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NASCAR and the effect of eSports

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NASCAR this year alone has doubled down on its presence in the eSports realm, which is a multi-billion dollar field, by adding the new eNASCAR divisions.

If you’ve ever tuned into a NASCAR Cup Series race on any given weekend and William Byron is near the lead or the subject of the current on-air discussion, you’ve more than likely heard the line and the long story of the 21-year-old Hendrick Motorsports driver.

“Here’s a kid who started his racing career on a computer!”

Well, Byron is the most notable of a rare breed of eRacers that have taken their online talent to the real racing world. But that may be changing in the near future.

NASCAR this year alone has doubled down on its presence in the eSports realm, which is a multi-billion dollar field, by adding the new eNASCAR Heat Pro League to go along with the mainstream success of the NASCAR Peak iRacing Series on the online simulator site iRacing.

NASCAR owners have found an honest outlet for something else other than talent and data: sponsorship activation. As the cost of running teams continues to climb, the cost to pipeline young talent is ever-growing as well. Along with that comes the tough task of acquiring funding from sponsors. Sponsors see NASCAR in a certain light, and whether that’s favorable or not, they have a solid idea of the core audience from a broad stroke.

So for some companies, it’s pretty tough for them to make the lofty investment into a Cup Series team’s portfolio of sponsors. But with the really interesting and almost untapped land of the eSports, NASCAR and teams can now secure these “on the fence” sponsors, which now have an outlet to step foot into the world of NASCAR.

In turn, they get the backing of the established brand of the particular NASCAR team (i.e Joe Gibbs Gaming/Joe Gibbs Racing), and the most important thing they get is online engagement.

Bryan Cook, also simply known by his Twitter name Boris, works for Joe Gibbs Racing in public relations, and he spoke recently at the eSports summit and stated that “eSports is a great opportunity for brands to develop intriguing content and reach new audiences, as we’ve found at JGR.”

On the front of NASCAR on simulations such as iRacing, they bring validity to the world of NASCAR in eSports. iRacing has provided NASCAR with an outlet to have young consumers fight to the top of NASCAR’s virtual land without investing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

All you need is a desk, a wheel and pedal set and a computer. With all that being said, the top iRacers in NASCAR’s eSports division spend quite a bit to be contenders and bring their respective teams on the eSports side some much-needed online engagement that mirrors that of the current real-life counterpart.

This eSports front could lead to more new teams springing up, as the cost to enter is lower than that of buying a Cup Series team and the respective charter.

What does the future hold for NASCAR? Now teams are in a weird state where the door panels and the B-pillars are not worth as much as a video on Twitter or a Twitch live stream ad placement.

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NASCAR has to find ways to engage the younger non-car centric youths of the world, and the venture into eSports is a great first step. It will be trial and error and it will be uncomfortable for a while, but this is a great way for new people to enter the sport at a level that may intrigue them. So go ahead grab the virtual wheel. Plow through the ranks and you just might be driving on Sundays.

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