NASCAR's Green Resolutions

As we mentioned in October’s article, going green can be masculine, too. We highlighted initiatives across all sports, but in 2012, NASCAR will be the one to really watch.

Today, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing – NASCAR – claims tens of millions of fans across more than 150 countries. That means an incredible opportunity for car and driver sponsors to advertise internationally. It’s no secret that sponsorship and advertising opportunities are a huge part of NASCAR. However, as with any enterprise, new thinking is constantly demanded.

According to Chief Marketing Officer Steve Phelps, NASCAR has an extensive plan to stay ahead of the game and grow its fan base even more in 2012. The new strategy spans social media, multicultural outreach and, as we hinted back in October, a massive green initiative involving recycling, solar panels and ethanol-based fuel.

The green moves may seem surprising, given that NASCAR “celebrates fast cars that burn copious amounts of gasoline,” but according to Phelps, that’s all the more reason NASCAR is now planting trees -- the irony behind it is what makes it more impactful. There’s a bias that the sport is not green and, therefore, fans are not green. This drives away sponsor companies that sell green products or target green consumers. But if NASCAR can change that impression (and of course, change its policies), then it will surely reach a whole new fan base. And with that, its sponsors will gain even more advertising reach.

The big challenge for NASCAR execs will be to figure out how to make these changes and save money, without putting too much strain on operations.

The first solution will be to expand recycling efforts via Safety-Kleen, including oil filters, fluorescent light bulbs, metal shavings, aluminum and steel. The corporation has also decided to make Sunoco Green E15 ethanol blend its official fuel this season to help reduce the reliance of imported oil. It plans to plant 10 trees for each green flag that drops during select races and sometimes use a Toyota hybrid as the pace car. Lastly, at Infineon track in Sonoma, Calif., and possibly other tracks as well, a small herd of sheep will graze the infield to keep the grass trimmed.

Part of the reasoning behind the green initiative is simply to do the right thing. If NASCAR can be a leader in the green space, then anyone can. Another part, of course, is to attract new fans, and, therefore, generate more revenue for NASCAR and its sponsors. Most Fortune 500 companies have some type of sustainability or green effort going on and more than 100 of them are involved with NASCAR. They are thrilled that NASCAR is taking green steps.

NASCAR execs have not done the research just yet, but they believe that over time they will gain fans who are more engaged because of what they’re doing. They’re also making huge pushes on digital and social media platforms. They believe social media can make a big difference in how their fans connect with their drivers.

2012 will certainly be a big year for NASCAR and its marketing efforts. Through green initiatives and a digital push, it aims to reach a whole new fan base. We think they’re right, and can’t wait to see what other sports jump on the bandwagon.

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2 comments about "NASCAR's Green Resolutions".
  1. Rod Nenner from Washington Redskins , January 11, 2012 at 10:20 a.m.
    When is "going green" nothing more then "green washing". NASCAR needs to be 100% committed to being green - anything less is "Trending Green" and can be seen as nothing more than a changing the book cover and not re-writing the book. The question....if not done correctly, could this strategy could backfire?
  2. Laurie Patrei from Conversation, LLC , January 11, 2012 at 10:41 a.m.
    Rod - Thanks for your comment and I agree. Companies or corporations that simply say they're green to follow the trend are almost as big of offenders as those who do nothing. However, it seems that NASCAR has made a good, solid plan to implement the things mentioned above and all of their execs are on board. Given the size of these tasks, they're aware that it will take years for big impacts to be made - but they seem to be serious in their efforts as they mention numerous times that their reasoning is not just to increase their fan base and sales, but also to simply do the right thing for the environment. With any big initiative there is risk - but they seem confident in their ability to succeed.