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How important is live attendance

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  • How important is live attendance

    First, the quotes here are about the dreaded NASCAR series. However, perhaps the crux of the comment deals with all forms of racing, maybe all sports.

    "Even though the Michigan International Speedway becomes practically the third largest city in Michigan on NASCAR Sunday, with nearly 200,000 people at the track for the Pepsi 400, Lowe's CEO Robert Tillman says television is what matters most."

    From an ABC news story

    "That Lowe's hood is designed for television...Obviously it's not designed for you and I sitting on the side of the track. We're getting free television commercials all the way around the track."

  • #2
    If you put a lot of dead folks in the stands, there wouldn't be a lot of applause or yelling and screaming, would there?

    And how many dead folks would buy concessions? Not many, I think.

    Yes, live attendance is better than dead attendance.

    But then if the Grateful Dead are playing, then it truly would be a dead attendance.


    • #3
      Advertisers want TV, but an event that is packed to the rafters with fans is also going to catch the attention of some channel-hopping dude,

      both audiences , TV & on-track are a sign of a sports health!
      If you're watchin' the stands, you're missin' the action!

      Mario won the 1967 Daytona 500, without the hoosier inspired sour grapes from the NASCAR faithful !


      • #4
        Here's a link to the article: http://abcnews.go.com/sections/wnt/D...ads020820.html

        Here's an interesting quote:
        NASCAR fans bought $1.4 billion worth of merchandise last year. Their loyalty is also reflected in attendance and viewing. The Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis recorded the highest attendance of any U.S. sporting event so far this year with 350,000 people.
        [ August 21, 2002: Message edited by: JoeBob ]


        • #5
          The live attendance is the primary method for the promoter/race track owner to make any money....

          No live attedance, the race track goes out of business.


          • #6
            Originally posted by Jakester:
            <STRONG>The live attendance is the primary method for the promoter/race track owner to make any money....

            No live attedance, the race track goes out of business.</STRONG>
            I don't think this is true for NASCAR. The tracks get 65% of the TV revenue, from what I've read.

            Of course Bernie Ecclestone I think has said he doesn't care if no-one showed up in person for F1 races.
            It's a Hoosier thing, you wouldn't understand...


            • #7
              I believe you're correct for NASCAR, but not for other series. Even so, NASCAR TV money is not enough money for a track operator to stay in business.


              • #8
                Originally posted by hdolan:
                <STRONG>From an ABC news story

                "That Lowe's hood is designed for television...Obviously it's not designed for you and I sitting on the side of the track. We're getting free television commercials all the way around the track."</STRONG>
                As long as someone is tuned in!

                [ August 21, 2002: Message edited by: Jacoby ]


                • #9
                  "the highest attendance of any U.S. sporting event"

                  Maybe ABC doesn't consider the Indy 500 to be a sporting event.

                  I'm surprised at this statement.

                  As an aside, a few years ago my brother's company was bidding to supply IMS. The head of concessions told him that the three days of the Brickyard exceeds the concession sales for the entire month of May.
                  Kevin Kalkhoven on Champ Car: "The amount of money we're spending is very little overall and I can afford to run this thing forever."


                  • #10
                    How important is attendance at races?

                    What seems to be important is not necessarily a big crowd as a "sold out" track. The ISC 10-k says they work to maintain grandstand capacity to prevent the need to "reward" late ticket buyers with lower prices. Nasvhille is thought to be a success becasue the grandstand is packed. A larger crowd in KY looks shaky and terrible in MIS. Not coincidentally, Nashville has the highest minimum ticket price in the IRL, and outside the 500 the highest ticket prices overall. Even the temp grandstands cost $35, and the cheapest granstand seats are $47. So crowd size in relation to capacity is important to the race track owner.

                    In the end, I would ask who loses the most when the live crowd (or TV ratings) are not that good. Not so bad as to not have the races, but rather just makes the profitability smaller for track owners.

                    Seems to me that the logical casualty would be the driver's pay. Sponsors would not see as much advertising value in playing before smaller (live and tv) crowds so sponsorship $ go down. You can pay Helio say $5 million, or pay say a Giafone a lot less. I question if the extra millions are really worth it for the improved results on the track. So if the cost of racing has to go down, what's the easiest cost to cut?

                    So, live attendance and TV ratings matter, but my guess is it matters most to the guys behind the wheel.


                    • #11
                      It's about having 43 cars on the lead lap... all with the *chance* to pull off the victory!

                      Well... that & selling diecasts.


                      • #12
                        I think the relative importance of the size of the crowd depends on the economics of the "deal" (and by deal I mean the way the contract for a given race is set).

                        Since NASCAR pays the track a portion of the TV proceeds (and they are big) then the crowd is not that important when it comes to holding the race or not. But the size of the crowd is important with regard to parking revenue and concession revenue. And many NASCAR tracks see much revenue from these sources.

