Is Shaming Fans Good for NASCAR?

Call me crazy but I thought fans were important to NASCAR. How many times in the past did we hear “without the fans we couldn’t do what we love to do” when drivers or other NASCAR personalities talked specifically about the fan base? I would imagine having and retaining fans would be an important component to the success of the sport, which has me perplexed (I said it) on why NASCAR would allow employees and the sport’s paid media to dive into the muddy business of shaming fans.

Since NASCAR is a business dependent on fans – used to increase their profitability, one would think NASCAR would do everything in their power to keep their customers happy.  Granted you’ll never please every fan (customer) especially those who are unwilling to change with a new business model. But normally in business you’re taught to not engage the unhappy customer in a negative way. Basically you agree to disagree or work to mend the relationship to the benefit of both parties and move on. This isn’t happening in NASCAR and this is why I find the events of this week so troubling.

I’m sure you’ve seen the headlines from several media outlets about how fans are “outraged” with the Monster Energy girls. Is it a valid topic? Sure – but I’ll leave it to you to select a side. For me I’m more disturbed on how the topic is being handled by NASCAR and the media. And I think you should be just as troubled.

By now you’ve read the articles and saw the same 5 to 10 fan tweets used in each story.  I noticed at the beginning of the controversy we didn’t see a mass number of fans complaining – not until the media plastered the Internet with the “outraged” headlines. Once the seed was planted it grew like a bad weed. But as the story picked up clicks the complaints softened.

The process is almost done by design. Actually, to get political for a moment, it is by design – taken right out of the progressive playbook. The goal is to use the media platform to divide people with ridicule as the weapon. To be more specific – a small group of fans toss out their critical opinion on how the Monster Energy girls are dressed. It’s an opinion probably not shared or cared about by the majority of the fans or insiders but once the critical tweets were posted (and yes, some could’ve been more polite), the NASCAR media dogs were unleashed. Copies of the tweets – pictures and names of those critical of the girls were published for the world to see. NASCAR employees shared or retweeted links to the articles and just like we see in the political arena, the hatred overflows. You shame your enemy. You pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it – progressives understand the method. Who would’ve thought it would be used in NASCAR. It’s simply sad…and it works. It creates a division far beyond the typical rivalry between drivers’ fan bases.

The shaming in this case wouldn’t have happened if thousands of fans complained about the Monster Energy girls. So…why is this happening?

In my opinion, this is a tactic to shut people up. NASCAR and those who depend on NASCAR for a living know they’re currently challenged with the Monster Energy sponsorship. With Sprint, NASCAR had a true corporate sponsor without any ethical or moral value issues. It’s not the case with Monster Energy – it’s a controversial product with an aggressive marketing style and sexy girls.

From my seat it’s happening for two reasons – to protect the brand and to weed out traditional and family values fans.

Perfect example…I would suggest more fans were “outraged” (or would be if they knew) that Daniel Suarez, driver for Joe Gibbs Racing was allowed to race in the Clash than were originally “outraged” about the Monster Energy girls. You would never know it because of the way the media covered both stories. Sex sells and proved true in this case.

Suarez was allowed to race because the previous driver, Carl Edwards, had qualified for the Clash and didn’t race because he retired. Suarez didn’t meet any of the qualifications to race in the Clash but NASCAR waived the rules and allowed him to race. End of story. Well, not so fast. Why didn’t NASCAR allow Clint Bowyer to race? He also replaced a retiring driver, one who also qualified for the Clash. No answers – no story. This story didn’t favor NASCAR – it was easier to focus on the sexy girls and all of the “outraged” fans.

Traditional and family values fans are NASCAR’s biggest critics at the moment. Traditional fans don’t like the Chase or the Playoff system – they prefer the old points system. Family values fans are mostly politically conservative and have been with NASCAR for generations. They tend to concentrate on keeping the sport clean for families. Both groups tend to be older and many started following the sport during the Nextel/Sprint days, when the sport enjoyed tremendous growth.  For most of these fans all they’ve known are Victory Lane girls in fire suits. I’m sure seeing a young lady in Victory Lane on Sunday wearing an open-shoulder leather top caught some by surprise.  NASCAR should’ve expected this reaction and prepared for it.

Maybe they did.

I hope this isn’t an effort by some in the sport to push out a fan base they don’t like – the family values fan. This attitude or even effort has proven to be bad for business.  Traditional fans have bolted – some due to the large number of changes in the sport and some due to shaming.  As reported by the Wall Street Journal, NASCAR has lost 45% of their TV viewership since Brian France took the reins from his father – a time period where drastic changes have been made. The sport is smaller and will continue to get smaller, especially if there is an effort to shame more fans out of the sport.

NASCAR as an industry is susceptible to being divided on social issues like found in today’s society.  At any time of the day you can see the division by visiting social media sites. Also, the Monster Energy girls topic is proof the social divide is true within NASCAR. We can’t escape it.

Traditional and family values fans are in a tough position. The sport you love is quickly leaving you behind and when you voice your opinion you’re at risk of being shamed. If NASCAR cared about their fans, ALL of their fans, they should make it crystal clear to their employees and to any media partner… leave the fans alone. Stop shaming them in the public square. Never highlight a fan in a negative way – never! It’s good practice especially when it comes to fan retention.

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