Bubba Wallace and the Importance of Brand Building

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace at the 2018 Daytona 500 (Image via Yahoo Sports)

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. is already among NASCAR’s most popular drivers — with only nine career Cup starts. Maybe because he is the first full-time African American NASCAR Cup Series driver since 1971; maybe because he is driving Richard Petty’s iconic No. 43 car; or maybe it is because of his extroverted, passionate personality that many people connect with.

Whichever identifier one thinks about when they think Bubba Wallace, it boils down to branding. Wallace is actively creating his own solidified and sound brand in the sport.

NASCAR Productions and Facebook Watch recently put together an eight-piece docu-series of Wallace’s life leading up to the Daytona 500, chronicled “Behind The Wall: Bubba Wallace”.

“For years to come, fans will remember Bubba Wallace’s performance in the 60th running of the DAYTONA 500,” said Evan Parker, NASCAR managing director, content strategy. “On Facebook Watch, we’re giving fans unfiltered access to a NASCAR star in the making — straight from the perspective of Bubba himself.”

This was Facebook Watch’s first venture into NASCAR, and Parker knows it was a good opportunity for fans everywhere.

“We know fans consume content in a lot of ways,” said Parker. “Fans want to be entertained in as many ways as possible and whenever. Specifically for that platform [Facebook], it’s easy and we knew it was important to be there.”

Wallace’s second-place finish in itself is a good brand indicator, as people and the sports community everywhere have already engaged on social media.

“No matter the sport, outgoing personalities will always create attention for that said sport,” said Tim Rebich of Centerfold Agency. “Fans and the media are attracted to the storyline and impact on the sport that they potentially create.”

Image via: Behind The Wall: Bubba Wallace, Facebook Watch

Many people in the NASCAR community were drawn to Wallace’s story as he raced for Roush-Fenway in the 2017 Xfinity Series but did not have enough sponsorship to run the full season. Then, Richard Petty took the chance on hiring him; the rest is history.

Branding to most comes down to perception, talent, and personality. To NASCAR fans and sports fans alike, athletes with outgoing and creative personalities tend to shine through to the public.

In a 2016 Bleacher Report story, J.J. Watt ranks among the top on athlete brands. Watt uses social media to connect with audiences, strives to be organic, and also helped raise millions after Hurricane Harvey.

Wallace, fairly new to the minds of many, regularly tweets organic content and even reaches out to possible sponsors. Social media and outside branding are just the tools Rebich knows athletes must utilize now to elevate themselves.

“Different brand alignments will also support the building of their own personal brand,” said Rebich. “The content shared via social or other channels can show their real personality, which creates a quicker connection to the fans.”

NASCAR is currently the only American sport to have included an African American, a Hispanic, and a woman competitor in a single event — the 2018 Daytona 500.

“NASCAR absolutely has the opportunity to draw a new fan base,” said Rebich, confident in the organization’s ability to promote. “It just depends on what they do from here to go along with the personality to create NASCAR fans for life.”

Through possible public relations campaigns and various culture highlights, NASCAR could be on pace to set a new precedent.

NASCAR is currently in talks with Facebook, and Parker is confident Facebook will want to continue being onboard of a story like Wallace’s, bringing content to the No. 43 driver, and NASCAR completely. The exposure has even lead to an outpouring of support for Wallace’s future.

“His sponsors are getting tons of exposure, it reveals himself fully, and Richard Petty Motorsports has already received six or so inquiries from potential sponsors wanting to help in some way after seeing his docu-series.”