Voices From the Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Friday April 29, 2011
A couple of days ago, I received an email from a reader that confirmed a couple of things for me. First, people are still out there reading, which is good, and second (my favorite part!), I think I’m right!
The letter had to do with NASCAR’s Fan Council and, if true it merely confirmed what I had written back in September of last year. Back then, a good friend of mine had recently been accepted to the Fan Council and was eager to participate…until he got his first survey. As I stated back then, my friend was not pleased and wanted to quit the Council then and there but I, for some cold beverage clouded reason, talked him out of it. He was, for awhile, sending me the questions from the surveys for my amusement, but like most men with shiny objects, we soon lost interest. He tells me now that he rarely, if ever, even opens the surveys.
This time; however, NASCAR was not so lucky. The letter writer did not invite me over for a cold beverage before he had reached his breaking point. It’s too bad, really, because A) I like cold beverages and, B) I probably would have also advised him not to quit, if for no other reason than the surveys do seem quite amusing.
Before we move forward, a quick disclaimer I was forced into from those editor people: you never know with emails from fans. For all we know, this guy could be a drunken loon; it’s up to you to make the call. At any rate, the letter in its entirety is as follows…
I know you have written about this subject before, that is why I decided to vent my frustrations to you.
To put it in a nutshell, the entire NASCAR fan council is a joke!
When the idea for a ‘fan council’ was first introduced by NASCAR a few years ago, I was all for it and eagerly applied for a position. I wasn’t accepted right away, but sometime last year (or maybe toward the end of the ’09 season, I don’t recall) I was invited to join, which I did.
As you may or may not know, NASCAR does not necessarily send out a questionnaire after every race. You may get one for two races in a row or you may get one in [every] three, you never know. When I joined, perhaps I expected too much, but to say that I am now totally disillusioned with NASCAR and their BS is quite an understatement! After all, Brian France hyped this whole thing up as a way for the fans to communicate with the sanctioning body and let them know our concerns…what a crock!
In all the Fan Council surveys I have taken during my tenure, there has been MAYBE three or four times that they have even asked a question that had anything other to do with besides marketing.
Usually, every survey consists of these basic questions.
1. What percentage of each Series’ race did you watch this week? (pick a number on their scale)
2. On a scale of 0-10 (for each series) rate, A) the television coverage and, B) the racing action. 3. Did you think the length of each race was (again on a scale) too short, just right or too long?
After those basic questions, they provide you a box to write “Anything else you’d like to tell us about this past weekend’s races?” After that, you must “click here” to finish the survey which promptly takes you (and this is especially annoying!) directly to the NASCAR.com home page.
This week’s survey, while it had the above mentioned usual questions, did go a step further. It asked…
4. Which announcers on Saturday’s broadcast do you remember? It then had a list of all 17 personalities that presumably had anything to do with the show, or have at some time with ESPN/ABC. It then went on to ask you to rate (from like to dislike and everything in between) each one. Further along, it listed the announcers again, with cheesy feel good statements to choose from under their names such as…“Makes me want to learn more about NASCAR,” “Is authentic,” “I can relate to,” or “Should be more involved in the broadcast,” just to mention a few. There was a pick of “I don’t know,” but of course, there were no negative selections to choose from such as something even as mild as “I don’t like this person!”
Now I can’t remember exactly word for word how the survey went, but that is the gist of it. To be honest, the thought crossed my mind that this was nothing more than a popularity voting list for upcoming special events! That is what it felt like, anyway. It sure wasn’t asking the fans to address their concerns about the sport in general.
Why is it that NASCAR doesn’t use this tool to find out what the fans REALLY think? No one ever asked me if I thought the points system was “too hard to understand.” No one has asked what I think about the “Top 35 rule” or “What should be done about Cup drivers in the NNS.” If Brian France is “…not aware of anyone who doesn’t like the Chase format” (or whatever he said recently), why don’t they specifically ask those types of questions? I’ll tell you why, they don’t WANT to know!
I could go on, but why bother? I have joined, hoping to make a difference but the truth is, I could better spend the 5-10 minutes it takes to fill out their marketing form banging my head against a brick wall. I will now be un-joining their stupid little marketing research team so some other well-intentioned, but un-enlightened fan can learn the true futility of what is known as the NASCAR Fan Council.
(name withheld by request because…well, read on…)
P.S. Please don’t use my real name as Brian and his lawyers will probably try and sue me for breaking the confidentiality clause thing you have to click at the end of each survey!!! Can’t be letting non-Council members know what is being discussed on these things!
Well loyal reader, in my opinion you hit the nail on the head. If what you say is true… my two cents are “Marketing research.” That is what it is all about. NASCAR has proven that they don’t really care that their product has become defective in so many ways that, if it were an actual trinket, it would be pulled from the shelves and recalled immediately. No, they just keep trying to make the packaging snazzier!
But in closing, I will say this; never give up hope! Look at what is happening in Major League Baseball. The Commissioner is appointing someone other than the owner of the L.A. Dodgers to actually run the team because, among other things, the owner is going through a messy divorce and many feel he is not giving his franchise the attention it deserves. Perhaps, while Brian France is so worried about his two-time (no, not two-timing… he married her twice!) ex taping their phone conversations, someone else in the family will step up to the plate and give the sport of NASCAR the attention the fans (what are left) deserve.
Stay off the wall (but don’t hold your breath!)
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Editor’s Note: Frontstretch.com contacted NASCAR for their side of this story and received the following response from Kerry Tharp, NASCAR Senior Director of Communications, Competition.
“About three years ago, NASCAR made the decision to institute the NASCAR Fan Council in an effort to give our fans more of a voice and for NASCAR to receive fan feedback quicker and more efficiently than ever before. And, our fans’ input has proven to be a valuable resource for us as we look for ways to make the sport better. On each Monday after race weekends, we comunicate with thousands of NASCAR fans, seeking their feedback on the recently completed race event. We also solicit their opinions on various other topics relative to our sport at other times during the course of the season. Members of NASCAR’s Market and Media Research Department read each and every response from the fans – there is no middle man involved. The NASCAR Fan Council has proven to be an effective way for us to listen and communicate with our fans like never before and we appreciate the loyalty and assistance that our Fan Council members continue to provide our sport.”
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