engine failure in the NASCAR event.
This year, there are no drivers attempting to run both races, but one NASCAR driver will be making the trip to both tracks. Jeff Gordon, an Indiana-native, four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion and five-time Brickyard 400 winner, will drive the Indianapolis 500 pace car to lead the 33-car field to the green flag. Gordon is retiring from full-time racing at the end of this season.
Logistics will not stop a highly-motivated fan from seeing all three races on television. One could conceivably watch more than 10 hours of auto racing if he or she did not have a picnic to attend.
The 99th running on the Indianapolis 500 will air live at 12:15 p.m. ET on ABC.
Coverage of the Monaco Grand Prix will begin at 7:30 a.m. ET on NBC and a tape-delay will air at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 broadcast begins at 6:00 p.m. ET on FOX.