Many people in sailing believe that the way to encourage more people to engage with the sport is to create heroes. Sailing sports fans are an afterthought for a lot of event organisers, which is why perhaps the industry should wait a little while before adopting a rating scale like that used by Millsport to asses what fans think of Motor-racing drivers.
While Jimmie Johnson may have won his third consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship, it’s Dale Earnhardt Jr. who’s won the hearts of NASCAR race fans according to the Motorsports DBI (MDBI). In a survey of avid NASCAR fans, Earnhardt Jr. scored the highest across each of the index’s nine attributes. Johnson ranked fifth.
The attributes that fans were using included: trust, appeal, influence, and passion.
“There are a lot of reasons to like Junior,” said Ken Cohn, a vice president in Millsport’s Charlotte, N.C., office. “Clearly, he’s inherited a strong percentage of fans who supported his father, a legend in the sport who really transcended racing emotionally. But Junior has built his own fan base that genuinely appreciates his style, personality, character, and so forth.”
For the first time, the updated Motorsports DBI also includes data on the top drivers from the NHRA and IndyCar racing circuits. Fans rate Castroneves, Kanaan, Danica Patrick, Dario Franchitti, and Scott Dixon the highest among IndyCar drivers, though Castroneves and Kanaan posted the strongest scores in nearly every attribute, including appeal and trust. According to the index, fans consider Patrick to be a trendsetter and solid endorser. Among NHRA drivers, John and Ashley Force ranked in the top two spots.
It’s an interesting exercise to contemplate for sailing – especially for potential sponsors. While the Olympic sailors would rank highly on passion – they may not rank highly on influence (until retirement). The current America’s Cup crowd would rank pretty low on trust and appeal, but high on influence. Those in the Vendee Globe would score highly across all.