INDYCAR – The Core Audience: YouTube is King

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(Note: Numbers used in this article were retrieved on the afternoon of February18, 2014)

A conversation between Matt Archuleta (@Indy44 get on twitter… follow him now), Steve Jarzombek (@sejarzo) and myself about YouTube, subscribers, the NASCAR behemoth and IndyCar uncovered something interesting.

We all know that NASCAR far and away exceeds INDYCAR in popularity in all aspects of the word. But a curious little tidbit came to light when looking through social media numbers. The oft quoted social media count to determine who is watching is twitter. The official IndyCar account (@indyCar) boasts a following of 105,668, while NASCAR (@NASCAR) comes in at a respectable 1,349,455. With an order of magnitude advantage, the evidence is pretty damning concerning who talks about what more.

Over on YouTube, the story is a bit different. NASCAR has 53,219 subscribers, while IndyCar has 108,645. Considering this is a NASCAR verse IndyCar numbers comparison, the difference was quite surprising to me. The subscribership/follower numbers for indycar are very close, whereas the NASCAR twitter following dwarfs its YouTube subscriber number by over 20 times the amount.

The reasons could be simple, and probably are, but there may be more complex things at work here. Another twitter user (@JPIndycar) quickly pointed out that NASCAR has many other media outlets to distribute content through. Races, practice, qualifying, testing, hunting, cooking, magazines, news, RV pimping; the list of NASCAR themed and related properties could go on forever. IndyCar and its fans and sponsors would do nearly anything for the kind of saturation and exposure that NASCAR enjoys.

And of course, there will be an argument that NASCAR fans may not be as tech savvy as IndyCar fans. The twitter numbers and the views of NASCAR crash videos would say otherwise.

But these numbers got me thinking. Who is the core audience; the audience that will choose Verizon over Sprint because of auto racing affiliation? We all know that casual fans pay the bills and build the playgrounds, but how exactly does one determine that core audience number?

How many are left standing once all the “casual” viewers are swept away? Common knowledge states that the bulk of NASCAR consumers are also entertainment consumers; the regular stick and ball guys who also watch and odd sprinkling of other entertainment properties. The IndyCar casual audience looks to be absent.

I said crash videos earlier because the NASCAR channel itself does not have a staggering amount of views, and the content is a bit sparse considering who we are talking about. IndyCar has 2,144 videos while NASCAR has 1,835 videos. The views are pretty similar with videos getting one to five thousand views while the odd standout may have 20 thousand plus. But the crash videos posted by everyday users for each series could have over a million views each.

There are many more user posted NASCAR videos, but they are usually some kind of crash video. And the users who post these videos are usually in the business of posting various crash compilation videos. There are more NASCAR videos around simply because they crash more often and more spectacularly than other forms of racing. Again, yet another segment of the casual audience who are searching for crash videos on the whole, and the view numbers for both forms of racing crash videos are very similar.

YouTube is a fantastic place to find cool videos and is used by nearly everyone with an internet connection, but the subscription system seems to be the home of the fanatics. They are the kind of fan who is guided by brand loyalty and must consume every ounce of media that their favorite racing series releases. The fan that will support the series before supporting any singe driver or team. The fan invested in the longevity and perpetuity of their favorite kind of racing.

Could this be one area where IndyCar could leverage its advantage over NASCAR? I have no idea, and I am probably completely backwards how I interpreted these numbers. But the fact still remains; IndyCar has twice the amount of YouTube subscribers over NASCAR, which has to could mean something.

Does the number of YouTube subscribers indicate core audience size? These guys are dedicated enough to have an account and click subscribe with the intent to return for content. If you could pinpoint this core audience and find a way to speak directly to them, could you use this communication to leverage nontraditional advertisers and sponsors in a nontraditional way? I have no idea, but it is always cooler when you feel an organization is speaking directly to you because they “get you”.

YouTube has replaced casual or couch surfing TV viewing for me, thus freeing me from the tyrannies of non-DVRed programing of which I cannot skip through commercials while watching. YouTube is possibly the best route to advertise to me while having my undivided attention outside of radio commercials during my morning drive to work dose of Bob and Tom.

Do you have a YouTube account and are you a subscription user? I am, and have found that I get huge amounts of fresh and interesting content on a daily basis. When IndyCar shows up in my feed it’s just bonus because I have already decided to watch YouTube without purposefully seeking out IndyCar specific content to watch. It has become increasingly more difficult to directly advertise to people; maybe it is time to turn up the volume for people who are already actively listening.

Eric Hall

2 comments

  • Part of the Indycar advantage is that they sometimes post full races on youtube. That is a big deal especially with the lack of availability of NBC Sports. The international fans who have no access also probably make up part of that. 100,000 people roughly fits in with the ratings on Versus and NBC Sports so it could possibly be the hardcore audience. I use the Youtube channel but don’t subscribe to it however. I would imagine casual fans don’t normally subscribe to a youtube account. If Indycar’s youtube account is good then they really need to aggressively share it and shove it in peoples faces to get them watching. Especially current racing fans of NASCAR and X games fans.

  • I’ve been able to watch nearly every Indycar race on YouTube, even some of the older CART stuff. There was a time when I didn’t have cable where I had to wait two days on YouTube to watch an Indycar race, the wait was always worth it.