This weekend America’s most famous car race, the Indianapolis 500, will take center stage and prompt millions of fans worldwide to tune in to the action. And while it is true that there really are race fans that enjoy a competitive car-racing event, it seems as though there are substantially more fans interested in the Indy 500 for what might occur – like a few multi-car, out-of-control accidents. At least that’s what ESPN is banking on with their current television advertising this week that overtly states “It’s not that anything can happen, but that anything will happen”). This, of course, is sent to the viewer with the backdrop of cars flipping out of control.
Car racing may well be the most dangerous sporting event going today, with drivers literally putting their lives in danger each time they get behind the wheel of their car. Similar to hockey fights, fans will often jump over furniture when they hear a big crash has occurred – leading some to wonder about the psychology behind fan thinking and behavior. Why is it that we as fans want bad and dangerous things to occur, even when we know it might even lead to tragic consequences – like death?
What is especially interesting about the ESPN advertising campaign this week is that they also apparently understand that by promoting the danger of car racing they will likely widen their audience and drive up revenue as a result. The ad ESPN is running does not mention any specific drivers or cars, but instead reminds would-be viewers that if you tune in this weekend it’s not a question of whether something might happen, but instead a question of when. In other words, tune in long enough and you will most certainly see some cars flipping over the rails, and hey, isn’t that what you want anyway?
Could this be a sign of the times for future sports marketing? I can see it now, “Tune in to this weekend’s UFC fights and maybe you will see somebody experience a compound fracture, or watch Saturday night’s hockey game if you want to see somebody beaten until he’s unconscious!” It’s frightening to think that future sporting events might be marketed this way, but after seeing the ESPN spot this week I can honestly see this day coming…and soon.
As for this weekend’s race, will you watch because you are a race fan, or are you more enticed now because ESPN has whet your appetite for the car crashes they promise you will see?
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