During a keynote presentation Friday at Transitions West 2016, a family business conference held in Phoenix, Arizona, NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France shared stories of advice provided to him by his grandfather William H.G. France and father Bill France Jr. – and how he now is doing the same with his nephew Ben Kennedy, a driver in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
"I sat [Kennedy] down a while back and I told him, 'You better figure out where is your value going to come in the business,’" said France. "He's going to get an opportunity. He deserves an opportunity. He's a great guy, a great student and he deserves every opportunity you'd want any other family member to get.
"But on the other hand, I want him to really think long and hard about coming into the business where he can add value. That's harder and harder to do when businesses are more mature."
Each generation of the France family passed down that specific piece of advice, Brian France said Friday, and NASCAR’s current leader said he took it to heart. France saw his value in ushering NASCAR into the 21st Century, making bold decisions while using the constantly growing technology space to help bring the sport closer to fans.
France created the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup which has led to the most dramatic racing in years; introduced the landmark Charter and track sanctioning agreements that created stability for NASCAR’s teams and racetracks; signed agreements with FOX and NBC worth a reported $8.2 billion deal to broadcast races for the next decade; secured more FORTUNE 500 partnerships than at any time in history; and spearheaded the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program.
France talked about the importance of learning the business from the ground up and how that led to his first signature achievement – when as senior vice president in 1999, he consolidated the sanctioning body's television rights.
"People said it could never be done, you're too independent, tracks would never go along with that. And we took revenues at the time from $90 million to now $900 million in that one area."
Under France’s leadership, NASCAR now has more FORTUNE 500 partnerships than at any time in history and the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program is beginning to bear fruit which is critical to widening the fan base.
"I think communicating with your industry, your stakeholders, you can't do that enough, you literally can't do that enough," he said.
NASCAR's new emphasis on collaboration with its industry becomes even more important as fans change the way they consume sports – one of the biggest challenges France says the sanctioning body faces in the next five to 10 years.
"Millennial fans are consuming things way differently," France said. "They're getting their NASCAR not just solely from the TV, now it's online, it's video clips, it could be a number of things. They want to be entertained at a different level. They want to connect with their friends at the events."
France believes that NASCAR's emphasis on technology at the track and in its communication with fans provides it with an advantage over other sports in the changing consumption space. The sanctioning body has emphasized engaging with fans on Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Year-to-date, the NASCAR Facebook and Twitter accounts have generated 3.8 billion impressions.
NASCAR’s variety of digital offerings include NASCAR Drive, which gives fans drivers’ views from the cockpit, the NASCAR mobile app and a plethora of video content on NASCAR.com. Across all its digital platforms, NASCAR Digital Media has registered 890 million page views and 296 million video views.
"In our case, we can be a great validator of technology because of all the telemetry and things that go on to make up an event," he said. "We can be very interactive, we already are, but we can be a lot better for our fan base. We have to get all that stuff right."