Revving Up for Latinos

The multi-billion dollar sports industry is frantically searching for ways to target Latino fans, and no one claims to be trying harder than NASCAR. Though it may seem like a strange union, consider that racing fans love cars, country and family-oriented drama, as do many Latinos.

NASCAR made the connection when in 2010 the sport commissioned research to look at what the sport needed to do to grow in certain demographics. With Hispanics identified as a key growth segment, a five-year industry action plan was developed. It’s made up of seven platforms, with the multicultural audience earning a significant amount of investment.

Kim Brink, V.P. of Marketing for NASCAR, is quick to point out that the targeted messaging is not just lip service.  “Once we identified the Hispanic audience as a focus we didn’t just do one thing, we did an entire plan to surround the audience.” Part of that plan involved hiring Sabrina Macias as the Director of Brand and Consumer Marketing Communications.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle NASCAR faced for the multicultural push was educating Latinos about the sport. Macias and her team came up with the creative idea of partnering with Univision for a fifteen-episode webnovela, Arranque de Pasion, La Historia de Ela, which was shown on and then broadcast on Univision during primetime in May. Featuring the popular actors Carlos Ponce and Kate del Castillo, the webnovela told the story about a female driver and was shot on location at Miami’s motor speedway track. “This was a way to expose Hispanic females and the family in general to our sport in a way that is culturally relevant to them,” said Macias.

Another project was the first coordinated Hispanic Heritage Month initiative in October. Five short films were produced that showcased the Hispanic talent within NASCAR, ranging from drivers to pit crew members and even a Latina automotive race engineer. According to Macias the feedback for the “Trailblazers” video series was overwhelmingly positive and NASCAR will continue to highlight the Latino talent that can be seen throughout the sport.

These Latino-specific marketing initiatives launched by the sport are indeed working as ratings for the races have skyrocketed with Hispanics and the trend should continue upward with the company’s solid devotion to growing the fan base. Currently, viewership of the Sprint Cup Series (which is broadcast in English) has risen by 35% among Hispanics.

NASCAR has also been making significant traction in broadcasting their races in Spanish. In 2012 they struck an agreement with Fox Deportes to air fifteen races, including for the first time ever a live broadcast of the Daytona 500 (essentially the Super Bowl of racing). The same year NASCAR re-acquired many digital rights that had previously belonged to Turner Sports. This provided an opportunity for the sport to further integrate with Latinos via their website and social media, where Viva NASCAR has grown on both Twitter and Facebook.

An exciting area of growth for NASCAR involved the U.S. debut of their Mexico-based Toyota Series in March at Phoenix International Raceway. Formally known as the Corona Series, the Toyota Series became a part of NASCAR in 2007 and features several drivers who also race in events in America. A Spanish language ad agency was brought in to create specific television and radio ads for the event. NASCAR also integrated heavily within the community to create consumer interactions at the racetrack. At the launch in Phoenix over 18,000 spectators were in attendance as well as 60 members of the Spanish-language media, a good sign for the growth of the Toyota Series.

Brink credits this success to the approach that NASCAR has taken. “Everything we’re doing is really focused on education and relevancy, which in turn leads to advocacy,” she says.

Jessica Montoya Coggins