I had an “a-ha” moment in my class today for this article.
We watched a video on varying issues, and I started thinking of NASCAR in general. When NASCAR first came around, men were not looked at as sex symbols. They were everyday men who tweaked and tuned their engines to push them to the brink, then drove home to go to work the following week.
It wasn't until Jeff Gordon came around when women started to pay attention to the drivers. He, alone, began the movement for the Young Guns and the female fan base began to grow.
As an advertising or marketing agency, how can you not pay attention to this? Many women want to be with this driver and many men want to be the driver. Slap a logo across his chest and hood and you have success. Even better, start putting him in commercials during various times besides races and you've struck gold. You are now in the world of NASCAR as we know it.
So now that the women have something to look at, what are the men going to look at?
They don't want to see their driver pasted on the cover of Men's Health magazine half naked like Carl Edwards did. I bet they sold a lot of issues of that magazine. For years, men have had Mrs. Winston's in Victory Lane beside the driver who won. When Sprint came along, they did away with that for a while until Mrs. Sprint Cup was introduced two years ago.
But what about a female driver? The men would love to see her in ads in magazines and when they are watching TV.
Introduce Jr. Motorsports idea for the solution to the problem: Hire Danica Patrick to run in Nationwide and ARCA.
Come on, when someone mentions Danica Patrick you don't start rambling off her Indy stats, do you? You think of her ads for GoDaddy.com or her swimsuit photos for Sports Illustrated . That brings the sex appeal to a whole new level for the sport.
So what are we saying? Are we saying in order to get publicity now you have to have a good pair of ripped abs to be plastered on magazine covers? To be physically fit?
I know you have to be fit to drive, but when a person who is a non-fan picks up that issue of Men's Health with Carl on it, men and women alike may think, “Wow, I bet all drivers look that good,” or, “I need to go to the gym to look like that guy so women will think I'm hot.”
And what about the women?
Not only are we overshadowed in this male-dominated sport, but when one finally comes a long, you see her in bikinis and in the shower? So, is this saying to other female fans, especially to future female drivers, that you have to exude sex appeal to get noticed and to have a ride in one of the top series?
I miss the days where none of this mattered. All that mattered was what was underneath the hood of your car and the driver willing to push it that far without even flinching. Those days are long gone... NASCAR is slowly becoming just like everything else with the strategy of selling sex.