IndyCar Racing’s Data Challenge: Identifying Future Motorsport Fans

    by Juan Alberto DelaRoca
    January 20, 2016
    Public domain image from DARPA.

    The following opinion piece is a guest post and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of this publication. Read more about MediaShift guest posts here.

    It started with a “what if” question after reading a Forbes article titled “How Formula One Teams Are Using Big Data To Get The Inside Edge” last winter. The piece discussed how “teams are using the data to predict where they’ll finish the race before it even starts, based on the data amassed over the season from their competition and from their own car,” and left me thinking of how this strategy can be applied to understand the early adopter motorsport fan.

    "Big data holds the key to understanding where IndyCar stands with higher growth segments of fans..."

    As the digital footprint continues to expand in sports, the “what if” type of questions associated with big data have the potential to reach the next generation of motorsport fans in the United States. An example is IndyCar Racing, which currently faces business challenges associated with cultural and generational trends. This is why we chose to use them as a case study in a “Connecting Hispanic Racing Fans To The IndyCar Racing Series: An Empirical Investigation” during the summer of 2015.


    Figurational Theory was applied in this research because we wanted to filter our data through the lens of the motorsport marketer and the new mainstream motorsport fan. We believe it’s here where gaps can be closed and effectively lead to the acceleration of a wider fan adoption.


    Photo by Bryce Womeldurf on Flickr and used here with Creative Commons license.

    As a sports business entrepreneur, and alum of the Ohio University Sports Administration program, I leveraged relationships to bring together the resources to take on this ambitious research project. Partners on the project included the Ohio University Department of Sports Administration faculty member Dr. Michael Pfahl, along with current and past graduate students, sports data analytics firm Sports Desk Media, and IndyCar Racing.


    We used the Fan DNA tool provided by Sports Desk Media and tagged IndyCar.com over a 45 day period in order to identify three characteristics of online visitors, demographics, needs, and attitudes. We looked at the average online fan based on gender, age, household income, hobbies, etc. What brands or products do they buy and what are they in the market for? We did this in order to find attitudinal outlooks that can inform activation opportunities, like prizes and promotions. In addition, we compiled secondary third party research data with the aim to guide our investigation of Hispanic motorsport fans in the United States.

    In general, many of today’s marketers are challenged by a widening cultural and generational gap among sports fans in the United States. IndyCar Racing is a motorsport property navigating its way through these issues, with the shift from Boomer to Millennial fan bases the biggest one.

    People in the United States of Hispanic descent are a sizable portion of the Millennial demographic, and represent the cross-cultural influence in an increasingly diverse population of American sports fans. If IndyCar Racing is going to continue to be an influential sports property in the 21st century, the current crop of early-adopter Hispanic motorsport fans will play a significant role.

    Our focus on data analytics and how cultural insights into Hispanic motorsport fan online behavior is hopefully the start of a conversation that leads toward marketing innovations that develop business solutions that attract the next generation of IndyCar racing fans.

    Big data holds the key to understanding where IndyCar stands with higher growth segments of fans, based on the data amassed over the season from their digital properties and their international roster of drivers.


    IndyCar racing has an opportunity to close the cultural and generational gaps that exist with a younger Millennial and Generation Z audience, and Hispanic motorsport fans are the key demographic to achieve it.

    • According to primary data collected on IndyCar.com by Sports Desk Media, 27 percent of online visitors are under the age of 35, while 63.7 percent are over 35.
    • Based on secondary Scarborough data, when compared against our report’s primary data, 38.5 percent of Hispanics between 18-34, and 31.5 percent of those between 35-49 are likely to be IndyCar fans.

    Hispanic women motorsport fans may be an emerging demographic and should be an area of marketing focus for IndyCar racing, especially in Indianapolis:

    • Based on Sports Desk Media data, IndyCar.com visitors are 73.1 percent male versus 23.7 percent female.
    • Compared with Scarborough data, Hispanic women are 23.4 percent likely to be IndyCar racing fans, with Indianapolis seeing 51.4 percent of Hispanic women between 18 to 34 years being likely IndyCar racing fans.

    Half of the states that draw most visitors to IndyCar.com are from those who have the highest percentage of Hispanic populations in the United States:

    • Sports Desk Media indicated highest online traffic,in order are Indiana (28 percent), Illinois (14 percent), Ohio (6 percent), Pennsylvania (6 percent), California (5 percent), New Jersey (4 percent), Texas (3 percent), Florida (3 percent), New York (2 percent), Michigan (2 percent)
    • Five highest overall Hispanic populations of each state according to Pew Research are Ilinois (14 percent), California (38.4 percent), New Jersey (18.9 percent), Texas (38.4 percent), Florida (23.6 percent), New York (18.4 percent)

    In order to accelerate the adoption of IndyCar racing with the Hispanic motorsport fan base in the United States, there needs to be a greater emphasis on IndyCar racing mobile/tablet content and information:

    • Sports Desk Media data revealed that 91.2 percent of overall online visitors to IndyCar.com are using a PC/Desktop platform, while 9 percent do so on mobile/tablet platforms. The average in the United States is 42 percent PC/Desktop and 51 percent mobile/tablet

    While some of the unique visitor traffic to IndyCar.com is likely coming from Latin America and Spain, we have to assume that the bilingual Hispanic motorsport fan is contributing factor here:

    • Sports Desk Media data found that IndyCar.com visitors who use another language, 58.5 percent speak Spanish. The next two are Chinese (5.5 percent) and Italian (5.4 percent).
    • According to Scarborough research, 46.7 percent of Spanish dominant U.S. Hispanics are likely to be IndyCar racing fans in comparison 51.3 percent of English dominant motorsport fans.

    The footprint

    Photo by TheBusyBrain and used here with Creative Commons license.

    Photo by TheBusyBrain and used here with Creative Commons license.

    Data analytics are an evolving tool, increasingly capable of helping marketers to sharpen their expertise and broaden their knowledge on changing consumer demographics. The early-adopter Hispanic motorsport fan represents the cross-cultural voice into the non-traditional IndyCar Racing fan base. They are leaving a digital footprint and the Sports Desk Media data gave us a peek into what that looks like and how it might give clues toward wider IndyCar Racing fan growth in the United States.

    Juan Alberto DelaRoca is the founder of Equipo Roca, a sports marketing consultancy that specializes in cultural branding, and is based in Austin Texas. Career spans across a spectrum of industries, including apparel & footwear, automotive, consumer packaged goods, food & beverage, sports, and technology and media. Clients are agencies and brands seeking to understand consumer cultural behaviors and trends in order to design and implement intelligent creative assets.

    Tagged: data data and motorsports indycar racing metricshift motorsports sports data

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