                        The reason that Bernie says that he would hold a race without spectators is because the FIA gets a majority of it's revenue from selling the TV rights. But unlike NASCAR they don't give any of that to the track. Additionally they charge the track a big fee. So Bernie would probably have to forgo that fee to have a race with no spectators or I bet he wouldn't have many tracks to choose from. Many time the fee in F1 is paid (in part) by the local government which recoups that money from the tax proceeds of money spent by the spectators. Those gov'ts wouldn't be interested in no one came.

                        Cart charges a big fee so the promoter has to have a big crowd to make a profit. No local gov'ts helping those promoters. This is why many oval tracks have dropped Cart.

                        The IRL charges a smaller fee so the promoter can still turn a profit without a big crowd. But where does the IRL make it back up? Is TG playing the role of the local gov't in the F1 situation. Or does putting on an IRL race cost the IRL less than putting on a Cart race costs Cart?

                        So I think the bottom line is that the live attendance is very important to the economic health of the sport.


                        • #13
                          To the sponsors. attendance is nothing compared to TV viewership. 100k or 50k in the stands means nothing to the sponsors as long as the crowd looks full on TV. Sponsors don't want lots of empty seats shown on TV, because that could effect the TV viewership.
                          "IRL" ... what IS that anyway?

                          J. Michael Ringham
                          Vice President, Marketing
                          IndyCar® Series Indy Pro Series

                          www.jonescams.com yankeegoback.com


                          • #14
                            IMO,I think a nice size crowd also adds to the atmosphere of the race. Its nice to know people went though the effort to show up,and cheer. Also,it makes for better television. Better to see people in the background than shiny aluminum.

                            The IRL has an unfair situation,they race at these Oval cathedrals made to seat a quater of a million NASCAR fans. I have a simple solution to this problem. Do as the IRL does now,and have the crowd sit in the best areas,normally the center. Then use a tarp of some type with logos of various sponsors or companies that are not even sponsors. As the the pan across Massive Michigan,companies logo's would get air time in front of a mill or so people. Cut the track in on the revenue.


                            • #15
                              OK, I'll give what I think is an honest assessment, that goes to all forms of motorsports.

                              At the lower levels, it's the lifeblood of the sport, I don't think there is any question about it.

                              I think it's extremely important in NASCAR, perhaps not as much as say ten years ago with the large TV contract (though I'm not sure about that, I know that many operators in NASCAR, especially SMI have been concerned about empty seats at events).

                              In CART, I don't think the owners cared. As long as the manufacturers and sponsors were paying the bills, and as long as they were able to cash in on the IPO of their stock, they didn't care if the track operator made a dime, nor obviously if the seats were sold out. I have to wonder if that's becoming the case in the IRL, as long as the money comes from somewhere, they do not care how many people show up, though I can't blame the IRL entirely for the promotion of some of it's events, some of the promoters do a pretty bad job of getting the word out.

                              However, to me not caring if the fan shows up because the money comes elsewhere is a dangerous proposition-much of the sport is perception, and that's media driven. Would the stature of the Indy 500 diminish in many eyes if there were 100,000 empty seats come May? I think so. If the perception is that your race isn't a big deal because no one showed up, do sponsors glady come into your series to support your teams? No, they don't.

                              NASCAR has to be the model on how to build your series-first, sell out your venues, have people clamoring for seats. How do you do that? I suppose that's open to argument, but they seem to have done it in this country (which is where your ticket buying public is) by marketing American drivers, teams, crews to the mainstream working person. They've allowed the drivers to maintain close contact with the fans. They've put on some good and bad races, but at the same time they've had "good guy" drivers and "bad guy" drivers. Every series needs a villian. Now the question is going to be will NASCAR be able to maintain it's superiority despite all of the money that's flowing into the sport?

                              Would a foreign driver have a NASCAR following? Sure, I'm sure they would be welcomed and accepted as sort of an oddity in the series. But it would be questionable if NASCAR would have the same US following if you had 43 of them, to the exclusion of a Petty or an Earnhardt. If the US is where the majority of your events are held, then that's where your sales are coming from.
                              I also beleive another reason NASCAR is so popular is the cars themselves. Not necessarily because they are stock cars, but because of the color schemes, the easily read numbers and sponsors. You don't know how many complaints I've heard of in that regard with Indianapolis cars.

                              NASCAR has also maintained a relationship with the average weekly fan, through the NASCAR Winston Racing Series, that sanctions a lot of tracks across the country. Indy cars broke that connection along time ago.

                              So, fans flocked to NASCAR tracks in record numbers, sponsors took notice and the media took notice. TV ratings went up, as did sponsor money and TV revenue. Driver recognition went up, and the sales of racing related merchandise went through the roof.

                              Is the track attendance important-you bet. If you pi$$ off the fanbase that buys the tickets, what makes you think that they will stay home and watch it on TV? Remember, there's always something else to do, some other sport they can go watch. I don't think it's coincidence that NASCAR's popularity goes up as the popularity of mainstream sports such as MLB or the NBA stagnate or go down.

                              I believe that looking at the progress of CART vs NASCAR over the last ten to fifteen years supports much of what I've said above.
                              "For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children's future, and we are all mortal".

                              John Kennedy at American University 1963

                              "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power"

                              A. Lincoln


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