Even though they don’t travel at the speed of light, Hendrick Motorsports’ drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson reach harrowing speeds of close to 200 mph every week at the track. Over the next three years, they won’t just be compared to super-fast superheroes, they will be partnering with them, well, DC comics characters anyway. Hendrick Motorsports and DC Comics have signed a three-year cross-promotional deal that will allow the aforementioned racers’ cars to be decked out like your favorite superhero, according to Variety. Think of a Batmobile racing around Daytona Speedway.
NASCAR’s at-race attendance is decreasing and its fans’ average age is trending upward. This partnership play by Hendricks is a move to increase the viewing habits of a younger demographic. Comic book characters have been big sellers on television and at the box office, and Hendricks and DC are hoping to transition this to the track. Jimmie Johnson in the Batmobile, Kasey Kahne as the Flash, Jeff Gordon’s car decked out in Green Lantern paint, all of these ideas add a certain cool factor with an eye toward attracting a new market segment to these already popular racers. Dale Jr. will be the first to race in a DC-themed car when his 88 car is painted with a Superman theme.
Not only does this help NASCAR connect with an increasingly important demographic, but the cross-promotional themes are endless. Just wait until Batman vs. Superman comes out in theaters in 2016. NASCAR could push the race as a Batman driver vs. Superman driver battle as well. What if Jeff Gordon made an appearance in the upcoming Flash television show? Drivers could theoretically be written into the comics as well. Hendricks and DC could hit multiple content channels to benefit both sides.
This is a huge win for Hendricks Motorsports and NASCAR, and DC will benefit from the roughly 5 million people who watch races on TV every weekend. One can only hope a team such as Stewart Haas racing makes a deal with Marvel, so we could finally see a battle of Marvel Super Villains versus Justice League heroes on the track.
Michael Colangelo is Assistant Director at the USC Sports Business Institute.