Jason Anthony, ladies and gentlemen. This time he wants to know if you are doing your part promoting all those things we love about WRC and rallying in general. Are you? Remember, even the simplest of simple things can help. Such as adding #WRC hash to your tweets, for example. Do let us know what you think in the comments below.
After posting my piece about stage rallying in America last week, I received a few comments and emails discussing some of the various reasons why stage rallying has struggled to become more popular. Media exposure both on the web and on TV was a common theme that I read in the responses. I think that we can all agree that both nationally and internationally, stage rallying is woefully underrepresented compared to other sports and even other forms of motorsport. Yes, rallying may be a “niche” sport, but if we’re honest, perhaps the custodians of the sport have used this as an excuse to justify poor media exposure. It is easy to point the finger at promoters and organizers when it comes to this issue, and in many circumstances, that blame is most certainly deserved. However, when thinking about with whom the blame lies, I am left with one nagging question… What am I doing today to promote the sport of rallying?
Now, I am not writing this to take the responsibility from those to whom we entrust the health of the sport we love. It is their obligation to use their influence and resources to guide and foster the sport in the best way possible. Instead, in writing this, my goal is to find simple, tangible ways that we as a community of rally enthusiasts can promote the sport as well. Pointing out what is wrong or broken can only go so far. At some point, we as individuals also have the ability and responsibility to improve the exposure of rallying. This is our sport. Some of us are competitors, others are marshals, still others, volunteers, but we are all fans, and we care about this sport. This sport has given us countless thrills and memories. What can we do to give back?
Maybe just talking about rallying in our homes and workplaces is a great place to start. When I was at work this week showing my colleagues a few photos of my recent trip to Ireland, I caught myself doing something. When they would come across my pictures of the rally, I remember saying, “Oh, that was just a race I went to while I was over there.” JUST a RACE??? Really??? Is that how I really feel about rallying? I was making the assumption that the average person wouldn’t be interested in the sport, so I just breezed past the topic. I didn’t even give them a chance to show interest. Once I realized what I was doing, I took the time to explain the basics of rallying. When I did, something pretty cool happened. They began to ask me questions about it! “So you mean they really drive on those narrow roads at 140mph?” “Why are there 2 people in the car?” “Do they do this in America?” Just explaining the sport for itself generated quite a bit of interest.
Getting the kids involved is another way to spread the word about rallying. Do you have kids that like cars? Do they have friends? If there is a rally close by, have your kids invite their friends. Don’t have kids? That’s OK too… maybe you have a friend who is a parent. The average adult might not be thrilled about the idea of hiking into the woods to watch cars go by, but if their child shows interest, that’s a whole different story. How many parents at a school gymnastics competition really had a passion for gymnastics before they had children? Probably not too many, but over time they develop an interest because their child cares about the sport. They learn the rules, strategy, and terminology of the sport in order to have common ground with their child. Maybe even when the Olympics are on TV, they won’t flip right past the gymnastics competitions.
Series promotion and TV is a great start, but rallying needs more than that to succeed. At the end of the day, we all know that promoters are paid to make a certain sport or event look cool and interesting. However, it is in personal relationships where a true love of rallying can be fostered. Take for example, my interest in football (soccer). Before I dated a girl from Germany, I couldn’t give a rip about the sport. No matter how cool a TV advertisement was, it still wasn’t enough to get me to watch a game. However, once I got to know her and saw her interest in football, I began to follow the matches. Over time, I grew to appreciate and love the culture of the sport. We broke up 5 years ago, but here I am in 2015 still watching the Premier League every Saturday morning here in the USA. The authentic and personal experience of following the sport with someone else did what the promoters never could. So, I’ll challenge you my fellow rally enthusiasts, what are you doing today to promote this sport we love so much?