It is nestled between the major markets of New York and Philadelphia. It is the largest, and in many ways the only, self-sustainable green sporting facility in North America, if not the world. It is an independent venture run by a family dedicated to finding ways to reinvest in its community. Yet for all it does, Pocono Raceway, the quirky tricky triangle of NASCAR, may still have its biggest days as a brand yet to come.
The track is a key piece of NASCAR’s growing strategy to embrace the northeast, a goal that has proved at times elusive and at many times frustrating to TV partners, brands and to the circuit itself. Pocono, twice every summer (now with a new racing surface as well), is the beacon for thousands of fans to embrace a sport which is much more prevalent in the media on a daily basis in many parts of the country, despite its huge drawing power of all its affiliations with virtually every prominent brand in the consumer marketplace. Fans in the northeast can enjoy the sport, follow its drivers, engage in social media, but without a close home to experience NASCAR in the New York or Philadelphia markets, it is still a bit more out of sight than most who are in the business would like.
Yes you can bring the drivers to the fans, and NASCAR has done a great job of doing so, but the sport is all about the track experience, and with no one rushing to build a monolith to the sport in those urban areas, there is only so much a brand and a circuit can do. Golf has numerous homes in both markets, tennis has the US Open, even surfing tested the waters of New York last year. NASCAR, not quite.
So can Pocono be the bigger draw for the markets, maybe not jus NASCAR but racing in general? Some thoughts.
The track needs to better embrace Gotham. Years ago race fans had both Nazareth Raceway and Pocono to fill their need for racing, and New York was a key marketing hub. Beer sponsor Schaefer spent huge amounts marketing to the New York market, and the brand awareness of both the track and the sport was much higher. That has gone away in recent years, with a focus more on Philly. However Pocono is an easy ride from New York, and the lucrative suburbs of New Jersey, and marketing to those areas as an affordable big time sports event, would be a smart move.
F1 Could Help Rise A Racing Tide: The coming Formula One race on the streets of New Jersey in 2013 will draw huge media to racing in the heart of the New York area. That casual fan engagement in racing can be used as a positive for NASCAR and Pocono, helping to draw fans to another fun, engaging alternative for the time when F1 may or may not be back to down. By the way, finding a way for IZOD IndyCar to return to Pocono would also help life the profile of the track and the sport of racing as well. Another event, outside of the two NASCAR events, gives casual fans another reason to venture away from the cities for a fun event.
We love green. Many arenas and franchises have paid lip service to green initiatives, but Pocono has done more to be self-sustaining than, well, anyone. While the story of the solar field that has been installed has been told in mainstream media to some extent, it needs to be re-emphasized to an audience well beyond sport, and revisited with many of the other self-sustaining efforts the track is doing to assist not just sport, but the area as well.
Make no mistake, Pocono is a great American success story. However its potential to help lift a solid sport and increase its brand value is still tremendous, with a push a little to the north and to the east. With so many opportunities to spend casual dollars, consumers need to be constantly reminded that there is a great, cost effective and fun experiential event not that far away. It can’t be assumed, and if it is assumed people know, then an opportunity for growth is lost.