A day after Kyle Busch called NASCAR’s marketing campaign for the younger drivers “stupid” the sanctioning body has responded.
Steve Phelps, NASCAR executive vice president and chief global sales and marketing officer, called into SiriusXM NASCAR Radio to offer the direction NASCAR is going from a marketing perspective. Phelps called it “simple”, and then broke it down as follows.
“The first piece is we have the greatest racing on the planet, and last year arguably was the best racing season that we’ve ever had,” said Phelps. “It was phenomenal. Fifteen winners. We’ve got young drivers, veteran drivers, a great Cinderella story with the 78 [Furniture Row Racing] team. Just fantastic storylines. As we head in ’18, that’s going to be our emphasis.
“The second part is about star power. It’s about our drivers, the crew chiefs, and the crews, everyone that makes this sport go. And the drivers really start with our veteran drivers, Hall of Fame drivers like Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano… all these guys are such an important part of everything that we do and it should be. But we also need to expose these young drivers, so our fans understand who they are. They’re authentic; they want to win on the race track, and they’re just fantastic drivers.”
It’s a mix of talent, Phelps said. The veterans are not being excluded for the young drivers or vice versa. Phelps did concede Busch’s point about highlighting drivers who win, while again reiterating the variety.
“As you look at our marketing – in fact, we’re doing a brand shoot this week,” he said. “Veteran drivers in the brand shoot; you got Truex, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch I believe is being shot on Friday, Kurt [Busch], Brad, Joey, Denny [Hamlin], and then young drivers. [Kyle] Larson, [Ricky] Stenhouse, [Darrell] Wallace, [Chase] Elliott, [Ryan] Blaney, Austin Dillon, [Alex] Bowman, [Daniel] Suarez, Erik Jones, and William Byron. It’s all about creating these storylines and rivalries, and heading into the [Daytona 500], what a phenomenal season we’re looking at.”
What Phelps did admit is that NASCAR did a “pretty poor job” of promoting drivers, young and old, as recently as five, six years ago. That job was left to the teams and sponsors while NASCAR focused on the racing. Phelps said the change has been in trying to focus on the stars of the sport through different realms like digital and social.
Phelps also agreed that Kyle Busch did not get the same push when he came into the sport as drivers do now.
“It’s a very valid complaint. Very valid,” Phelps said. “With that said, you look at all of our advertising, it’s not just young guys that we are promoting. You look at the advertising, digital, social, everything we’re doing is a mix of veteran and young guys. But do I think that’s a fair statement when he came into this sport at 18 years old running in our top series, that he didn’t get that type of promotion, I think that’s a very fair statement.”