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Racing From the Brickyard to the Queen City

2022 Indianapolis 500, Coca-Cola 600 Combine for 11.7 Million Viewers

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Social Media
Sponsorship Valuation
June 9, 2022
June 21, 2022
 min read

Annually, the final weekend in May provides countless Americans with the opportunity to remember and commemorate fallen soldiers while also enjoying time with loved ones and an extended break from their normal routine. Many choose to spend their time at cookouts or pool parties, but racing fans circle Memorial Day Weekend on their calendars for other reasons: the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600. Two races, 1100 miles, one action-packed afternoon. The events are held every year on the Sunday before Memorial Day, and they provide motorsport enthusiasts with a full day of drivers trading paint at 200 miles per hour. The excitement begins at Indianapolis Motor Speedway – reverentially known as the Brickyard – when 33 drivers position themselves on the 2.5-mile oval track in anticipation of the green flag waving. After the IndyCar series race concludes and the winner partakes in the traditional celebration of guzzling milk in Victory Lane, attention among race fans shifts to stock cars, with Charlotte Motor Speedway playing host to the evening’s Coca-Cola 600. This year, we used MVP’s omnichannel platforms to examine racing fans’ viewership and social media behaviors throughout the weekend. Our broadcast technology revealed 11.7 million combined viewers for the two races, but their respective totals were far from equal.

Viewers, Start Your Televisions

During the early afternoon on May 29th, 7.81 million households tuned their televisions to NBC for the 106th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Coverage of the most historic American open-wheel race began at 11 a.m. EST with commentary, predictions, interviews, and beautiful camera shots documenting the pageantry of the Indianapolis 500. Over the ensuing several hours, IndyCar fans were treated to a thrilling race that ended with Marcus Ericsson of Chip Ganassi Racing standing atop the podium. However, this year’s viewership lagged behind last year’s total of 9.04 million by 14%. And the trend would persist for the night’s NASCAR race, as viewership for the Coca-Cola 600 on Fox fell by 33% year-over-year to 3.87 million. For comparison’s sake, we used MVP’s broadcast platform to also examine this year’s Daytona 500, the NASCAR race most analogous to the Indianapolis 500 in terms of significance. February’s race drew an audience of 8.85 million, 13% more than the 2022 Indianapolis 500 and 2.3x more than the 2022 Coca-Cola 600. And although it, too, experienced a year-over-year decline in total viewership, its drop was only 5%. The larger drops for Memorial Day Weekend’s races may suggest increased travel this year among those who would otherwise be watching at home as a nation of sports fans continues to seek a safe, stable balance while we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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NASCAR Executes Social Pass

Across social platforms, NASCAR claimed the top spot in our hierarchy for the second consecutive year. MVP’s social platform showed content pertaining to the Coca-Cola 600 across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube from May 27-30 generated $1.4M worth of post value. Meanwhile, the 2022 Indianapolis 500 received $1.14M in social post value. And their differences were not limited to totals. The races generated post value through substantially different avenues. More than half of the Coca-Cola 600’s total post value – $724,388 – came from content on NASCAR’s owned channels. But the Indianapolis 500 received the majority of its value from drivers and teams rather than the league itself. IndyCar drivers accounted for $522,565 in post value on race weekend, while their teams added $242,579 to the event’s total post value. The contrast suggests IndyCar fans are more invested in the competitors, while NASCAR fans focus on the competition. Notably, one of the drivers provided significant crossover appeal. Jimmie Johnson, a seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, made his Indianapolis 500 debut this year. And although he was unable to finish the race due to a crash with six laps remaining, his social content was responsible for 22% of the IndyCar drivers’ total post value for the weekend.

Despite the vast differences in post values and means by which the races generated them, there was one commonality in line with what we found in our viewership examination. Like the television audience, social values experienced a slight year-over-year decline. The dip was similar for the pair of races, with the Coca-Cola 600 dropping by 23% from 2021’s total and the Indianapolis 500 earning 19% less social post value than it did a year earlier.

Stock Car Sponsors Reach Fifth Gear

Sponsorship is significant in all sports, but the partnerships present across motorsports truly drive the industry. Branding is ubiquitous across racing series, with logos prominently displayed on cars, sponsors consistently named during driver interviews, and graphics regularly shown during broadcasts. Such mentions coupled with featured branding placement in social content help deliver a return on investment for organizations associated with the leagues, races, and drivers. And on Memorial Day Weekend, they had their time to shine in front of vast audiences nationwide. The biggest beneficiary of the races’ social content was Coca-Cola, which, as presenting sponsor of NASCAR’s race, received $146,323 in social brand value – 2.69x more than any other affiliated brand over the weekend. Among brands featured in Coca-Cola 600 social content, the beverage manufacturer was followed by FedEx and Xfinity – NASCAR’s series sponsor – at $54,454 and $26,617, respectively.

Partly because much of the Indianapolis 500’s social post value was attributed to drivers and teams, the social brand value for companies performing on race content was lower than that of NASCAR’s sponsors. The top earner among partners for the IndyCar event was Honda, which received $21,363 in brand value. Rounding out the top three were Arrow Electronics and Huski Chocolate — Ericsson’s primary partner — with $19,651 and $11,129, respectively. IndyCar’s presenting sponsor, NTT, was next, earning $9,712 in social brand value during the weekend. Gainbridge, the Indianapolis 500’s presenting sponsor, does not hold naming rights to the race, but it still earned $6,448 in brand value on social media from race content during Memorial Day Weekend.

Circuits Compete for Checkered Flag

Although America’s premier domestic racing series experienced slight declines in viewership and social media value on this year’s Memorial Day Weekend, the 2022 Indianapolis 500 and 2022 Coca-Cola 600 nevertheless earned millions of viewers and millions of dollars’ worth of social post value to be shared among their scores of sponsors. IndyCar fans displayed an affinity for the drivers competing at the fabled speedway, while NASCAR fans exhibited a passion for the league itself as Denny Hamlin raced to victory in Charlotte. But the enthusiasm shown throughout race day on television and online suggested the series have strong support bases across the country. Stay connected with MVP for additional racing content – from these leagues, Formula 1, and more – as the respective seasons progress.

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