As high school students learn about science in the classroom, NASCAR hopes a recently announced educational initiative will create a new generation of racing fans.
'The Science of Speed', a series of educational videos for high school classrooms, represents a partnership between NASCAR and the National Science Foundation. The videos use footage of NASCAR racing to illustrate basic physics of friction, pressure, momentum and power, and they'll be available to science teachers and students from the NSF's website.
There's another angle to the partnership as well. The science initiative presents an opportunity for NASCAR to put its sport in front of a potentially new set of teenage eyes that one day might become avid fans. If the concept takes off, there's the potential for sponsorship opportunities and possibly even a cable TV show.
“We're trying to be smarter and more effective with how we reach the next generation of fans, given the uniqueness of our sport,” said Andrew Giangola, NASCAR's director of business communications and a member of a newly formed NASCAR task force to create youth initiatives. “Unlike some other sports, you don't get to play NASCAR in school. That exposure usually comes through a parent or media and marketing.”
At a time when attendance and TV ratings are slipping off NASCAR's once-fast pace, NASCAR has renewed its focus on finding the next round of fans with this internal task force. It will seek opportunities through education, licensing youth products and even sponsor partners to target more young fans.
The Science of Speed fits from an educational perspective, but NASCAR's hope is that the NSF partnership will lead to more opportunities. The foundation has relationships with 350 science museums nationally and there could be some type of sponsorship platform that emerges that includes the museums. Discussions are continuing with the NASCAR Media Group and potential broadcast partners for a TV show that similarly delves into the science of racing through NASCAR footage.
The footage in the educational video was provided at no charge by NASCAR to Santa Fe Productions, which produced the series for classrooms. Jeff Gordon, Brian Vickers and Carl Edwards are among the drivers and crew members featured in the videos.
“NASCAR is built on the principles of science that produce speed and safety, which is why this marriage makes so much sense,” said Jeff Nesbit, the National Science Foundation's director of legislative and public affairs.
by Michael Smith
Michael Smith is a reporter with SportsBusiness Journal