As NASCAR improved safety standards for its racecars, eventually rolling out the Car of Tomorrow in 2007, the auto brands under the hood lost relevance – all cars looked the same, despite manufacturer. Though fans appreciated the improved safety features, they lost interest in the vehicles propelling drivers around the track at 200 miles per hour.

For the 2013 season, NASCAR revamped the look of its racecars yet again so they more closely resemble the cars consumers drive on streets and highways every day. The hope is that NASCAR fans will have a more emotional connection to the cars on the track if they can easily recognize the auto brands based on their appearance. Feedback from automakers, fans and drivers has been incredibly positive, hailing this as a move “in the right direction.”

Image source: Ford Racing

NASCAR has long been known for the “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” effect, and time will tell if that holds true for auto makers still today. But NASCAR research shows 80 percent of fans have a favorite auto brand that competes on the track, so more recognizable cars must be a positive move toward this promise.

The new body style also means more real estate for brand sponsors within paint schemes – for example, the roof of the car is available for the first time ever. Does “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” hold true for sponsor brands, too? Taylor asked avid fans in the 2012 execution of our annual Consumer Engagement Study, and learned fans like to support sponsor brands regardless of winning or losing. What does have an impact on fan support is longevity: most fans say sponsors will receive more of their support the longer they remain involved in the sport.

Our survey also introduced one interesting twist on what has traditionally been accepted as the way fans support brands, and vice versa. Whereas old NASCAR mantra traditionally indicates that fans support their favorite drivers’ sponsors, our research showed that 27 percent of fans actually select their favorite driver based on the sponsor. Younger fans, in fact, are even more likely to choose drivers based on sponsor brands they like (40 percent of 18-34-year-olds).

 Data Source: Taylor Consumer Engagement Survey, 2012

Clearly, there is interdependence between fans, cars and sponsors. As this balance continues to shift, staying in tune with fans and consumers has never been more important.