Annual Edition 'Buying Power of
Black America' report breaks down billions in expenditures Black
consumers are responding to tighter economic condition by focusing more of
their spending on items and services that improve their homes and
lifestyle. That's one of the trends revealed in the 15th annual report,
"The Buying Power of Black America," published by Target Market News. The
report analyzes spending for black households in 2008 and finds that
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BET's 'Changing Lanes' brings the reality of NASCAR racing to black
By Viv Bernstein
The N.Y. Times (August 31, 2010) A few clicks on the Web site of Black
Entertainment Television leads viewers to a short Nascar tutorial filled
with information about popular drivers, racetracks and salaries.
It may seem odd to find a sport so closely tied to white Southern men
featured on a Web site devoted to African-American entertainment, but it
represents Nascar's latest attempt to build a following for minority
drivers it hopes to develop into stars.
Nascar is behind a new reality television series on BET, "Changing
Lanes," that will make its debut at 8 on Wednesday night. A field of 30
minority drivers will be narrowed to 10, who will live together for a
month as they compete on the track and prepare in the classroom for the
chance to race in a high-profile event and ultimately succeed in Nascar.
The series is the brainchild of Max Siegel, a former music industry
executive and global president of Dale Earnhardt Inc., who became
involved with Nascar's diversity effort in 2003 when the Hall of Fame
football player Reggie White tried to start a minority-based race team.
White died in 2004 before seeing his dream come true, but the effort to
draw minorities has continued.
Nascar has spent seven years on its Drive for Diversity program, which
has struggled to add minorities to the mainstream of the sport. No
driver from that initiative has made it full time in the upper-level
Cup, Nationwide or Truck Series level.
Siegel, who is African-American, took control of Nascar's diversity
effort this year.
"One of the things that's pretty much fascinated me with respect to
awareness and brand building was the formula for 'American Idol,' "
Siegel said Monday in a telephone interview. "By the time their records
came out, went to market, the singers had a built-in fan base."
"Changing Lanes" not only seeks to build a fan base for minority
drivers, but also to give sponsors reason to support them.
"What really struck me as a huge impediment to be able to get corporate
sponsorship was, no matter talented these athletes were, no one knew who
they were," Siegel said. "There was limited TV for the development
series and, quite frankly, there was no media platform to justify an
He added: "These athletes are young and they're world-class athletes. So
now we're giving the people who want to make the marketing investment
something they can get a return on their money from."
Siegel said he had signed up sponsors including Sunoco, Freightliner and
Goodyear and expected to name others in the coming months.
In addition to his involvement with "Changing Lanes," Siegel operates
the Revolution Racing team. It trains and features some of the Drive for
Diversity drivers who appeared on the show.
Several of the series' participants -- who include African-Americans,
Hispanics and women -- have gone on to stellar performances on the track
One of them, Paulie Harraka, 20, of Wayne, N.J., is third in points with
one victory in the lower-level K&N Pro Series West and made a
significant breakthrough with his Nationwide Series debut on Sunday in a
race in Montreal.
"I've done a lot of live TV and live radio and all kinds of stuff like
that," said Harraka, who is a junior at Duke. "That was nothing like
being on a reality show.
"It'll be interesting to see how it comes out. I think it'll be pretty
Could "Changing Lanes" be what finally helps integrate the sport? Nascar
can only hope.
"Not only will it allow us to tell the story of the Drive for Diversity
program," said Marcus Jadotte, the managing director of public affairs
for Nascar, who oversees the sport's diversity efforts, "but it will be
for many an introduction to the sport and that is important for growing
Nascar audiences but also important for encouraging young people, kids,
to get involved in and take an interest in motorsports."