NASCAR looks to diversify audience despite anti-DEI backlash

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By Dan Sears

NASCAR is going pedal-to-the-metal in its marketing drive for more diverse viewers — despite the growing national backlash against DEI — to boost its sagging ratings.

Average viewership for live NASCAR races across all television networks drew an audience of 2.9 million in 2023 — roughly 9.4% less than the 3.2 million audience members that tuned in for races in 2018, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Despite the drop in viewers, the racing league — which sprang from its roots in the South to national prominence in the 1990s and 2000s — recently signed television and streaming rights contracts with Fox, Amazon and Warner Bros. Discovery worth $7.7 billion over the next seven years, The Journal reported.

To regain its momentum, NASCAR is banking on attracting more African-American and Hispanic fans — its fastest-growing demographic — said Peter Jung, NASCAR’s chief marketing officer, per The Journal.

NASCAR’s viewership has reportedly tumbled 9.4% from 2018 to 2023. It’s boosted its efforts to draw in more diverse audience members after signing years-long contracts with TV networks and streaming services. Getty Images

“In terms of new fans, three years or less, the propensity or composition of multicultural is significantly greater. It’s, I think, more than 40%,” Jung told the Journal.

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When Jung began working for NASCAR a decade ago, he said that 20% of its fans were multicultural.

Now, “somewhere like 26%, 27% of NASCAR fans are multicultural, and I think that probably surprises people,” he told The Journal.

Jung attributed NASCAR’s partnership with the musician Pitbull for the company’s ability to expand its diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

DEI “is very fundamental and the values and mantra of [Pitbull],” Jung said of the Cuban-American rapper, according to The Journal.

Inclusion, specifically, “is one of our seven core values as a company,” Jung said, adding that “this is maybe a surprise to some other marketers.”

Jung said that NASCAR shows its emphasis on inclusion at events like the Richmond Bubba’s Block Party, a free NASCAR initiative that aims to drive awareness to the sport.

In another inclusive move, NASCAR debuted Pride-themed merchandise and took several opportunities to fly a rainbow flag in support of the LGBTQ+ community — “a symbol made people feel unwelcome; it made them feel like we weren’t inclusive,” Jung told The Journal.

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He argued, though, that waving a rainbow flag “opened the door to far far far far more people,” and NASCAR tries “not to get distracted by the pundits or the headlines that are going to be like, ‘Oh, Nascar wants to get political.’”

NASCAR’s fastest-growing demographic is its African-American and Hispanic fanbase, according to Peter Jung, NASCAR’s chief marketing officer. Getty Images

However, in recent months, NASCAR has been ripped for taking its DEI initiatives so far that it’s allegedly discriminating against white men.

America First Legal, run by former Donald Trump adviser Stephen Miller, filed a petition in November asking the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate NASCAR and Rev Racing for “illegal discrimination against white, male Americans.”

“This illegal activity should not be permitted to continue,” senior counsel Nick Barry said in a statement.

NASCAR’s corporate teams, as well as its sponsors, talent, pit crews and drivers have come to represent more diversified backgrounds in recent years.

Peter Jung said NASCAR fans were only 20% multicultural a decade ago, but that figure has since grown to roughly 26%, he told The Wall Street Journal. Getty Images

“NASCAR shouldn’t be picking drivers based on their race and sex, but on their ability to drive,” Barry said. “All racial discrimination is wrong, even if it is the in-vogue ‘social justice’ cause of the day.”

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America First Legal argues that NASCAR and Rev Racing’s DEI efforts — such as the “Diversity Driver Development Program,” the “Diversity Pit Crew Development Program” and “NASCAR Diversity Internship Program” — violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race and sex.

Representatives for NASCAR did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment.

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