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NASCAR’s Super Bowl Sunday: The Daytona 500

4 minute read | February 2017

In the chill of February after football season ends, another major spectator sport brings on the heat. Unlike many American sports like basketball, baseball, football and hockey, NASCAR kicks off each new season with its biggest event of the year. While parts of the country are still in a deep freeze, auto racing fans around the country warm up in the Florida sun and watch stock cars jockeying for position at nearly 200 miles per hour while trying to avoid “the big one.” In addition to the fans that make the annual trek to Daytona International Speedway, millions more watch the live television broadcast from the comfort of home.

The Daytona 500 is among the most prestigious events in motorsports, along with the Indianapolis 500, Monaco Grand Prix and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. According to Nielsen Sports’ SponsorLink, the race ranks among America’s top 10 “can’t miss” sports events, along with the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals and the Olympics.

The Daytona 500 is an iconic and distinctly different race that brings together millions of fans from all over the globe to watch one of the premier sporting events of the year. This year will be marked by some significant changes including Monster Energy coming on board as the new series entitlement sponsor and a modified race format taking effect.

“As the most-viewed automobile race in the U.S., the national broadcast of the 58th running of the Daytona 500 reached nearly 20 million people in 2016,” said Peter Laatz, executive vice president, Nielsen Sports North America. “The race represented the youngest NASCAR viewing audience of the year and most co-viewed, with half watching along with another person. It also saw a 15% lift in viewership with people watching out-of-home.”

NASCAR reaches fans in large cities and small towns. While New York City was the top local television market for last year’s Daytona 500 viewership based on household reach, two Florida markets and the auto racing hub cities of Charlotte and Indianapolis were also among the top 10 markets.

Social Circles

The Daytona 500 is also a social media event, driving engagement across online platforms. Last year’s race was the most “Tweeted” about television program on its 2016 air date, with 439,000 Tweets, up 48% from 2015, according to Nielsen Social. Twitter activity peaked at more than 11,000 Tweets per minute when fans with fast fingers entered a contest to win a race-worn fire suit from the 14-time winner of NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver award, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Vehicle for Brand Exposure

With nearly half of Fortune 100 brands investing in NASCAR, fans understand the role sponsorship funding plays in the performance of their favorite drivers and teams. According to Nielsen Sports, the Daytona 500 is the race that provides the most valuable exposure for brands associated with NASCAR, Daytona International Speedway and the teams competing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Nielsen Sports identified 196 parent brands that received in-race broadcast exposure during last year’s Daytona 500. That exposure had a value of more than $65 million, according to Nielsen Sports’ Quality Index (QI) Media Value.

According to Nielsen Sports SponsorLink, 91% of NASCAR fans are likely to consider a company’s brand, product or service based on sponsorship, compared to 61% of the general population. Additionally, 84% of NASCAR fans feel loyal toward companies that sponsor an event or sport, compared to 74% of the general population.

Monster Energy, the new entitlement sponsor of the NASCAR Cup Series, already leads the energy drink category among Daytona 500 viewers. According to Nielsen Scarborough research, Monster Energy was the top energy drink brand choice of Daytona 500 viewers by 31% over the next brand, and Daytona 500 viewers were 15% more likely to have consumed a Monster Energy drink in the past week than the general population.

Other brands have also recognized the marketing platform that the Daytona 500 broadcast represents. In 2016, the national Daytona 500 broadcast featured commercials from 59 different brands. Automotive, restaurants and telecommunication companies accounted for one-third of the total national advertising spend, according to Nielsen Advertising Intelligence. The auto brands reach car crazy consumers through the Daytona 500, with 11% of viewer households owning four or more cars, and 7% planning to buy a new car in the next year. Daytona 500 viewers also plan to spend more money, on average, for their new vehicles than the general population.

This potential marketing reach is not just focused on automotive products. Outdoor brands, golf gear retailers and lawn care products are also good brand fits for Daytona 500 viewers, with the audience being more likely to fish, golf and do lawn care than the general population.

To read more about U.S. sports media consumption, advertising, sponsorship and fan behavior, you can download Nielsen’s Year in Sports Media report.


The insights from this article are derived from the following Nielsen services:

  • Nielsen NPower: Reach P2+ using a six-minute qualifier. Daytona 500, Feb. 21, 2016
  • Nielsen Scarborough: Based on total U.S. adults 18+ that reported watching the Daytona  500 (Aug. 2015 – Nov. 2016)
  • Nielsen SponsorLink: A national, syndicated tracking study designed to measure consumer attitudes and consumption of different sports and their sponsors 2016
  • Nielsen Social: Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings measure total program-related activity on Twitter. Daytona  500, Feb. 21. 2016
  • Nielsen Advertising Intelligence, Feb. 21, 2016, National TV
  • Nielsen Sport24 QI Media Value Daytona 500, Feb. 21, 2016

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