NASCAR retains sponsors for esports series because of FOX TV ratings

NASCAR's iRacing ratings on Fox dwarf IndyCar's on NBCSN
NASCAR's iRacing ratings on Fox dwarf IndyCar's on NBCSN

Fox Sports aired the first eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series on a trial basis on March 22 and drew nearly a million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research.

As a result, Fox Sports agreed to simulcast the series — on its broadcast network, Fox Sports iRacing and the FOX Sports app — for as along to the coronavirus keeps the drivers at home and off real tracks. NBCSN broadcast last weekend's iRacing IndyCar race from Barber Motorsports Park but only drew 162,000 viewers despite nearly 100% of America stuck in the house with nothing better to do. It just proves almost no one watches NBCSN as you would have thought couch potatoes would have surfed to the channel and raised the rating.

It sucked and as we have said for years, IndyCar putting races on NBCSN brings near zero value to sponsors because their ratings are so low.

An integral part of NASCAR — sponsors that run ads and adorn logos on team cars — is riding along with the virtual shift, according Warfield.

“Where we’ve been able to pull through some of our official sponsors we’ve done that," he said. Those include NASCAR’s four premier partners Coca-Cola, xFinity, Geico and Anheuser-Busch, according to NASCAR’s managing director for Gaming Scott Warfield.

He credits the ability to keep key backers on board to the ratings the virtual races have pulled on Fox Sports and the audience engagement they’ve gotten on NASCAR’s cord-cutter platforms.

NASCAR teams are seeing fewer sponsors in esports competition, but Warfield believes that could pick up as the ratings for the eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series continue to rise.

“When you start talking 1.3 million viewers. That’s a pretty important metric to be able to say [to sponsors] ‘hey, you could be on the side of Denny Hamlin’s car in the virtual world,’ " Warfield said.

NASCAR’s esports traction could become a case study for other live event sports that have shut down due to COVID-19.

Working with a tech partner — iRacing — the motorsport series is continuing competition virtually through the health crisis.

And while Bubba Wallace may have lost a sponsor in this new esports arena, NASCAR has managed to carry over key backers in its digital conversion.

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