Over 30 million people tuned in to watch the Daytona 500 this past Sunday (Feb. 20) and it’s probably fair to say not too many would have been disappointed with what they witnessed. In just his second ever Sprint Cup race, Trevor Bayne drove himself into the history books winning the Great American Race for the legendary Wood Brothers – the team’s first win since Elliott Sadler took the checkers at Bristol just under a decade ago and their 98th overall victory.
The 30.1 million total viewers, according to ratings issued by Nielsen Media Research earlier this week, made the 2011 Daytona 500 the most watched NASCAR race since 2008. The total viewership also represented a 15% jump from the 2009 figures (26.2 million) and a 1% increase from 2010 (29.8 million).
The race itself featured a record-setting 74 lead changes and 16 cautions (a total of 60 laps) and finished in a tick under four breathless hours earning an 8.7/20 rating/share: an impressive 13% gain over last year (7.7/16) and a 17% rise in average viewership across the entire race – 15.6 million viewers compared to 13.3 million in 2010.
The positive shift in ratings was also reflected in initial tune-in numbers for the green flag up 7% over last year’s start (7.6/19 vs. 7.1/17) and ratings grew throughout. Race ratings peaked at 10.9/23 and 19.8 million viewers from 5:00-5:30 p.m. ET as the exciting green-white-checkered finish was in progress.
Nine of the top-10 metered markets saw double-digit increases from last year including Chicago (+61%, 5.8 vs. 3.6), New York (+32%, 4.1 vs. 3.1), Los Angeles (+46%, 4.1 vs. 2.8), Philadelphia (+19%, 7.0 vs. 5.9), Dallas (+18%, 7.2 vs. 6.1), San Francisco (+21%, 4.7 vs. 3.9), and Boston (+20%, 4.8 vs. 4.0). Dayton was the country’s No. 1 market for the Daytona 500 at a 20.4/33, up +61% (vs. 12.7), followed by NASCAR hotbed Greensboro, N.C. (20.1/35). Minneapolis also saw significant year-to-year gains posting a 10.2, up 50% vs. 6.8.
As 20-year-old Bayne celebrated not just his against-all-odds win but also his birthday, the 500’s ratings improved 46% year-over-year in the Men 18-34 demographic (3.8 vs. 2.6). Male teen viewing posted a 3.1 rating, nearly doubling last year’s 1.6 and matching the best Daytona 500 rating in six years among Males 12-17. Other key demographics gains include Men 18-49, up 16% (6.4 vs. 5.5) and Men 25-54 up 14% (8.2 vs. 7.2).
The crucial Men 18-34 demographic is an area in which NASCAR is traditionally very strong with an estimated 14 million total fans. NASCAR also continues to be the dominant No. 2 sport on television in this category with an average of half a million males 18-34 tuning in to each and every Sprint Cup race throughout the 10-month season. With the exception of the NFL no other sport attracts such a large M18-34 audience for each event.
These numbers are reflected in at-track attendance with an average of 34,000 males 18-34 attending every Sprint Cup Series race: numbers that are even more impressive when you consider the total attendance at a typical MLB game is nearly 3000 less (30,298) and almost double the average total attendance of NBA games (17,149) and the NHL (17,072).
The M18-34 segment spends on average $500 on the at-track experience – nearly $150 more than average for all other NASCAR race attendees; and they spend more than $450 on NASCAR licensed/branded products – more than $100 beyond the average spent among all NASCAR fans.
The M18-34 category is supported through the sport’s governing body by a number of initiatives, one of which is gaming. Titles including iracing.com, Gran Turismo 5, Days of Thunder: NASCAR Edition and NASCAR The Game 2011 and brand new for 2011, a new fantasy NASCAR.com game that utilizes live in-race data for the first time ever.
Film and Entertainment properties add to the mix bringing the sport to millions of potential new fans such as the BET show Changing Lanes which chronicled the search for NASCAR’s next generation of female and minority fans and Racing Dreams – a fascinating look at three youngsters who dream of one day racing in NASCAR. And at 12 universities throughout the country, NASCAR Kinetics immerses students in semester-long programs on the business of NASCAR.
About the author
Tony Lumbis has headed the Marketing Department for Frontstretch since 2008. Responsible for managing our advertising portfolio, he deals with our clients directly, closing deals while helping promote the site’s continued growth both inside and outside the racing community through social media and traditional outlets. Tony is based outside Philadelphia.
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