Emojisport: Hashtags in the Fast Lane… of NASCAR Marketing

While I throughly enjoy motorsport, my NASCAR fandom has dwindled over the years. It’s not a frequency I’m perpetually tuned into anymore, but I revisit the series regularly to keep tabs on what’s happening. However, when I put on Sunday’s race, I noticed something different about the cars. Jimmie Johnson’s Chevrolet had a picture of his own face on the side, as did Martin Truex Jr.’s Toyota. What the hell was going on?

A few minutes of investigation later, I learned that NASCAR had decided to slap emoji’s on the side of every important vehicle to celebrate the 2018 NASCAR Playoffs. Monster Energy Cup Series race teams have each unveiled customized hashtags and emojis for all 16 of the competing drivers in collaboration with the Race Team Alliance and Twitter. And it’s probably my least favorite marketing gimmick in motorsport’s history.

When did car numbers stop being sufficient? I understand that heavy handed sponsorship is the lifeblood of oval racing but this is almost embarrassing. I’d rather drive a car sponsored by Viagra than one with a cartoon doodle of my own face gracing the quarter panel. Furthermore, drivers have all taken these images (some they even helped design) and used them as profile photos for their individual Twitter accounts.

“The Twitter hashtags and emojis have rallied fans around their favorite drivers during the most exciting time in our season,” explained Jill Gregory, NASCAR executive vice president and chief marketing officer. “This year, we’re thrilled to work with Twitter and the race teams to bring this activation to life on the race cars for fans in attendance and those watching the NASCAR Playoffs on NBC and NBCSN.”

I’m not going to criticize this further. As NASCAR continues losing its longterm sponsors, it needs new financial opportunities to present themselves and a better way to reach prospective viewers. This Twitter thing is probably a semi-necessary evil. However, I would rather see tobacco products making a return to the hoods of cars instead of this goofy, millennial-focused nonsense. Most kids won’t think this is cool and adults will have no clue what do with it.

a version of this article first appeared on thetruthaboutcars.com

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