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Monster premier series sponsorship energizes NASCAR



By Jordan Bianchi

In a deal that should help NASCAR market toward a younger demographic, monster Energy drink will become the premier series title sponsor in 2017.

There’s no denying NASCAR’s needed a jolt. Television ratings are nosediving, attendance at most races is sagging, and a sport that a decade ago was seemingly on a course to surpass the NFL is clearly at a crossroad.

Enter Monster Energy, the drink company that is now the entitlement sponsor of NASCAR’s premier series in a deal formally announced Thursday.

For a sport that as of late has been in an almost perpetual and often futile quest to attract new and younger eyeballs on its product, NASCAR securing Monster is an ideal partner to accomplish that task.

Few companies are better at marketing itself and the entities it sponsors than Monster, which not only effectively markets toward the younger demographic that NASCAR covets, but also has extensive experience in motorsports promotion. That’s a big win-win for NASCAR, which currently has a considerably older fan base.

Go to a Monster Supercross motocross event and the verve is palatable with the crowd noticeably youthful. Its marketing approach can best be encapsulated by what happened when Monster-sponsored NASCAR driver Robby Gordon winged a helmet at the car of a competitor he felt wronged him.

“It was a great day for me when Robby threw his helmet at some guy because that was the only time I ever got it on camera,” Monster Chief Marketing Officer Mark Hall said. “I actually called him up and said, ‘Robby, can you do that some more?'”

The exact kind of boost NASCAR could use. A fact not lost on NASCAR CEO and chairman Brian France, who says he was so enamored with what Monster represented as a potential title sponsor he personally called company executives to make the sales pitch.

“Obviously, they’re an edgy brand,” NASCAR CEO and chairman Brian France said. “They’re a fun brand. They get at a millennial audience in a different way clearly than we’ve ever been associated with, particularly at this level, and they know what they’re doing. This is their DNA

“They understand how to reach across and excite our core audience and help us deliver on a new audience, and that was very exciting for us.”

Monster’s ascension into the role of NASCAR’s most prominent sponsor comes at an ideal time. Longtime mainstays Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart are retired, while veterans like Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick are nearing the twilight of their Hall of Fame careers. But following in their tire marks is an incredibly promising group of young drivers that many NASCAR insiders have said is the most talented crop in decades.

Presuming Kyle Larson, 24, Chase Elliott, 21, Erik Jones, 20 and William Byron, 19, fulfil the expectations placed on them, their youth is a viable asset Monster can use to foster NASCAR’s reemergence at a time when millennials are largely uninterested in cars. Collectively they could become the faces used to gear the sport toward a younger generation who either are unfamiliar with NASCAR or could be considered a casual fan at best.

However, as encouraging as Monster’s multiyear pact with NASCAR is not everything is as sweet tasting as one of Monster’s many varieties of energy drinks. The specifics such as the length of the deal or even how the division formerly known as the Sprint Cup Series will be rebranded, were not disclosed on Thursday.

Another hurdle is Monster doesn’t market its products to children under 12 due to potential health risks. So while the company will undoubtedly have success in promoting NASCAR to young adults, its effectiveness in appealing to the potential next generation NASCAR fan will be limited. Much in the way the Winston cigarette brand was shackled when it served as the Cup Series entitlement sponsor from 1972-2003.

Then there are the tried-and-true long entrenched fans, many whom are reluctant to change of any kind. And certainly changes are forthcoming. Which could easily provoke further resentment among a segment of fans already jaded by the numerous revisions the sanctioning body has been prone to undertake whether in the form of how it crowns a champion or officiates races.

But while alienating a devote portion of one’s fan base is never advisable, from NASCAR’s perspective it’s an understandable calculation. Because the harsh truth is for NASCAR to remain relevant years from now, it must get younger in the present to achieve this goal.

“We do have some ideas about how we can make NASCAR more attractive to what I would call a different audience than is currently there without detracting from what is already a great audience and a great fan base,” Hall said. “We have experience with that and those fans do relate to our brand, and we think there’s an opportunity to bring some new ones in.”

NASCAR is counting on Monster to do just that.




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