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In an earlier column I wrote that the new NHRA TV package would not have a significant impact on NHRA or the sport in general. I made those comments not really knowing the basics of the package. Now that the nuances of the Fox TV package have been spelled out I would hope you will allow me to remove my head from my butt. In short, Peter Clifford and the boys have crafted the most significant TV package ever seen in our sport. Why do I say that?
For the first time NHRA drag racing will be seen on Fox. That is a whole different animal than Fox Sports. Fox carries the NFL and the major sporting event world wide. NHRA now gets to rub elbows with the big boys. This is not new. When the folks that bring you Monster Jam and Supercross started to air programming on CBS the dynamic changed almost over night. The paid attendance grew significantly. The sponsorship dollars set new records. In short between live programing, network programming and same day live programming NHRA has set themselves to win. On one condition.
The content of these shows MUST make an emotional connection with the viewer. They must make the viewer care. Each show must tell a story with a beginning, middle and end. The content must make the viewer pick sides. Villains are OK. If the NHRA racers wrap their heads around this concept and truly do everything in their power to make this connection, miracles will happen. If they don't and it's business as usual, it will be the biggest waste of promotional and marketing assets ever. To use a sports cliche, the ball is in your court.
Story One: My mom was a world class re-gifter. During the opening of presents you would pay a special attention to what my mom received because there was a good chance you would see it the following year. I am a voracious reader so it was not unusual to get books for Christmas. What was unusual was to receive a romance novel with a dog eared cover. I snickered when I saw what it was but soon became delighted when a $20 bill tumbled from its pages. I still remember the shocked look on my mom’s face. Later my dad told me he stuck the $20 in the book the year before to surprise my mom. It worked.
Story Two: When I was 7 years old my grandfather got me a regulation Boy Scout knife and hatchet set. This was not some plastic replica but the real deal and completely inappropriate for a 7-year-old. It also made grandpa my hero. When a 7-year-old has a hatchet there is the overwhelming urge to go outside a cut 10 cords of wood ... which is exactly what I did. OK, that is a tall tale. I did manage to take a whack at any twig or small branch in my path. The snow was deep and in one mighty swing I missed the branch and buried the hatchet in the snow. And oh, by the way, hit my foot that was buried in the snow. The red snow was a clue that I had a problem. I went back to the house and showed my mom what had happened. Instead of attending to my injury my mom proceeded to give my grandpa an epic verbal lashing for getting me such a dangerous gift. I still have a tiny scar on my foot as a remembrance of the greatest Christmas gift ever. And in my heart I knew I had the best grandpa ever.
-The NHRA and IHRA marketing departments will have to overcome two major issues in 2016. It is a presidential election year and the ability to separate from the billions of dollars spent on cesspool ads will be daunting. Add to that the Olympics and you have a media monster that will make anyone cringe who is trying to make an impact.
-With the new CEO in place at IHRA, I think it will not be business as usual. Expect radical ideas and radical staff changes.
-Burk will actually scribble his notes on an iPad instead of a napkin.
-The new look Pro Stocks will be an initial hit but dominance by one or two teams will hurt its popularity as the season progresses.