Thank you to the 1,002,060 of you who have visited RACER.com (so far) in February 2021. This momentous milestone came just before 11 a.m. on the 18th day of the month with 10 days still remaining in February to push this record total even higher.
As mentioned in last week’s column, “Truth or Consequences for motorsports in the year of the vaccine,” the core reason this growth is happening is because of the passion of our audience. My point then and now is that if you are a racing fan, the sport cannot grow without the commitment and the energy you bring in this age where the audience is the medium in new media. Retention is the foundation of any viable growth strategy, and positive energy is the essential to keeping existing fans engaged while deepening the passion of new fans. You are the engine driving our sport forward.
Last year, our audience directly shared stories 4,200,644 times from RACER.com which helped us attract 2,015,500 more annual users than in 2019, delivering 44% growth and 6,592,058 annual unique users in 2020. This year we are well ahead of that growth trend. As I write this, we are up 80% in user traffic during the first 48 days of 2021 vs 2020, and our direct and in-social content sharing and engagement metrics are off the chart. It is clear those of you who visit RACER.com love racing in all its varied forms and based on these metrics, I suspect that you, like us, cannot wait to personally attend racing events sometime this year.
But some marketers active in motorsports still choose to undervalue you in their blind pursuit of the casual sports fan or the almighty audience segment under the age of 25. While I am sure we can collectively attract more young people and casual followers to the sport through discovery and marketing beyond the core audience, I believe that giving them a reason to care enough to engage more deeply and feel like they belong once they have become a fan is paramount.
Situational awareness is important. The last time I checked, we are still in the midst of a global pandemic and human behavior has been changed by the prudent measures in place to limit the spread of the disease. Convincing people to engage in live spectator sports again will present new challenges to overcome even with the deployment of vaccines on a scale unseen in human history. There will be no returning to normal. Instead, we will need to create what comes next in terms of the audience’s direct relationship with our sport. I believe there is a unique opportunity for motorsports in this moment. Our collective spirit is to bravely push ahead, aware of the risks while always learning from the challenges we encounter.
Color me optimistic but I have a hunch that many if not most of you will likely be at the forefront of leading your family and friends back to attending events in person just as many of you now share your appreciation of the sport (and RACER) via social media.
We’re with you. In May 1992 we created RACER magazine and later in May 1997 launched RACER.com to be at the focal point of motorsports in North America. We view our print, digital and social media platforms as pathways to the racing cultural campfire that our small but mighty RACER team keeps lit for you every day of the year. We provide context, perspective and the opportunity for our audience to discover and learn about all the varied forms of motorsport.
Since the beginning the NTT IndyCar Series and the Indy 500 have been at the center of our audience’s passion. But that is evolving as we grow in scale and engagement beyond our own site and social media channels on Google News and Apple News thanks to our partnership with the USA Today Sports Media Group. In 2020 IndyCar had twice the number of pageviews of any other series, but surprisingly, we had only two advertisers from within that paddock support us (thank you Honda and Penske Entertainment). As the year drew to a close, both NASCAR and Formula 1 surged in pageviews and engagement to match or, in some cases surpass IndyCar due to their postponed events. This trend continued into January 2021, when Rolex 24 and IMSA traffic surged to the top. Now in February, NASCAR content is driving our all-time record month. We see this as a positive development because we respect all racers and all forms of racing as well as all racing fans.
But we know RACER is not alone in fueling your passion for the sport in an era where racing series, competitors, brands and fans create and distribute content via social media and hold influence not seen in the late 20th century when RACER first came to life.
I appreciate the positive and insightful direct feedback I received on my last column from many who work in senior positions inside the sport. You “get it” and understand the underwhelming value of social media influencers with no interest in racing versus the immense value and influence of committed racing fans.
I’ve taken your time today sharing some of our metrics because I am grateful to you for supporting our hard-working RACER team. At the same time, I also appreciate the need of the industry to prove that the sport moves the needle emotionally beyond the core audience. However, in the case of social media influencers, we must first understand and respect our existing audience. It is also important that we don’t alienate our core fan base while chasing the latest “I am cooler than you” phenomenon. Context and authenticity matter — now more than ever. There is nothing wrong with trying something new — even if it is a mistake — as long as we learn from it.
