A study released today has found that there's a strong link between participation in motorsports and sales on dealer lots. Back in the mid-20th century, the association between winning races on Sunday and selling cars on Monday was an accepted fact. But over the past few decades, that link has been called into question--some suggesting it doesn't even exist in today's import-heavy marketplace.

The reasoning behind the lost link was that motorsports had become less relevant to today's average road car, and buyers were looking for more than raw performance in a new vehicle purchase. But it turns out that while those facts may remain true, the benefit comes more from the people who attend the races than from the cars that participate in them.

"New vehicle buyers who are influenced by motorsports typically love cars and trucks and they are opinion leaders for other car buyers – they give an average of 25 or more vehicle recommendations per year to others," said Steve Bruyn, president of Foresight Research, the agency that conducted the study. "More importantly people follow their advice – and we have measured it.  So, there is a downstream impact from the races in the form of on-going word of mouth recommendations.  That's why we say that the roar from a race car continues away from the track."

The races themselves hold value for these opinion leaders, with Foresight's research showing 63 percent of these influencers actual plan to visit vehicle displays setup during race weekends when they are in the market to buy a new car. After the event, 44 percent of them will spread their recommendations to other people looking to buy. The buyers most influenced by motorsports are those that buy large cars, sports cars, and pickups.

Even beyond this key influencer group, racing has an affect on the general car shopper: in 2009, 25 perecnt of all new vehicle buyers watched at least one motorsports even on TV in the year prior to their purchase, and 10 percent actually attended a race.

So what does all of this market research gobbledygook mean? It means that those of us that actively support motorsports are influential in the buying processes of many other people, and that motorsports in general have a positive impact on car sales--enough to justify their expense in most cases. And that means motorsports could have a bright future even into the heavily-regulated (environmental and otherwise) future.

[Foresight Research]