The Dogecoin community leveraged its vibrant online community to vote little-known NASCAR driver Josh Wise into the sport's All-Star race. Unfortunately, this online support did not have a comparable on-the-ground counterpart.
NASCAR is an expensive sport, so it is dominated by drivers who belong to wealthy teams like Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing, who can command as much as $400,000 in sponsorship for one race. Josh Wise drives for Phil Parsons Racing, a small, independent team which struggles to get sponsored most weeks, even at much lower fees. Noticing that Wise consistently out-performed his team's small budget, the Dogecoin community rallied to sponsor him for the recent Talladega race. He finished 20th in the race, but toward the end of the race was as high as the top 5.
Last weekend, the Dogecoin community again rallied to support Josh Wise, voting him into the NASCAR Sprint All-Star race, an exclusive event that showcase's the sport's top talents. Wise finished 15th out of 22 of NASCAR's elite.
As both an avid NASCAR fan and a strong believer in cryptocurrency, I was ecstatic that I would have the chance to watch these two seemingly-opposite interests converge at the All-Star race in Charlotte. Though I have been a Jeff Gordon fan since he was a rookie and I was in diapers, I vowed to support Josh Wise for his great response to Dogecoin and the exposure that the Dogecar brings to cryptocurrency. I knew that as a lesser known driver, Wise would have little support from most of NASCAR's fan-base, but I looked forward to meeting other Dogefans at the race. Moreover, I thought that Wise's humble spirit and underdog story would win over fans in the crowd.
Josh Wise exhibits the David versus Goliath story that sports fans are normally so drawn to, and he does so with humility and a genuine appreciation for the community that helped him achieve what nobody thought possible. These traits usually find a sympathetic audience. If nothing else, one would imagine that many NASCAR fans would appreciate that by winning the All-Star fan vote, Wise supplanted perennial favorite Danica Patrick, who many fans grumble is popular solely because she is the only female driver in NASCAR's highest level.
However, I severely overestimated both the fans' response to Wise and the cryptocurrency community's ability to rally support for Wise at the track.
On the day of the Sprint Cup All-Star race I arrived early to the track, so I spent a great deal of time walking around. I perused every merchandise vendor, anticipating that at least one would have Josh Wise memorabilia. However, I could not see any, so I asked one of the vendors if she carried Josh Wise items, to which she salesperson replied "Who?" It is not unusual for a small driver to not have merchandise for sale at the track, but the attendant's ignorance of Wise's existence suggests that there had been no demand for Josh Wise products.
This ignorance extended beyond track vendors. On both Friday and Saturday, the track announcers repeatedly mispronounced Dogecoin, referring to it variously by "Doggycoin," "Dough-geh-coin," and "Dough-guh-coin." Though the broadcasters knew of Wise's existence, they clearly had not investigated the correct pronunciation of his sponsor. However, based upon the Fox Sports broadcast of Josh Wise's qualifying run, it appears that the Fox Sports team gave their viewers a more cogent understanding (including the correct pronunciation) of Dogecoin.
Josh Wise's on-the-ground footprint suffered from ignorance by track personnel, but I was much more surprised by the hostile response that the NASCAR fans gave him. Many were indifferent to him, some were outright hostile, and very few reacted positively to the Dogecar.
I know that Dogecoin supporters attended the race. However, as a whole we left an infinitesimal imprint. After making a deliberate effort to find other Dogefans, I was disheartened by my inability to find a single person who appeared to have come to support Josh Wise.
Most fans were simply indifferent to Wise, refraining from commenting on him or showing any acknowledgement of his feat. I was surprised at the near-silence when NASCAR announced Josh Wise's victory in the Sprint All-Star fan vote. I felt as though in the entire 1.5 mile stadium, I was the only one clapping. Further, on both nights I observed that none of my fellow fans clapped or paid much attention when the track announcers introduced Wise and the Dogecar.
The most positive response to Josh Wise I experienced came from two seemingly knowledgeable NASCAR fans that I sat near on Friday night. They were not pulling for Wise by any means, but they nonchalantly made a correct guess when they thought that the Dogecoin community would vote Wise into the race. Unfortunately, this comprehension did not translate into an apt understanding of Dogecoin, which they so eloquently referred to as "that internet money thing."
However, the hostile fans were much more vocal than either Josh Wise's few supporters or those who were indifferent to him. Several fans in the "family- friendly section" heckled Wise during qualifying and laughed when he qualified toward the back of the field. Their assault on Wise continued throughout the 90-lap race as he chose a cautious strategy that kept him out of the fray, but also toward the back of the field.
It seemed as though most of the fans there believed that Wise had been voted into the All-Star race as a joke that had spread on Facebook and Twitter. This misunderstanding was not aided by the fact that the track announcers repeatedly referred to Wise's appearance in the race as a case of the power of social media. While Wise certainly relied on social media--specifically Reddit--to gain the votes he needed, he was far more than a viral joke to the myriad of people who invested their time and/or money into sponsoring Wise and voting him into the race.
Dogecoin--and the cryptocurrency community at large--can learn a very important lesson from this--that viral marketing is not enough. True, cryptocurrency is an inherently digital medium, but it will never gain mainstream acceptance unless the average person (and NASCAR fans as well) understand what it is. This will not happen if Dogecoin restricts its support of Wise to funding campaigns and mass voting.
While these are important and monumental feats, they are not the end goal. If Dogecoin is going to continue to market itself by sponsoring Josh Wise, then the community needs to translate their passion into on-the-ground support. Otherwise, NASCAR will continue to view both Wise and his supporters as outsiders, and the community will squander an excellent opportunity to create a dialogue with people who would remain otherwise ignorant of cryptocurrency's revolutionary potential.
Last modified (UTC): May 22, 2014 6:00 AM