NASCAR has always welcomed military members and family since its 1948 inception, so a recent USO tour to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba by Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano recently was normal if not typical.
Many drivers have visited troops in war zones and foreign bases over the years, but the tour by Keselowski and Logano took on significance because of their ages. Keselowski is 24 and Logano is 21, and both are in nearly the same age group as most U.S troops.
Peers and generations relate well with one another. When Keselowski and Logano visited hundreds of sailors and coast guardsmen in Guantanamo, they connected by dining with troops, visiting the U.S. Navy Hospital, signing autographs and patrolling the waters with service members. Both were thrilled with the experience as Keselowski recounts.
“This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I am so glad to be a part of it,” said Keselowski. “I hope to go back on another USO Tour. After meeting the men and women in Guantanamo Bay, I cannot imagine the sacrifices and experiences they have to go through during their time there. It was an amazing experience and I am so grateful that I was invited to go.”
Logano was also thrilled with the tour.
“It was awesome to learn more about Guantanamo Bay and what the mission is down there and how it works,” said Logano. “It was great to meet and talk to the troops, and it was one heck of an experience. We get to see a lot of troops at the racetrack, but to see them in action and doing their jobs…I am so impressed and have such a high amount of respect for each and every one of them and what they do.”
It was a good move by NASCAR to choose youthful Sprint Cup stars and transport them to an area where troops are on duty. The 18 to 24-year-old demographic has perhaps the weakest representation among NASCAR fans at about 12 percent.
Recently, NASCAR restructured its public relations department calling it Integrated Marketing Communications with communication and sport services divided for greater outreach.
The new focus is maintaining market strength while developing a brighter future. Viewer numbers are up for 2011 so that would indicate it was proper internal shuffling.
But it’s the younger fans that NASCAR seeks through traditional means and social media.
Times have changed fast and keeping up with solid trends like popular Twitter and Facebook is essential.
For many decades after World War II the most important date for a teenager was the day they became old enough to get a driver’s license. Owning that first car was a treasured right to passage into adulthood.
In the past decade, that automotive threshold has been replaced by the need for electronics, that first cell phone and now that first Wi-Fi tablet. Gadgets that support social media seem far more important than a small car with a high price.
NASCAR is the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing and has direct ties to automobile manufacturers. They understand their markets.
The future is always in the hands of the youngest generation. Efforts by NASCAR seeking the interests of those under 24 is smart marketing that will have benefits.
Marketing by NASCAR has been one of their most productive agendas over the past 20 years. Shifting the emphasis to big changes in social and communication habits will likely be key to continued success in the next 20 years.
Meanwhile, USO tours by young stars like Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano are sure boost plans.
Getting the most—from and for peer groups—might mean a good jump on the future.
Photo credit: Mike Clifton, USO
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of motorsports topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained from official release materials provided by the NASCAR sanction, team or track representatives.