NASCAR Sprint Cup: 10 Ways To Improve Ratings in 2012
The 2011 season saw moderate increases for NASCAR in ticket sales, merchandise purchases and television ratings. All things considered, it was a fairly successful year for NASCAR as an organization.
One important contributing factor to this was the unique head-to-head battle waged by Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards.
Barring the repetition of such an exciting finale or some other unforeseen drama, there are a few things that could help increase ratings even further in 2012.
Not all are immediately possible. Some could potentially have the exact opposite effect.
However, room for improvement always exists and this list seeks to shed some light on some of those new avenues of increased viewership.
Only Go to Commercials During Yellow/Red Flag Conditions
Fox and ESPN have made strides in the right direction by splitting the screen during commercials during the second half of races, allowing for the race broadcast to continue.
Still, it has a kind of half-baked feel to it. The viewer still hears and sees a commercial and is left to watch a race at the mercy of the camera crew without commentary.
NASCAR should take a cue from international football (soccer) and not have commercial breaks.
It might not be feasible, though it would boost ratings. Everyone loves less commercials.
A little rain should not cancel a major event, such as a NASCAR Sprint Cup race. No other outdoor sport is as timid to continue in wet weather as NASCAR.
Safety is always a concern, but when the race at Watkins Glen was delayed for a day and broadcast on a Monday, viewership undoubtedly decreased.
The elements should play a role in NASCAR, especially on road courses—the Australian V8 Supercars do not shy away from a wet spell.
NASCAR should probably revise its threshold for inclement weather because it loses ratings every time the weather is the least bit uncooperative.
Full-Time Danica Patrick
This would be an easy way to spark ratings during the first quarter of the season.
However, it would have an incredibly short shelf life, as Danica Patrick is obviously not ready to make the jump from Nationwide Series part-timer to Sprint Cup Series full-timer.
To her credit, few are.
No matter, if an announcement were made pertaining to Danica Patrick going into Cup racing on a permanent basis, ratings would increase for at least the first nine or 10 races of 2012.
End Tandem Drafting
NASCAR is trying to limit tandem drafting because it is, well, extremely boring and random to watch. It has changed the size of the radiators and the location of the grille in order to inhibit the dreaded drafting.
Do not be fooled. It will look pretty much the same on TV and will not change the viewing experience tremendously.
To make it more exciting to watch and thus increase ratings, NASCAR should just make it illegal to tandem draft; i.e. to purposefully touch the back bumper of a car with the front bumper in a manner synonymous with trying to gain additional speed.
Infractions should result in a black flag.
This would end drafting and make restrictor plate racing a much more exciting product on the television.
A New Face for Title Contention
The drivers in the picture, A.J. Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose, are no longer teammates, but it would probably be nice for at least one year to have some completely new faces in the Chase and competing for a title.
At this point, it would be nice just to have a few first-time Chasers in 2012.
It does not necessarily have to be Allmendinger or Ambrose, but it might help ratings to have these guys around in the postseason.
It would also be fun to see guys such as Juan Pablo Montoya and Reagan Smith competing for a title.
Although I love to watch Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch in the Chase, it is a bit frustrating to see them always very close to the top (Harvick) or totally stinking come Chase season (Busch).
Throwing some fresh meat in to the pit should inject a bit if freshness for the viewing public.
Get Dale Earnhardt Jr. To Win and Win Often
My apologies to any Dale Earnhardt Jr. anti-fans.
Unfortunately for any of you, if this man were to win often and really make a strong run for the title the ratings spike would surely follow.
The logic is easy and clear: Jr. has been the sport's most popular driver for nine consecutive years. His success would translate easily to NASCAR's success with a jump in the ratings.
A Busch-on-Busch Clash for the Title
The 2011 season featured a head-to-head battle for the title unlike any other in NASCAR history.
The only element that could make the story even juicier was if the two competitors were brothers.
Admittedly, this is a dicey proposition. Kurt and Kyle Busch are not, by any means, NASCAR's most popular drivers. This type of scenario could attract some new fans, but would not likely sit well with some of the more hardcore NASCAR aficionados.
(I leave this up to the jury of my readers. No offense taken at any negative commentary regarding this.)
It would be kind of weird having cheerleaders for 43 separate teams at a race. On the other hand, is there any way that including cheerleaders at a race could hurt ratings?
NASCAR's main demographic is males aged 18-49 years old.
Very few males in that core demographic would react negatively if Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, etc. had their own set of cheerleaders doing promotions in the parking lot before a race or pictured on TV during a race.
It is pretty much a can't-miss inclusion into the product.
A True Mascot
I am not sure how much this would help ratings but a great mascot, such as the Phillie Phanatic, could help grow ratings in the younger demographic.
Much like the Busch battle for the title, I am not 100 percent convinced that this would work. However, the right mascot (not a cheesy sponsor-based impersonator) could help make a sizable difference.
Stick to Fox and ESPN
I do not have a specific problem with NASCAR on TNT for races 14 through 19 during June and July, but it seems strange to have it on a smaller station for six races.
It is understandable why Fox might not want to pick up those races: baseball season begins to get more interesting.
Would it not just be better to put it on ESPN? I would think anything on ESPN would get better ratings, just based on reputation, than TNT.
Additionally, ESPN really has nothing else more important to cover on summer Sunday afternoons.
Alas! The broadcasting schedule is set for 2012 and this will have to be postponed until 2013.