Often referred to as “The Big Three” by NASCAR reporters, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex, Jr. dominated the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) in 2018, combining for 20 wins (Harvick 8, Busch 8, Truex 4). They’re also three of the four drivers eligible to win the season championship. The fourth driver, Joey Logano, is no slouch, with two wins to his credit this season and ranking in the top tier of the field for several metrics measured by Nielsen Sports.
Each week during the season that runs from mid-February through mid-November, fans of NASCAR see how sponsorship revenue separates the “haves” from the “have nots.” According to Nielsen Sports Sponsorlink, 92% of NASCAR fans are likely to consider a company’s brand, product or service based on sponsorship, compared with 75% of the general population. The drivers bringing the most “bang for the buck” for the companies on their cars are also leading the pack as we head into the 2018 season finale.
According to Nielsen Sport24, Harvick’s car has appeared on television screens during race broadcasts a cumulative 27 hours and 55 minutes between February and October, up 63% from the same period last year. On average, his car has appeared on camera 48 minutes and 40 seconds per race.
Truex has the second-highest screen time during race broadcasts, with more than 22 hours, and Busch ranks a close third with upward of 21 hours. Logano, with an average screen time just shy of 23 minutes per race, ranks sixth among MENCS drivers with 13-and-a-half cumulative hours through October. Logano’s 2018 performance has led to a 58% rise in the length of time his car has appeared on the race broadcasts over 2017.
The duration of time a car appears on screen is important because it, along with audience size and quality of brand exposure, contributes to the Quality Index (QI) Media Value for a sponsor. From February through October, the “Championship 4” cars of Harvick, Busch, Truex and Logano had provided more than $117.5 million in combined television exposure to their sponsors. Based on QI Media Value, the drivers rank as follows: Harvick, Busch, Truex and Logano.
If a championship were based on popularity or likeability, it’s hard to determine a clear winner among the “Championship 4” drivers. It’s a tight race for the highest N-Score (which quantifies fan perceptions of athletes, actors, musicians, etc.) among the drivers, with Busch and Truex with a narrow lead over Harvick and Logano. The N-Score talent tracker includes attitudinal information such as awareness, likability and 11 other character attributes. Busch has the biggest notoriety, or “awareness,” among the group, but the lesser-known Truex is the most “likeable” of the bunch. Harvick is considered the most “successful” and Logano is viewed as the most “wholesome.”
When it comes to fan engagement, Harvick leads the Championship 4 in terms of total social media followers, with more than 1.8 million followers on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Busch is second, with nearly 1.6 million followers. Logano and Truex have fewer combined followers than either Harvick or Busch. Social media is becoming an increasingly important way for drivers to provide exposure to sponsors. For instance, Nielsen Sports’ Social24 product shows that NASCAR drivers generate an average of 14% lift on top of the broadcast values they’re already delivering for their sponsorship brands.
The 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship will be decided during the season finale at Homestead Miami Speedway on Sunday, Nov. 18.