So when you look around the stands at your local dirt track, do you notice who's sitting around you? No, not that annoying guy that stands, that points and yells at his favorite driver with his stomach falling out of his shirt and a beer in hand. We're talking about the crowd in general. Is it getting any bigger? Is it getting any younger?
If you've been paying attention, you know that we're up against a challenge in the coming years. We're going to need to make more dirt fans. It's pretty simple actually. The creation of fans was previously taken care of mostly by paternal figures who took us to the track as kids and we fell in love with it. But now that things in our world move at a faster speed and the choices for entertainment have expanded beyond what anyone could have ever imagined. and there's less cars and drivers around than there used to be, we find ourselves in need of recruitment.
|Pat Miller Photo|
Some tracks do a great job in this regard, some have room for improvement. So, what market are we targeting? Well, everyone really. Every person that has never been to the races before. We can't cover everything in this segment, but we can show some ideas on how to break the ice, keep the momentum, and create some lifers in the stands.
Okay, first thing we're going to have to do, is realize what we're up against. Perceptions and lack of knowledge. People who have never been to the dirt track can loosely fit into four compartments. 1. Those who honestly believe the track is full of people who they'd prefer not to associate with. 2. Those who honestly never knew the sport existed! 3. Those who believe it would have to be similar to NASCAR, and they've tried watching it and hated it. 4. Those whom will never understand it, know it exists, and could not care less. (We can't do much to help those poor souls, they're doomed) We're not here to bash asphalt racing, nothing wrong with enjoying some of both actually. But pointing out the differences between DIRT and NASCAR may help our chances of converting a fan.
So let's begin with a couple of ways we can introduce the sport...aka the hook.
The Water Cooler
Okay, not all of us have an actual water cooler at our place of employment. Some of us have a beer cooler. But we all have a place where people take a break and slack off to avoid responsibility. Spot that guy or lady that you always talk to but have never introduced the sport to. Now, whip out your cell phone and have youtube.com ready and available when you do. Have your favorite dirt racing video (make it a great one too, clear, not blurry and with good sound) of a local track you attend. Don't show them a crown jewel highlight at first, they'll expect it to be like that the first time out and their expectation level once they see a local show may be unreasonable. Got that ready? Now start by saying "Hey, check this out I went here this weekend and had a blast!" Act like your fiddling around for a second, then show them the video. Tell them how much fun you had and what it was like. And emphasize what we love about the sport, your passion will speak for itself.
Other Sporting Events
You're more likely to find a potential fan at college, pro or high school sporting events than you can find gathered at any other location. And odds are you'll be in an area where fans congregate and mingle. When you're in a conversation, try to turn into a dirty one. "Speaking of a raw deal, check this out, this happened at this place a while back." Then use the video from the water cooler segment. Odds are people in attendance will be somewhat interested. Tell them that you go there and have a great time every time.
Hi There Neighbor
Hopefully, you've been blessed with great neighbors. If your neighbor is somebody who constantly threatens to call the police on you or wishes to file civil suit because of your tree being partly over their fence, don't invite them and let them finish out their days never experiencing a race, it's their loss. But we can certainly work on ones that we like. It's pretty easy too, you basically talk every time you see them, even if it's only a "Hi there" now and again. Now then, when you're both working outdoors one day, take a break and show them the dust on your car. Now show them the video of the track it came from and tell them what an awesome time you had! It may only seem like one person, but word of mouth travels fast and if you do your follow up work, they'll be going through the fan recruitment process on the other end in no time. One makes two, two makes four...do the math.
When you're talking about the track try to talk about the following
- Very reasonable ticket prices, basically a movie ticket
- Good and cheap food
- Emphasize that kids have access to drivers for autographs and pictures if they have children
- Free Parking
- How long the place has been open
- Good place to meet and court potential clients if they run a business
|Pat Miller Photo|
Now then, you've introduced them, it's time to invite them...
Start by innocently asking your dirt fan in waiting, "Hey, how would you like to go with me next Fri/Sat/Sun night?" Your prospect may initially tell you no. If that's the case, simply tell them that any time they want to come check it out, the offer still stands. If they start to look like they're thinking hard about it, up your game. Offer free beer, offer to do something they'd always been asking you to take part in (make a trade), if they have kids, make sure they're coming with your prospect too! (might as well make two or three fans in one trip).
When At The Track
First off, racing is like any other addiction...it's one of the healthiest ones in existence. And just like recreational pharmaceutical addiction, the first hit..is always FREE. Pay their way in, you invited them so it's on you to put the good foot forward. Forget where you always sit, take them to a place where they can see the whole show and take in all the action, and have your friends pop by so you can introduce them. Ahem, make sure they're friends that represent us well like with any sport, there's good fans and one's to stay away from. Actually there's far less in the way of falling down drunk, belligerent idiots at a dirt track than at an NFL/NHL or NBA game! We're a pretty friendly bunch for the most part, and make sure that your first timer realizes that! Also, if it's financially possible, you can buy pit passes for the both of you so they can take in some of the pit action and get that behind the scenes look.
Before hot laps, explain how the evening goes, and explain a little bit about each type of car as they come on the track. Tell them about the drivers, how they're doing it for the love at the weekly level and are not really in it for any kind of financial reward. As the racing continues, explain the rules and how best to take in the action. Tell them about transfer spots, and about how the surface changes from heats to consi's to main events. Also, take a walk with them to the concourse for some food and that free beer you promised, show them where tshirts are and collectibles.
One thing to think about though. All of the previous information needs to be done bit by bit, not all at once. Spread in some friendly chatter between racing explanations, the brain's like a sponge, don't overfill it too soon. Before the night ends, be sure to tell them about special shows like national sanctions too!
|Pat Miller Photo|
After The Races
You've done your part in creating a new fan, but the job isn't quite finished yet. Reach out to your new racing friend with a thanks for coming out email/text/phone call. And then progressively show them how to use the internet to follow drivers, series, other tracks and how the national sanctions work. Show them how to follow and keep up with the sport. Tell them about great general websites and social media accounts to follow (like ours). If you don't take this final step seriously, you've created a half baked fan that saw it once and liked it, nothing more. Fans like to follow drivers, you've got to show how to develop favorites, not yours per se, but give a little back story behind some of the drivers you know and how you like or don't like how they drive.
About Non Racing Folks
We are not born into the universe knowing about racing. So it makes sense that there will be folks out there who have no idea about what we love. And it's not their fault!! What we can do, is try our best to take away any false preconceptions that they may have about dirt racing, or we can educate those who don't even have those. These people will all look differently, they may have different ethnic backgrounds, different colors, and different lifestyles. And EVERY one of them is important to try to recruit! We want a cross section of everybody in our grandstands!!! We're only going to lose those preconceived notions about what our sport is about, if we invite EVERYBODY to the party!
In closing, we owe it to our sport to help generate more fans. We challenge every one of our loyal readers here, to make it a goal to take no fewer than 5 newbies a year to the races in 2016! And also, to include them in our social circle. If we do that, collectively as DIRT NATION, we'll see less tracks close, see greater opportunities for drivers, and help keep the sport growing! So remember, just don't ask somebody to the races...be an ambassador by following what we've listed here! It's our job here at TDN on a larger level, and your job at a local level!