Volume X, Issue 4, Page 87

Learning from the ADRL

It’s time to buy a new marketing tune-up from Kenny Nowling.

Yes, I’ve written similar columns before.  And I apologize to those of you who read this column for not getting one in last month.  I’ve written about doing ticket giveaways at divisionals before, but Kenny Nowling’s success with the ADRL definitely warrants revisiting the subject.  I just think it’s a no-brainer for the Lucas Oil Divisional Series to adopt a similar policy regarding their divisional events.

I did some research last year regarding doing a similar ADRL-type series for the alcohol cars, so I do know that it costs a good chunk of change to do the massive ticket giveaways the ADRL does.  Depending on whom you listen to, the ADRL puts anywhere from 200,000 to 500,000 free tickets into a market they are having an event at.  Sounds good right?  Well printing that many tickets, in a format that looks professional costs a decent chunk of money, and then you have to distribute them.

Another ground breaking method they use, and I believe they took this from a Harvard Business School Journal, is the new concept called “advertising”.   Ok, I’m getting fired up again.  Back to the point.

The point is that there is a lot to gain for the parties involved.  Lucas could gain a tremendous amount of exposure for a modest investment.  The tracks will make a good amount of money as well.  NHRA would build value in their series.  This would be a big gain for the racers as they would be running in front of packed houses rather than empty stands.

It’s not inconceivable with a series the size of the LODRS this could happen.  Lucas has the means to make this happen.  NHRA has the manpower already in place with the field marketing department.  It’s just a matter of putting a functional plan together, showing everyone the benefits.

First off, you would use some economies of scale to reduce the overall cost of such a venture.  If Lucas and the NHRA organized a massive print run, in one order, it could get the price point down a considerable margin, versus doing them in individual runs per event.  If mailers were to be used, the same principle could be applied.  Kick in a Lucas coupon and you have more value added to such a ticket.

Some may ask, where do the tracks make their money?  At the ADRL event in Houston, it was $10 to park. Think of all the $5 hamburgers, $6 beers, souvenirs, etc. that have considerable profit margins built in that the track will sell with a packed house.  The track also sold a ticket upgrade to “Super Seats” in the Top Eliminator Club area for $20.  As you build an event like this, it definitely creates a market for vendors to sell space to.  It also builds value for the track as it justifies the price they charge for trackside signage.

Obviously a national event track like Houston Raceway Park has a lot more seating capacity than a typical divisional track, and that would certainly have to be accounted for.  There would also need to be some sort of opt-out for the few tracks that have good, paying crowds, like No Problem Raceway and others.  However, tracks that just don’t want to get off their asses shouldn’t be given that option.

If NHRA can gain fans, that’s what they’re in business to do.  I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, it’s bad for the sport to have an event the caliber of an NHRA divisional event and not have more people there. 

It’s not that the cars that run at the divisional events don’t have the entertainment value; it’s that nobody knows they are in town to come see them.  If the series were to go to more of a show for the fans vs. just a race as it is now, the format would need to be adjusted.  Sunday’s eliminations would need to be condensed much like a national event.  Try to do things like putting an announcer down on the top end to interview the drivers.  Make the event more fan friendly. 

I’ll reiterate the problem is not the fan-draw capabilities of the cars at NHRA divisionals.  The ADRL puts on a heck of a show with their Outlaw Pro Mods, but Pro Mods aren’t what’s drawing the big crowds, it’s a lot of free tickets, good promotions, and an entertaining show for them to watch.  As much as some would not want to admit it, many of the fans of the Pro Mod cars are fans of the alcohol cars.  Top Alcohol Dragsters and Funny Cars put a hell of a show on.  Couple that with Top Dragster, Top Sportsman, Comp, wheelstanding Super Stockers and the like, and there’s enough cars going fast to keep a fan entertained.

Last year I was told point blank that the success of the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series was measured in car counts, not spectator counts.  Until there is a fundamental philosophy change by the powers that be, this type of program will never happen.  The newly formed Sportsman Racing Advisory Council may be the first step towards that change.  I know there are at least a few high ranking people that would get behind this.  The racers need to let NHRA know they are sick of racing in front of empty stands.  It’s kind of hard to get sponsored or keep a sponsor racing at those venues.  With rising fuel costs and no increases in payout on the horizon, sponsorship dollars are even more important.

I could go on and on about this, but the bottom line is if we, as sportsman racers want something like this to happen, we need to get the ball rolling.  Let your SRAC committee members know, let your Division Directors know, let your division tracks know.  If you are silent, you’re obviously happy with the status quo.

Now that you’re on the tire, go forth and spread the good word!  Feel free to drop by and comment on one of my websites, www.InsideTopAlcohol.com, www.InsideCompRacing.com, and www.InsideFastBrackets.com.  You can also drop us a line in the response box below.