From Gearshifts to Gigabytes: An Analysis of How NASCAR Used iRacing to Engage Fans During the COVID-19 Shutdown

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Greg Greenhalgh University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, USA

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https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6316-9693 *
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Chad Goebert Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA, USA

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The sport industry is at an inflection point where all major professional sport leagues in North America are struggling to attract the same avid fans, once a staple within the industry. Furthermore, not only are the number of avid fans decreasing, the average age of avid sport fans is increasing. In other words, the current state of the sport industry indicates that fans are decreasing in number while simultaneously aging out of traditional professional sports. The current study aimed to investigate the ability of a traditional sport, NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) in this case, to utilize an esport, iRacing, to attract new and more diverse fans. Through a partnership with Zoomph, Twitter content was analyzed and revealed the shift from traditional racing to iRacing by NASCAR. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it assisted them in attracting new, more diverse fans whose sentiment on Twitter was positive. Overall, the current study demonstrated that traditional sport properties may be well served by tapping into the esport space in an authentic way to enhance their core product(s).

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