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Recently at my 30th year MBA reunion, I had the privilege of hearing Eric Anderson the chair of the Kellogg School’s marketing department talk about how he is helping NASCAR to reinvent itself to serve 21st Century racing fans. He talks about how NASCAR got Coca-Cola to invest upfront to support NASCAR’s effort to increase its attractiveness, as the CEO of NASCAR said, “To avoid becoming dangerously irrelevant.”

Amongst many changes NASCAR has made, new driving rules to make it more interesting, powerful Wi-Fi so folks can text and Twitter to make the sport more interactive and engaging for the spectators (including headphones to listen to real-time driver chatter and online play-by-plays). The results have been to move the company back on the path towards financial victory. Anderson summarized it, you cannot innovate on the backs of neither your vendors nor your customers but rather you have to find ways of increasing the size of the “sandbox” so that everyone shares in higher gross margins as the market expands.

What can you do in your marketplace to win?

Often, hard choices need to be made. Unfortunately, one of the casualties of NASCAR’s refocusing on new fans is their diminished support for the dirt and stock car racing farm club system. In the past, traditional fans watched drivers cut their teeth and advance through the ranks of these amateur-level competitions to become ready for the big time. The next generations of fans are attracted elsewhere.

Are your current distribution channels ‘stuck in the pits?’ How will you involve new and existing partners and not stuck at the back of the pack? 

Copyright 2015 Andy Birol All Rights Reserved

Photo credit: Valli Hillaire Auto Club Speedway Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)