There is also a big difference between bringing a global celebrity to a major event like the Indy 500, Daytona 500, Le Mans or the Monaco Grand Prix to extend the audience reach and validate the stature of our sport versus a disingenuous alignment with someone who simply aspires to be famous for the sake of monetizing being famous.
Racing is as real as it gets and it involves mortal risk, so please don’t bore us with those who only risk the credibility of those who compete or insult the intelligence of those of us who identify with the authentic and heroic spirit of our sport.
Our RACER Social Project
On the subject of identifying with the RACER spirit, please take a moment to follow RACER on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and subscribe to The RACER Channel on YouTube. Like any contemporary media company, we need these platforms to grow in scale and engagement because they help us stay connected to you and prove we make a difference to our series and commercial partners.
At the same time, it is important to remember that the business model for these social media platforms throttles back our ability to reach our own audience, and these companies charge us for the privilege of sharing beyond a small percentage of our own followers. It is a brilliant (and frustrating) business model. So, we believe it is enlightening and instructive to compare the difference in this key RACER digital stat from 2020:
2020 Shares of content directly from RACER.com: 4,200,644
2020 Shares of RACER content inside social media platforms: 87,268
I trust this proves my point about the power of our RACER site versus various social media platforms. But this isn’t really about us. It is about you and the direct influence that our audience has on the sport’s future. Beyond your much-appreciated engagement in our media and social offerings, we believe you drive the success and viability of the sport when you follow the series you love on social media. That includes the drivers, teams and sponsors who invest in the sport and well as the facilities that host events.
With that in mind we are in the process of compiling a linked listing and ranking of where all these entities stand in combined audience that will be updated quarterly so you can follow their evolution in 2021.
As a teaser, below is the top 10 ranking of racing series based on social media footprint. We will expand this over time and update you with additional insights.
It is worth pointing out that Formula 1 had very little direct social media presence before Liberty Media acquired the business in September 2016, so what has been accomplished happened in only four years. It is also worth noting that Formula E held its first-ever event in September 2014, so its impressive social following has been built in less than seven years. The team at Formula Drift had us at hello and has earned our ongoing respect by working relentlessly to build a unique culture with strong social gravity. All these series can teach us valuable lessons about understanding and respecting our audience.
Below are the top 10 2020 four-wheel motorsports champions ranked by their social media footprint across four platforms.
It should be pointed out that Lewis Hamilton now has a social media footprint that exceeds that of the Formula 1 series itself. Lewis’ social media footprint also surpasses the combined social media footprint of all top racing sanctioning groups and series in the USA.
Now let’s now look at some social media footprints that will influence the audience dynamics in our sport in 2021. Several of these drivers are changing series while others are creating new series that could redefine the sport.
* Travis Pastrana’s Nitro Circus channel ** Deegan Family channel
This year will be the restart of a lifetime for our sport as the world emerges from the dark shadow of the pandemic and we want to support our industry in any way we can. It will be a brave new world for our sport, but our culture thrives on speed, courage and innovation so I like our chances.
All this leads me to share the fact that our RACER Studio team has been developing strategies and offerings to amplify the social media efforts of race series, racing teams, drivers and companies engaged in the sport. For 29 years RACER has evolved and grown by always remembering that serving our audience and those who support our amazing and inspiring sport is our reason for being.
There are now more than a million new reasons (and counting) this month to respect us and our loyal audience who hold the future of the sport in their hearts and minds. So please reach out if you believe our RACER team can help you and would like to learn more.
Commercial team contact information:
Raelyn Stokes, Business Development / firstname.lastname@example.org / 949.417.6705
John Chambers, Global Sales / email@example.com / 44.0.7770.643749
Debi Brand, Advertising Sales / firstname.lastname@example.org / 225.335.9060
Rick Bisbee, Advertising Sales / email@example.com / 312.285.8720
Bruce Kukuk, VP & Associate Publisher / firstname.lastname@example.org / 949.417.6720