Marketing Lessons Learned from Indy 500

indy nascar Marketing Lessons Learned from Indy 500So any of you who are regular readers know that I went to the Indy 500 last weekend and you probably also know I broke my regular tradition of attending the Coca Cola 600 to do such. Now having perspective of both events I think it might be worthwhile to take a comparative analysis of the two events and see if I can’t tie it back to Higher Education marketing. So… please bare with me here.

The Indy 500 vs The Coca Cola 600 – The Facts and Observations

The Indy 500 is the largest sporting even in the nation each and every year with an estimated 400,000 people in attendance. I’ve been told that the Coca Cola 600 is the second largest event each year, but wasn’t able to find any data to support that instead finding that the Daytona 500 is actually larger, Daytona is estimated around 185,000. That being said Coca Cola 600 still draws around 170,000 which considering the two races are on the same day is pretty impressive that very conservative estimates have over half a million people at one of these two events on the Sunday every year of Memorial Day weekend!

The Indianapolis 500 definitely was the most people I’ve ever experienced in one place, but it didn’t seem to have the excitement and commitment to the race that I’m accustomed to at a Coca Cola 600. People at a NASCAR race proudly support their drivers wearing tons of apparel and pronouncing their support, you just didn’t feel that in Indy. I love to walk around and ask people innocently, “Who’s ya driver?”.  I was disappointed to find out Indy fans don’t have drivers.  Also I definitely saw much more NASCAR apparel than IndyCar and it was an IndyCar race! I guess the best way I could describe the feeling is its like going to an Atlanta Falcon’s game and seeing Braves hats and shirts all over the place. You understand why the people are fans, but it’s easy to tell where their true allegiances are.

Let me try and ask it this way. Can you name me another IndyCar driver besides Danica Patrick? Did you even know that the circuit was called IndyCar? (I had to look it up to be certain myself) Now think about and name some NASCAR drivers? Even if you’re not a fan you have probably heard of guys like Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, and Jimmie Johnson? Have star players is important and in recent years the best IndyCar drivers have been leaving the sport to join what is considered the more competitive NASCAR league.

indy drivers Marketing Lessons Learned from Indy 500
Can you name these IndyCar Drivers?  Maybe Danica?

nascar chevy banner b2 Marketing Lessons Learned from Indy 500
How about any of these NASCAR Drivers?

So How does this relate to Higher Education Marketing?
How are you marketing your college? Do you have the brand recognition and the die-hard fans that will buy your apparel left and right or do your alumni simply get their education and come back next year for homecoming? Do you have the fans that travel with your football team and know every player or the fans that come to a game because they are in town?

How about name recognition? Do you have Jeff Gordon’s and Dale Earnhardt’s or are you working with guys like Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan? Is your president well known? Does everyone know your team mascot or your star football player? Do you have professors on campus that are prominent in their fields that speak at conferences regularly and write books?

Of course we all would prefer the dedicated fans with the devotion and rock solid support that they provide, but we have to be able to provide the goods. Having the prestige and recognition doesn’t happen overnight, it takes a lot of hard work to make it into the elite. Someone had to recruit hard to get those key players to the institution and then you have strong people who support them to allow them to continue to be successful.

Finally having all this doesn’t mean beans if it’s not marketed properly. We know about star athletes thanks to the marketing and buzz of Sportscenter. It’s the marketing around a major conference that got us to attend and hear a great speaker. How about the everyday success of a college? It’s the good marketing through the website, publications, and news outlets that put this information in front of us to make us a “fan”. Although many in higher education are beginning to turn against the U.S. News College Rankings we can’t deny that through U.S. News marketing of these rankings that they have such a large impact on recruitment efforts.

So is your school more like the Indy 500 or Coca Cola 600? What are your main assets that make your campus special and who are the key players? How as a marketer can you do a better job to make those assets matter more?

As far as which is the better race?  You make up your own decision:

  • Head2Head: Which race is more prestigious?
  • Which is Better the Indy 500 or the Coca-Cola 600?
  • Largest Stadium Breakdown

This post was written by:

Founder - who has written 226 posts on .eduGuru

Founderis currently the Customer in Residence at HubSpot, a Co-Founder at nuCloud and  formerly the webmaster at Wofford College. Founderis an active contributor in the social media spectrum. Although his background is technical, he claims to know a thing or two about marketing, but mostly that revolves around SEO, analytics, blogging, and social media. He has spoken at multiple national conferences and done countless webinars on topics ranging from e-mail marketing to social media and Web analytics. He's definitely a fairly nice guy.

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13 Responses to “Marketing Lessons Learned from Indy 500”

  1. Says:

    You would tie NASCAR into work. Haha, that’s awesome. For the record, Indy 500 now has an estimated crowd of 500,000. That site is from 1999.

    Love the analogy. Nice work.

  2. Says:

    Brad, Well I mean I was planning on posting this awesome interview that I had w/ a Student Blogging Guru until I deleted the interview. DOH! So I had to substitute it with something else…

  3. Says:

    As a die hard Indy Car fan, I have to confess that I’ve been frustrated with their marketing. Believe me though, it’s improved considerably. Also, I think this year’s race was not nearly as exciting as races in years past. Give the series a few more races (or maybe the rest of the season) and we’ll be inching closer to NASCAR…

  4. Says:

    Hey Tiffany,

    Thanks for commenting! I’ve been stewing through this post some more and probably should add that they are attempting to market their star, Danica. Problem is she’s only won ONE race so it’s hard to call her a star. Nothing against her driving because she is a gifted driver, but we all know it’s because she’s a beautiful young woman that she’s so popular. I think they are doing a really good job of attempting to market her and that is an angle that shows promise, but she has to win for it to be truly successful. Also there is talk now that she has a victory under her belt of her jumping to NASCAR. So in may circles it’s almost viewed that IndyCar series is another minor league system to feed the top tier NASCAR circuit.

  5. Says:

    MINOR LEAGUE SYSTEM! WHAT????? :-) I see your point but hope it improves beyond that.I think with Helio and DWTS, add Danica and her time to time outbursts and it can make for some entertaining racing. The TV coverage isn’t doing them any favors either. Danica won’t do well in NASCAR so hopefully she’ll stick around the IRL. She doesn’t drive well in traffic and I’ve watched enough NASCAR to know that you can’t survivie if you can’t drive in traffic.

  6. Says:

    I hate to break this too you, but you should check out this article Helio ponders move to NASCAR. Sorry.

  7. Says:

    I really really hope not. He’s good and has a loyal following. I predict it’s just hype and he’ll stick around.

  8. Says:

    Good post you got here. I think the reason why NASCAR has a bigger fan base than IndyCar is because everything about it feels more homegrown. You’ve got teams who have their headquarters down south, almost all the drivers are homegrown, plus it’s pretty much the top-tier race car series in the country, whereas IndyCar has a lot of foreign talent driving for the teams plus it’s sometimes considered as a feeder series for Formula One. I guess you can say that nation pride has got a lot to do with NASCAR’s success.

  9. Says:

    You want another name of Indydriver exept Danica…But it doesn’t really matter… Names are not the point. The spirit of Indy or Coca-Cola 600 is the point. You’d better think one more time and then… Then you’ll understand.

  10. Says:

    You are absolutely right that fame doesn’t come overnight, it takes a lot of hard work to make it. Someone had to recruit hard to get key players and then you have strong people who support them to allow them to continue to be successful.

  11. Says:

    Thanks for useful information. It is very useful for people who are interested in marketing if they want to promote their goods.

  12. Says:

    I am totally bookmarking this, thanks for the advice


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