In Part One of this three-part blog series Relo illustrated the abundant ramifications of brand exposure viewability within NASCAR and how that viewability stacks up against the other major sporting leagues in North America.
To briefly recap, the two main takeaways from the first part were:
- Available sponsor inventory, and quality of that inventory available directly cause fewer broadcast visible exposures, and such lower broadcast viewability
- As NASCAR continues its growth trajectory as a sport, maximizing exposure quality on high-impact assets will be vitally important to driving overall brand value
In Part Two of this content series, Relo will dive deeper into the multiple factors that compound motorsport viewability issues; providing clear examples, imagery, and outside contextualization to key themes being examined.
Drivers Performance Has a Considerable Impact on the TV Coverage (and Ultimately Brand Exposure Value) They Receive
As a rights holder selling or a brand investing in motorsport sponsorships, you have likely at one time or another pondered the question:
“What is the impact on-track performance ultimately has on brand exposure value?”
The short answer here is: a significant impact. Driver performance is a variable in NASCAR that can yield considerable volatility in exposure value. This theme of performance impacting value is one that is notably more prevalent in NASCAR than in most other sports. How much so?
Relo found that broadcast network cameras focus on the top ten drivers for nearly 50% of each race. Using that datapoint as a baseline, that leaves meager opportunity for other cars to receive high quality exposure (or any exposure at all).
Race performance impacting exposure opportunities starts on the track, but continues long after the checkered flag is waved. Winning races or finishing in the top ten provides additional exposure opportunity to brands even after the race, especially to those appearing on Driver Suits and Helmets. The winner and their team receive extensive coverage during their celebrations, with post-race interviews usually solely dedicated to drivers within a top ten finishing position.These moments create high-impact brand exposures for rights holders and their brand partners that then continue to be amplified across social media.
The Fast Pace of the Cars Leads to Blurriness
Understanding the effect on-track performance has on broadcast network coverage, let’s now take a look at another abundantly common brand exposure pitfall: blurry exposures.
Unrecognizable brand exposures as the vehicles race around the track is quite common. The root cause here being the relationship between the typical fast pace of a NASCAR race itself and how it is being captured and distributed on television. For some additional perspective on the relationship between those two ideas, let’s dive into some numbers:
- 200 MPH - The upper echelon of speed that NASCAR cars hit on the track
- 1080P - The upper echelon which broadcast footage is distributed (often 720P)
The two themes described above represent a significant challenge seen across many frames throughout a race broadcast. Relo identified that on average 20% of total frames in a race suffer from blurriness related issues. Unfortunately, and unlike on-track performances, this is a common issue which contains a more complex path to improving outcomes.
Wide-shot Camera Angles Pose A More Considerable Exposure Issue in NASCAR Than in Other US Leagues
The third major element which negatively impacts the number of brand exposures each rights holder receives is the camera angles utilized throughout a race broadcast.
It should, of course be noted that driving clear brand exposure is certainly not the primary objective of the network broadcasters shooting the race. Their goal is naturally to frame and direct the race in such a way that is most compelling to the average viewer. Which would generally go against the perspective of a brand market who is looking for their brand's creative to be captured on the coveted high-impact, close-up camera shots as frequently as possible. This is especially true as the fast pace does not allow viewers to focus on a specific car for too long.
Referencing a theme highlighted earlier in this piece, while broadcast networks aim to focus on the drivers at the front of the pack, they frequently make use of wide-shot camera angles to broadcast races and show what is happening on the track. Such camera angles typically make it difficult for brands to be easily recognizable, especially taking into the other previously discussed theme of the pacing within a NASCAR race.
It is important to call out and recognize that NASCAR is far from the only sport which features broadcasters leverage wide camera angles. The logical question then becomes:
“Why is this a more significant challenge for brands partnering with NASCAR teams?
The main difference is that rights holders selling (and brands buying) exposure within NASCAR have access to a limited number of assets, most of which are segmented on different areas of the vehicle. Whereas, in the case of NBA, NHL or MLS teams, let’s say, brands can be featured on multiple stadium or arena assets, which tend to be larger in size and therefore more easily recognizable to a TV audience watching on broadcast.
Broadcast Comparison - MLS Jersey Sponsor, NBA Jersey Patch & NHL Helmet Decal
NASCAR teams typically have access to fewer high-impact assets than that of their counterparts within the NBA or NHL (leading to fewer broadcast visible exposures). But what happens if the comparison gets limited to specific non-stadium assets: NBA Jersey Patch, NHL Helmet Decal and MLS Jersey Sponsor?
- All values are presented on a per driver (NASCAR)/team, per event/game basis. All brands have been taken into consideration,
- *Home & away games have been taken into account where applicable
Similar to trends seen across hockey, basketball and soccer, brands displayed on the front hood of NASCAR vehicles are commonly mostly visible when networks leverage close camera angles. However, NASCAR still lags behind those other sports in the quality of said broadcast viewable brand exposures for those four premium assets.
One of the primary reasons here being the different nature into how these sports are broadcasted to the viewer at home. Where NASCAR’s fast pace often leads to the previously mentioned blurriness, MLS, NBA and NHL consistently feature more mundane moments (e.g. free-throws, substitutions, players-referees interactions) where close camera angles are utilized which generally provide high-impact brand exposures.
It is also relevant to note that these specific camera angles are occasionally broadcasted in quality greater than 1080p further leading to stronger, more recognizable brand exposure.
Motorsport Comparison: Viewability Issues Are Common Across Much of Motorsport
Blurry frames, un-accommodating camera angles and lower quality broadcast exposures are not challenges that are exclusive to NASCAR, but much of motorsport. Across all assets and brands, the average MVP score (which represents the quality level of exposure) for NASCAR brands is 13%. This is paired against that of Formula E for context, which clocks in at a lesser 10% average.
Not much changes when taking into consideration a specific asset (side of car). Below is a breakdown of NASCAR vs. Formula 1 / Formula E:
- NASCAR: 12% average MVP
- Formula 1: 12% average MVP
- Formula E: 17% MVP
Not only is the trend confirmed, but NASCAR unsurprisingly outperforms Formula 1 / Formula E when we compare NASCAR’s Hood asset to Formula 1/E’s Nose asset.
NASCAR brands received an average 13% MVP score when appearing on the Hood, whereas Formula E and Formula 1 sponsors both received an 8% MVP. This difference can largely be attributed to the significant differences in vehicle make. As the frames above clearly showcase, the Hood of NASCAR cars provide ample opportunity for singular brand exposures, juxtaposed with F1 where the nose typically features an abundance of brands fighting for quality exposure.
On-Board cameras are more effective on Formula 1 cars
One specific area where Formula 1 outperforms NASCAR on brand exposure quality, is through the effectiveness of their on-board cameras. Formula 1 makes a more extensive use of on-board cameras: all cars are equipped with six cameras, as per the 2022 official F1 technical regulations. Brands appearing on the Halo of F1 cars benefit the most from these cameras, as they receive consistent and easily recognizable exposures.
Not only are on-board cameras less common in NASCAR, but brands are not as visible due to the aforementioned differences in vehicle make. As seen, most of the viewability issues are out of teams and brands control. However, these challenges should not be considered as status quo, as there is room for further growth opportunities.
In the next article (which will be available the week of September 19th), Relo will provide advice on how these key learnings can lean to further innovation within the sport. Included within that piece will be: how to optimize current brand integrations, as well as how to best leverage social media to further increase value.