Talk to anyone at NASCAR, and they will tell you that they are focused on diversifying their audience. Long viewed as exclusively white and conservative, the sanctioning body has looked to drivers of color or filling the gap with female drivers in the wake of Danica Patrick leaving the sport.
On the entertainment tie-in side of things, when you think of NASCAR you think country music or some crossover derivative. NASCAR and Kid Rock? Check. NASCAR and thrash metal band Slayer? Wait. What?
If the idea of having one of the heaviest of heavy metal bands of all-time associated with NASCAR sounds like something more akin to the movie Talladega Nights, think again. Hereâs J.J. Yeley’s No. 54 car decked out in Slayer livery for the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway that ran on Saturday.
As a fan of metal, let me say this is beyond cool. As a sports business analyst, let me say it would reach a new audience. As a reporter, let me say, it did not happen.
Thatâs right, team owner Rick Ware Racing pulled the plug on the paint scheme over fan concerns.
“As a team owner, we thought it would be best to forgo the partnership,” they said in a statement. “RWR wishes nothing but the best to Slayer and their fans and wishes the band a successful Final World Tour.”
Driver J.J. Yeley released a statement through Twitter:
“Today, reportedly due to reactionary concerns from other long-time participating sponsors, Slayer has been pulled as the primary sponsor,” the band said via press release.
In some ways, you get it. I mean, a band with a song called Raining Blood and a logo with a pentagram isnât likely to play well with the conservative majority, even if this is the bandâs final tour. In other ways, you wonder if there was a way to grow fan loyalty. Thrash metal skews heavily toward the white male demographic, and Slayer, while face-peelingly heavy, has largely an older crowd given they started in 1981. Wouldnât it make sense that there would be fans of the band that would also skew toward NASCARâs demo?
Yeleyâs car eventually ran with PODS as the primary sponsor. Nothing more extreme than portable storage units, right? But, PODS is certainly a brand that isn’t going to have evangelical NASCAR fans walking away from the sport.
Yes, there was inherent risk in having Slayer as a sponsor of the car, even if for just one race. The sponsorship also had the ability to grow into a new audience. As is always the case, sports has to try to balance possibly alienating their core audience when looking to expand into a new fan base. In the end, it seems Slayer was a bit too much for the NASCAR crowd. The question is, will the band try to tap another racing league and a team to sponsor?