Few sporting events can offer the raw, explosive fan engagement that you’ll find at any NHRA drag racing event. The atmosphere swings up and down like a rollercoaster, as fans alternate between the exciting potential energy of revving engines and the sheer combustion power that takes hold each time the green light flashes.
The NHRA is coming off a triumphant 2016 season that saw attendance figures rise and welcomed a new long-term television contract with Fox Sports FS1. Here at TGSM, we’ve been following the 2017 season closely to follow how the NHRA fan experience is changing with the sport’s growing success.
The new FS1 television contract is paying big dividends, as NHRA is enjoying its highest ratings ever. Four of this year’s televised events have eclipsed the 1 million viewer mark. And the June Summernationals in New Jersey was the single most-watched event in NHRA history.
The NHRA atmosphere is primed for promotion, and we’re expecting to start seeing bigger contracts, bigger sponsors, and bigger fan engagement events if ratings remain high.
How the NHRA Tailgating Scene Will Change
One change we’re anticipating is the further development of tailgating activities at NHRA events. Like other major races, NHRA events take place annually at venues across the country, and the events run for 3 to 4 days on average. Fans from wide geographic areas gather around the events for the whole weekend, with the largest crowds showing up for the finals on Sunday afternoon.
The NHRA format lends itself to tailgating. This is another important factor that points to the continued success of the series. We know that tailgating events can cause tipping points for fan engagement and loyalty. And when tailgate parties are managed well, they can create and foster communities – in the real world and on the internet.
We’ve already seen several NHRA venues beginning to cater to dedicated fans who want to witness the entire event from start to finish. Many of the series venues offer infield camping for RVs that arrive early. Sonoma Raceway is offering tickets for pre-paid tailgating spots on two different external parking lots. And Gateway Motorsports Park has a dedicated “Tailgate Party Zone” with 2-day passes available for oversized tailgating spots. We expect to see more and more NHRA venues catering to tailgating fans as the sport’s popularity continues to grow.
Fan Engagement from 0-60 in 0.2 Seconds
Our research has shown that a few key factors can have a huge impact on the success (and profitability) of a tailgating event. Two of the most important factors are internet access and full-service restrooms. By providing those two simple things, tailgating events can double female attendance, double social media impressions, and bring the average age of the most dedicated fans down by 10 years.
How do those two factors generate such drastic results? It’s simple, really. Let’s take a closer look:
How Internet Access Can Impact Fan Engagement
Wi-Fi just isn’t available at racing venues. It has never been there, so we don’t realize it’s missing… yet. But it can make a huge difference in fan engagement and experience with certain groups.
Women, millennials, teens, and families are more likely to attend a tailgating event if Wi-Fi is available – and they’ll stay longer if you have it. These desirable demographics can tip the scales for concession sales, merchandise throughput, and social media impressions.
Think about hundreds of people snapping selfies at your event and posting them up instantaneously on social media. Think about hundreds of people trending your social links every time a record is broken. Now think about the value of that exposure in terms of marketing dollars.
There’s a reason why big companies are spending more on social media than they’re spending on marketing payroll. This is the type of positive publicity and brand-building that money just can’t buy. Every mention, every like, and every video view is an opportunity for your brand to extend its reach with an ideal audience.
How Full-Service Restrooms Impact Tailgating Events
Here’s the bottom line. With traditional port-a-potties, a tailgating event will attract men, and those men will buy refreshments. With comfortable, sanitary, full-service restrooms, a tailgating event will attract families and extended families.
The impact of having women and millennials at your events doesn’t end with their impact on social media. This traffic opens huge opportunities for merchandising and branding. In a study outside Washington D.C., we found that one long-standing tailgate event effectively increased merchandise throughput by 330% simply by focusing on women and millennials with full-service restrooms.
A Silver Bullet for Fan Engagement
Tailgating Sports Marketing has taken these valuable insights and baked them in to a single simple solution that any venue can use to completely transform fan engagement. It brings modern luxury to your parking lot – the luxury of flushing toilets and hot water hand washing; and the luxury of free high-speed Wi-Fi.
Fans will congregate around our trailers to watch highlight films, take advantage of free device charging stations, and even to watch the elimination rounds live on the 80” video wall. As they move between 20+ interactive screens, beacon technology identifies which screens and videos are making the biggest impact on visitors. The data that can be gathered over a busy day of tailgating is often very impressive.
We’re looking forward to watching the NHRA landscape develop as attendance and ratings continue to climb. NHRA has some of the most loyal fans in all of sports, and we’re rooting for the series to attract even more loyal fans as the season continues.