ESPN the Magazine has a Body Issue that comes out every year with athletes of varying degrees showing off their physique in different poses, where essentially they are nude but not completely to the viewer.
ESPN needed to bump the magazine ad revenues and what better way than having athletes show off their everything. In fact, the issue was a huge success and is becoming a popular standard much like Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue.
Athletes bare all
For starters, tennis star Serena Williams was on a cover of the Body Issue a few years ago, along with NASCAR’s Carl Edwards who is one of fittest drivers in motorsports (source: Stack). Athletes such as NBA star Blake Griffin and snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler have laid bare to the public their bodies in this particular issue. Funny Car driver John Force made the issue in 2011 with a stark view at what an aging drag racing body wracked with scars et al looks like (source: ESPN) – a reminder of the brutal damage a 10,000 horsepower vehicle can create.
This year, of the 20 athletes on display, golf legend Gary Player was in the issue as was football standouts from the NFL's San Francisco 49'ers Colin Kaepernick and Vernon Davis plus volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings. Also, making a splash in this year’s issue is young up-and-coming Funny Car driver and daughter of John Force, Courtney Force.
Drag racing fans were given a heads up last week during the NHRA’s coverage of the Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio. Commentators Dave Rieff and Mike Dunn discussed Courtney being a part of the latest Body Issue, commenting about her looks with a couple shots from the magazine prior to it being released yesterday (Friday). Check out a short video of the shoot on YouTube.
Considering the fervent fan base drag racing has, ESPN was probably smart to include one of their drivers. Courtney is only in her second year and has not yet been a force in the sport, but because of her father’s large organization and excellent PR program, she already is a popular driver in the series. She has been using social media for some time and likely that will only continue to expand.
Some might be questioning though as to why fans have to appreciate their favorite driver when they decide to step outside their “comfort zone”, as Courtney Force stated? This kind of exposure, if you will, has never made it to drag racing until now. For women in motorsports, Danica Patrick started exposing herself a decade ago, appearing on the cover of magazines and their foldouts. That bit of advertising made her a marketing dynamo that has carried her to NASCAR and huge sums of revenues even though she has very little actual accomplishments in racing.
Is it possible that this move by Courtney will do the same for her or in a broader text, for drag racing as it did for Danica? A tweet on Twitter suggests Courtney’s pictures have taken over ESPN’s website.
Drag racing fans may ultimately decide whether this was folly or a fantastic marketing move. Either way, right now, there is a great amount of exposure, literally as well as figuratively for Courtney, John Force Racing, the NHRA and drag racing. With a potential mass appeal, there may be more to come as this story unfolds.
Additional source: NHRA