Newport, Rhode Island – At the risk of betraying its southern roots and outraging a core base of loyal fans, a recent poll of over 1,000 Americans shows NASCAR’s decision to ban the Confederate flag is both a move in the right direction, and a positive step toward strengthening the sport’s future.
Performance Research and partner Full Circle Research interviewed avid NASCAR fans, non-fans, and those identifying as Black/African American to find quantitative answers. Data collection took place on June 22–24, roughly two weeks following NASCAR’s stunning announcement to ban Confederate flags at race venues, during the time period in which a noose was allegedly discovered in the Richard Petty Race Team/Bubba Wallace assigned garage stall, and right after the Talladega race, where the Confederate battle flag was flying abundantly in adjacent properties not controlled by NASCAR.
The study shows that the increase in devotion to NASCAR among avid fans under 40, based on the organization’s commitment to diversification efforts, far outweighs the resistance among NASCAR’s more traditional over 40+ fan base. Bill Doyle, Vice President and director of Motorsports Research suggests, “NASCAR is making the right moves in positioning themselves for their long-term future, even if it means some short-term losses.”
While the decision by NASCAR to prohibit the display of Confederate flags from all NASCAR events and properties was supported by just over half (53%) of their 40+ fan base, that number rose dramatically to 76% among their younger (and future) fan base. In addition, with fewer than 20% of the older fan base reporting that these and other diversification efforts may discourage their viewing of and attendance at NASCAR races in the future, those numbers are strongly offset by over one-third of Black respondents overall and two thirds of younger fans claiming they are more likely to watch NASCAR races in the future because of these actions.
These results also paint a positive impression of NASCAR overall, with 57% of their overall fan base, and nearly three-fourths (73%) of fans under 40 reporting a more positive image of NASCAR. Two-thirds (65%) of those same fans indicated an increased level of respect for NASCAR for taking such actions.
But more important than just firming up their younger fan base, their actions seemed to have a similar impact among potential new fans, who have previously held little to no interest in the sport. Among general population non-fans, roughly a third (32%) say that NASCAR’s position to ban the flag has elevated their interest in the sport, with 43% claiming a more positive impression, and 42% having more respect for NASCAR overall because they took these measures.
Similar results are found across the board when looking at a battery of questions regarding the NASCAR’s overall image, with 70-80% of potential fans indicating that since NASCAR took their position, they are “Showing that they are relevant”, “Taking a leadership role on the sports world”, “Aligning with my personal values”, “Making a difference in society” and being “Genuine in their commitment“.
According to Nate Lynch, CEO of Full Circle Research, “The net results show, that potential losses from the sport’s older fan base are far outweighed by the positives, and that generally speaking, NASCAR fans, especially those under 40, are much more socially liberal than popularly perceived.”
It’s good news for NASCAR’s partners as well. While there will be haters and possibly some limited boycotts, the majority of fans (60%) report they will take “Extra steps to support NASCAR sponsors who incorporate Black Lives Matter messaging into their NASCAR partnerships.” This number only grows when looking at fans under 40 (71%).
“I have been a researcher and consultant in this field since the mid-80s, and I believe that in 10- or 15-years’ time, NASCAR history books will look back at this past month or so as one of the most significant turning points for the sport and its future,” proclaims Doyle.
About Performance Research
With more than 30 years of focus and experience, Performance Research is the industry leader for worldwide consumer research and evaluation in the event, sponsorship and experiential marketing industry. Performance Research’s experience covers an array of quantitative, qualitative and economic impact studies focused on sports events and fan festivals, as well as in-depth experience with activation testing at music and cultural festivals and pop-up brand experiences.
About Full Circle Research
Twice-named on Inc. 5000’s list of Fastest-Growing Companies in America (2017, 2019), Full Circle Research was the first and only U.S.-based, online consumer sample provider to earn ISO 26362 certification, is currently ISO 20252-certified and remains the only company to offer HoNoR (Holistic Next-level Research™). This enhanced survey experience is unprecedented and automated—a marriage of advanced technology, flexible community strategies and industry-leading quality controls that gives business decision-makers immediate access to the purest data in the industry. Full Circle’s foresight, agility and commitment to innovation translate into a uniquely pro-active, consultative experience. To learn more, visit iLoveFullCircle.com.