Netflix powered NASCAR

10 April 2024

Confession time: I can’t say I’m speaking from a position of authority when it comes to NASCAR. 

My knowledge is limited to Lightning McQueen from Cars and the scene where Ricky Bobby thinks he’s on fire in Talladega Nights. 

And there’s a reason that I’m off the pace (more puns to come): The average age of a NASCAR fan is 58 and the vast majority of their fans are in the USA. 

Simply, I haven’t been their audience. 

But something is afoot. 

This is a few weeks old, but a quick look at the opening rounds of the NASCAR season has seen a spike. In comparison to its motorsport counterparts, it’s the only sport that has increased in the last year. 

While a small sample size, it gives us an indication of a growing fandom in NASCAR.  

Sure, F1 is insanely predictable on the track this year. Verstappen’s Red Bull looks like they’ve attached a rocket to the back of it, as he’s raced away to an early lead in the championship. Any sport where the outcome is almost determined (unless the rocket breaks) before it starts loses its appeal pretty quickly. 

But this isn’t about F1. This is about NASCAR’s new strategy to open themselves up to a burgeoning new market. 

It gets a bit old, but fly-on-the-wall style docuseries seem to be a go-to strategy for any fledgling sport. 

Formula One is the famous example that has seen immense growth since Drive to Survive debuted in 2019. 

Full Swing was also a big hit with audiences getting to see some of these golfers’ personalities for the first time, outside of the very sterile press conference environment and clean-cut commentary on TV. 

But tennis’ attempt, Break Point didn’t work. There seemingly wasn’t enough access to players to captivate audiences who want to see the raw, unadulterated access to them. It hasn’t been commissioned for season 3. 

While early, this has worked for NASCAR with its recently launched Netflix series Full Speed. It hit the top 10 of Netflix’s most watched, captivating a whole new set of fans. 

For the unindoctrinated, NASCAR seemed to be reserved for southern states, with a huge white/male lean. Their hey-day was in the early 2000’s and since then has seen a dip in interest. 

Hidden behind helmets and fire suits, Full Speed has revealed the drama and fiery nature of its drivers, with insanely fast cars, incredibly high danger levels and raucous core fans.  

A quote from their Chief Marketing Officer Peter Jung in the Wall Street Journal provides a clue to this broader strategy. 

“Our purpose is to bring people together, to unite people and entertain people, and all through racing, ultimately.” 

Here’s the evidence that things are changing.  

Nielsen data found 88% of first week “Full Speed” viewers did not watch last fall’s championship race. That means a brand-new set of fans have taken a new (or renewed) interest in the sport. 

The Netflix play is usually aimed at the younger generation, mainly Gen Z. And what does this emerging set of fans care about? Inclusivity. 

NASCAR banned the use of Confederate flags at their races in 2020, after the lone black driver Bubba Wallace called for it. 

When it comes to being more inclusive, that’s probably a pretty good place to start.  

What has emerged as part of this wider strategy in which these decisions are considering, is a younger, more multicultural set of fans interested in a sport that is now including everybody. 

“Somewhere like 26%, 27% of NASCAR fans are multicultural, and I think that probably surprises people”, said Jung.  

“I’ve been here for 10 years, and I think when I started it was at 20%. Even 6%-7% in nine years or so, that’s a pretty big increase.” 

Consider this writer surprised too, but what a great indicator based on actions taken by the sport to open it up to everyone. 

Then if you look at their TikTok strategy (I created an account just for research purposes…), you can see there is a deliberate and dedicated focus on that content, lasered in on engaging those fans with the action and driver stories. 2.2M followers and 46m likes are hefty numbers, but we can see why with content like below. Who doesn’t like a bit of drama? 


There are two sides to every argument so it’s important to present both of them. #NASCAR #COTA

♬ Fun, light, honobo, everyday, piano solo – Dream Side Records

Across Netflix, TikTok, and a renewed focus on inclusively, it’s little wonder that the green sprouts of Gen Z growth are starting to spring out of the scorched earth of the NASCAR speedways. 

But it’s vital NASCAR takes this moment to understand this new wave of fandom. After signing a 7-year, $7.7 Billion media rights deal in the off-season, they are cashed up and in a great position. 

With that comes larger and more complex sponsorship deals, which requires a robust system to manage. It already brings in a healthy $400M in revenue annually, but more companies will want a slice of this attention, with fulfilments getting more and more granular. 

The other key part of monetizing this growth is capturing the first party data of their fans. These are fresh fans and need to be nurtured so they can be converted into die-hards, increasing their lifetime value (LTV) for NASCAR and its teams. That is the meat and potatoes of a powerful CRM system

And finally, NASCAR’s imminent return to its former prime will require a scaling up of resources. Its people will need to utilize AI in their everyday processes to service a growing demand, and streamline efficiencies in every part of its operation.  

It’s a big moment for NASCAR and technology will enable its journey to take this opportunity with both hands. 

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