NASCAR’s new era is constantly evolving. Between the Chase, the rules, and new television deals we’ve seen a different look for the sport over the past few seasons.
Next on the list? It appears to be merchandise. This weekend’s Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway will launch a new initiative as traditional souvenir haulers will rapidly dissolve out of the fan zone at every racetrack. Instead, tents full of over $20 million worth of merchandise will replace the area that has become well-known to NASCAR fans over the years.
NASCAR partnered with Fanatics – a merchandise company involved in multiple sports entities, including the NBA, NFL, MLB and more – last September. The 10-year agreement is expected to bring in an annual yield of $40 million from “trackside merchandise sales and from merchandise centering on tracks, drivers and specific races,” according to Sports Business Daily.
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“NASCAR, the teams and the tracks got together and said, let’s challenge the leading companies in sports licensing retail to have a solution that takes it to the next level,” said Ross Tannenbaum, President of Fanatics Retail. “They had 11 companies come together, bid on the process and put together plans on what they would do. We were already a partner of NASCAR’s because we run NASCAR’s shop – NASCAR.com. The relationship existed there and it gave us a little bit of an advantage because we already carry all of the products nationwide.”
The shape of the tents will differ at each facility but the amount of space will expand after this weekend’s debut. According to Tannenbaum, Fanatics want the tents to be 20 feet wider than they are at Pocono. At Watkins Glen, the tents will be shaped like an “L” due to the layout of the fan zone at the road course.
Ahead of the race, the planning for the tents comes into fruition weeks before the event. There will be three tents, two sets of fixtures that hold merchandise for fans, and one set of inventory. The tents will be up prior to the race weekends with a Tuesday morning arrival of products from the previous racetrack.
“The wait times at the top haulers could be up to 45 minutes to an hour at its peak, and I know that’s because we ran the haulers the first half of the year,” explained Tannenbaum. “From a process, this is absolutely the most challenging one (project) that we had and I think we ever will have. We ran the Winter Classic for the NHL in January. You do it once and you go home. We’ve run all SEC championship events, PAC-12 championships and we run a lot of venues, but when you think about it, go set up the Super Bowl and break it up 38 times and set it up again the next week.
“At Fanatics, it was an exciting challenge. We said, let’s go find a solution and make this work. At the end of the day, it was NASCAR and the teams that said, is there a better way to do this? What you are seeing here is the stand superstore for all tracks. There will be more locations and satellite locations at tracks that have more revenue or less.”
The drivers featured at the tents will vary upon popularity. At Pocono, soaked in blue and “JR Nation” colors, Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s section was by far the largest in the vicinity of the fan zone. However, Tannenbaum said if a driver begins to get hot, such as Martin Truex Jr., this season, there will be an influx of merchandise as the season rolls on.
Along with innovating state-of-the-art merchandise tents Fanatics will be bringing customization to NASCAR events. Similar to the scene at MLB games, NASCAR races will soon have a specialized hauler – one of the former souvenir haulers – which will customize hats, shirts and more.
“It will create a lot of different products for a lot of different drivers,” Tannenbaum said. “It will allow you to create your own and put your name on it. Maybe if you buy a Jeff Gordon hat, you can put your name on the side of it. There is sort of an entertainment component to it. It will also enable us to offer products for the driver that wins that day after the race. It won’t be much, but it will be something different.”