Esports remains “vital” for Nascar despite Cup Series return

Stock car racing body getting “tons of calls” from non-endemic brands about gaming initiatives.

Esports remains “vital” for Nascar despite Cup Series return

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Esports will continue to be “vital” for Nascar despite the return of its top-tier Cup Series at the weekend, according to Scott Warfield, the US stock car racing sanctioning body’s managing director of gaming.

Nascar has enjoyed particular success with its eNascar iRacing Pro Invitational Series, which was launched after its season was put on hold due to the global shutdown of sporting events caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The competitive gaming competition’s seven events, which featured drivers from across Nascar’s various tiers of racing, achieved an average audience of one million viewers per minute, also reaching two million people who had not watched any of the first four Cup Series races of the 2020 season.

However, the Cup Series returned to centre stage with the Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Raceway on 17th May, delivering an average audience of 6.32 million viewers for broadcast partner Fox, making it the most watched race outside of the flagship Daytona 500 since March 2017.

But even with on-track racing getting back underway, Warfield believes Nascar’s existing esports offerings, the Coca-Cola iRacing Series and the eNascar Heat Pro League, still have a crucial role to play in building audience.

“We’ve seen a really high tide lifts all boats type scenario with both of those leagues,” Warfield said, speaking during the first BlackBook Motorsport Direct virtual session. “Now that we’re back real racing, we’ll see.

“I personally believe esports for motorsports is vital because we have all of our teams and athletes on the same track at the same time. We don’t have the benefit of having 12 games a night. We’re a weekend sport, Sunday to Sunday for the Cup Series.

“Now, all of a sudden, we have a Tuesday night product with the iRacing Series, we have a Wednesday night product with the Heat Pro League. For the core fan, it provides that bridge between the two races, and it gives a lower barrier of entry, a 90-minute window for a casual fan to come in and experience the sport.

“So I think it’s too early to tell. I’m optimistic that this moment in time, this two months that unfortunately we all had to live through, is something we’ll be able to leverage in the years ahead and continue to grow eNascar specifically.”

Warfield added that the Pro Invitational Series had allowed Nascar to “deliver value” for its existing sponsors rather than to necessarily “go out and sell new categories”.

However, he acknowledged that the success of the series could help Nascar secure more esports-focused commercial partnerships in the near-future.

“The phone has been ringing,” Warfield said. “Whether its F1, Nascar or IndyCar, any form of motorsport, the way it translates to esports coupled with this hiatus in real-life sports is a tremendous platform for sponsors and partners to activate against.

“In this trying time for our partners as well, we looked at it as a way of delivering added value at a time when they were typically on the sidelines with any activation or sponsorship plans they had.

“With that said, we’re getting a ton of calls from non-endemic partners that are interested in getting involved, learning more and figuring out how they can activate against our esports initiatives to drive their business.”

The next BlackBook Motorsport Direct webinar takes place on 17th June. To find out more or to register, click here