Steve Worling Managing Director of IT at NASCAR, presented the following case study at Customer Experience Tech Fest 2015. Read on to discover how NASCAR developed their Fan and Media Engagement Center (FMEC), embraced Social Media, and engaged with a massive new fan base in the process.
Hit by hard economic conditions and a declining fan base in 2009 as a result of the GEC, The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing – NASCAR, implemented an effective solution.
The Business Of NASCAR
NASCAR has a unique business model. It doesn’t own racetracks, it doesn’t sell tickets, and it doesn’t own riders. So they are reliant on their sponsors and their broadcast partners for success.
In 2009, in the midst of the GEC, many sports got a hiding, but NASCAR seemed to be harder hit than most National sports.
On top of this, the digital universe was changing rapidly, and NASCAR realized that they needed to launch a brand new website and change their focus onto the digital landscape and begin engaging with fans directly.
As a direct result they developed their FMEC.
Fan and Media Engagement Centre (FMEC)
In 2012 NASCAR was challenged by their CEO into building a unique technological platform, and into becoming innovation leaders in technology
NASCAR partnered with Hewlett Packard and developed their Fan and Media Engagement Center (FMEC) – a platform that listens to social media, traditional media and digital media, and translates this into digestible and functional data. This provides stakeholder reports, history reports and dashboards that allow their management and marketing teams to understand the data and react accordingly if needed.
There are 450 social accounts and 1500 keywords tracked throughout the sport by the FMEC
FMEC Success Story
The FMEC proved itself to be an overwhelming success on many levels, including the below.
- Primary Research: As a sponsor-driven sport, NASCAR wanted to reveal their sponsors’ Return On Investment in order to retain these sponsor and possibly attract fresh sponsors. They followed the Coca Cola Drivers campaign, tracked various elements and then gave Coca Cola a complete report on their findings on campaign completion. This had a positive result as it enabled Coca Cola to realize the value of their investment, and thus ensured their continued involvement with the sport on various levels.
- Sponsorship Analysis: Teams are always driving for new sponsorships. The FMEC discovered that a company called CSX – a train operator in the US – was running awareness campaigns around a NASCAR racing weekend held in Richmond, Virginia. They noticed that one of the race teams – Front Row Motorsports – were also talking to CSX about activation. The FMEC followed the conversation, and after the race was over went back to CSX and showed them their report that showed a really big conversation around their brand and awareness program, that led to a 5 sponsorship race to front row motorsports. This also favorably revealed the true value of their campaign and sponsorship deals.
- Fan Interactions: NASCAR has millions of fans, whether at the racetrack or watching on TV, and the FMEC discovered that the most interactive platform amongst fans in all segments was on the Twitter platform.
- Issues Management: Just like any sport, NASCAR has controversy. In one particular situation their broadcast partner FOX erroneously broadcast the wrong result at a multi-million dollar shootout event. They put second placed driver in first place, and first in second. NASCAR watched the reaction to this misrepresentation in earnest from the FMEC and found to their surprise that that the conversation was so nominal and insignificant to the overall conversation of the sport, that instead of going to air and making a press statement on the mistake, they went quiet and said nothing. Instead of being reactive and carrying a possibly negative conversation on, they simply let it fizzle out. The real-time information from the FMEC gave them enough information to be reactive or non reactive, and they discovered that there was no need to engage with a minimal conversation.
Driving Fan Engagement
Finally, the FMEC has proven invaluable in providing information with regards to the driving fan engagement. This was mostly relevant during down time.
NASCAR has a policy of no racing during rain. It is deemed that doing left hand turns at 200 miles an hour on a wet track is unsafe. When the rain comes the racecars are taken off the track and covered up. Needless to say, the fan engagement levels drop right off during such a period of downtime. During a long rain delay at a big event in Talladega the FMEC displayed a dismal drop in fan interaction. As a reactive experiment, NASCAR tweeted the question, ‘if you could hang out with one driver during a rain delay, who would you pick and why?’ There was a subsequent and dramatic spike in traffic, a massive re-engagement with fans from the lowest dip and all clearly visible through the FMEC displays.
New Technology Surprises
An unexpected result from the FMEC was the engagement and conversation resulting from new track-drying technology. NASCAR introduced some unheralded new drying technology that resulted in a track being dried out in less than half the normal time. A conversation was initiated without prompting by the fans, and NASCAR suggested a story line to the broadcaster about the technology, because they could see in real time what the fans were warming to. This storyline engaged the fans and was a surprise conversational success.
It is through these kinds of situations that the FMEC provides real value to NASCAR, and helps to elucidate the real-time conversation amongst fans and engage accordingly.
For more intriguing case studies like this, register for Customer Experience Tech Fest 2016.