Scottvoight's NASCAR Blog

May 10, 2011

Social Media in NASCAR White Paper

Filed under: Uncategorized — Scott Voight @ 12:13 pm

Social Media in NASCAR

White Paper
Professor Shaluta
Journalism 300
11:30-12:45
Feb. 29, 2011
Scott Voight

Introduction

The concept of social media in NASCAR is diverse. From the corporate level to the fan level there are so many avenues it can be used in. Here are some other ways social media is and can be used.
• Communications from NASCAR corporate offices to fans. (tickets, schedules, events, announcements and more)
• Communications between corporate and the media.
• Communication to teams.
• Teams connecting with the fans.
• Sponsors communication with the fans.
• Tracks communication with fans and competitors.
• Teams relating news to the media.
• Fan blogs, and twitters.
• Drivers communicating with fans on web sites, Facebook, Twitter, and through blogs.
As you can see there is a lot of communicating, informing, and connecting that can go on. There are three areas to concentrate on; corporate communication with the media, team and driver connections to fans and new ideas that need to be incorporated into NASCAR to better its’ position as an elite sport.
Problem Statement
Is NASCAR using social media effectively? Are there ways NASCAR can use this growing medium to increase its’ fan base and build its brand.
Background
Media and NASCAR has been married since its’ inception, beginning with newspapers in local markets to fledgling radio stations covering the sport.
In 1961 ABC began covering the sport with their “Wide World of Sports” on Sundays. It was not long after that NASCAR negotiated its first multi-million dollar deal with the 1979 Daytona 500 to be telecast live in its entirety. (A) For years the television coverage jumped between networks until ESPN was created. Although CBS continued to cover the races, ESPN created shows to give an in-depth analysis of the races before and after the weekend events.
With the advent of the internet many sports did not how to use it to their advantage, but NASCAR did by being one of the first to create web pages for NASCAR corporate and enticed teams to create their own pages as well.
NASCAR has always been a fan oriented sport. In her blog Give NASCAR a Chance, Amy Joe Martin wrote, “Drivers are unusually accessible. I noticed this is a similar characteristic of UFC on this front. Drivers do fan Q&A’s and autograph sessions THE DAY of the race. The Daytona 500 happens to be the biggest day of the year for NASCAR. I don’t think Brett Favre was chatting it up with thousands of fans the day of the Super Bowl.” (B)
After a few years, more and more web sites dedicated to NASCAR were created from online journalist like “NASCAR .com”, “Jayski”, “Catch Fence”, “That’s Racin” and many more.
During the 2008 NASCAR PR Summit every team was instructed to create facebook pages for their teams. They were also instructed to get connected with twitter.com, flickr.com, yammer.com, meetup.com, dig.com and friendfeeds.com.
We learned about tweetdeck.com, monitter.com, delicious.com and pbwiki.com.
At that point we were saturating our use in the technology available. (C) Randy Posten wrote, in his article NASCAR embraces changing media landscape, in 2009 NASCAR announced they are going to invite the top independent NASCAR-related websites to join a newly-formed “NASCAR Citizen Journalists Media Corps. This means, “NASCAR is providing this group of new media access to cover the sport while maintaining their independence.” (D)
In another press release in 2010 Poston wrote an article called, NASCAR Announces New Integrated Marketing Communications Department where a new direction is sought “This is a major investment for the company at a critical time and represents an elevation of this highly-important function for NASCAR and the industry. We are confident this evolved approach will yield immediate and long-term value for NASCAR, its media and business partners and the industry as a whole,” said Brian France, NASCAR’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. (E)
Previous Options
Looking at what has been done so far in NASCAR there seems to be a concentration in communicating with fans. However, there is much more that can be done. It requires thinking outside the box.
Recommended Ideas

Belief 1

NASCAR has a plethora of talented writers and public relations professionals that can write proper AP style press releases for instant release to the media. They do this at NASCAR Media to some extent; however, they only cover highlights of the top drivers.
Every driver has a fan base and would like a wrap up of what their driver did throughout the race. The high-dollar teams already do this and do it well, but the underfunded teams cannot afford coverage like this. NASCAR has wondered how to hoot the 18-35 year old demographic. Here is how. The biggest percentages of drivers in underfunded teams are the young guns, the new blood. They are earning their stripes getting seat time until a top job becomes available. They build their followings as they are just starting out. This is especially true in the lesser known truck series and the Nationwide series. This can be a big deal to fans and drivers alike. Each driver should have a biography, statistics, up to date information of appearances, driving schedule, sponsor links, and live twitter feeds from the driver team and PR manager.
There can be live streams during the race showing the drivers’ track location in relation to the leader. It can have a live dash board with camera feeds with forward view, telemetry, inside the car views and from above and behind streaming footage as the events are running.
Streaming links can be used after the race to interview every driver with their views and a recap of their race.

Belief 2

During a race there are 43 cars going around the track. If the PR people act as runners in the pits (updating the media about what is happening with their car and what they are doing during a pit stop) and tweet what is going on with the driver’s car, more fans can follow their favorite driver and know what is going on, with up to the minute updates.
Right now the only people with technology to hear what is going on in the car are people who rent racing radios at the track.
Fans are at the mercy of the networks who telecast the races. The good ole boy system is in full effect depending on who covers the races. If it is Fox you get Michael Waltrip and his team shoved in your face to the point of favoritism, since his brother calls the races. If it is ESPN you get the Wallace’s until your blue in the face. How about the other competitors? Their teams deserve recognition too. As it is if you are not in the top teams you may not ever get mentioned.
Some drivers are capitalizing with tweet up’s and U-tube videos to get into races. Every year NASCAR has it’s equivalent to the All-Star game, which is a race featuring the drivers who won races the past year, past NASCAR Champions, and 2 drivers for what is left over. There is a race that all the drivers who haven’t won last year race in, to see who will get in The All-Star Race. The second way to get into the All Star event is by fan vote.
Here is where social media found a new means to be used. This is before American Idol. Several smart drivers made videos pleading their case, others had a tweetup. CBSSports.com (F) reported, “Richard Petty Motorsports teammates A.J. Allmendinger and Elliott Sadler took part in Twitter gatherings at Darlington in which fans waved signs urging others to vote their driver into the May 22 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.” “Truex has a video pitch, which made its debut last week ahead of the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.” The article went on to report, RCR spokeswoman Christine Brownlow says the team keeps the names of Burton and Bowyer out front as often as possible. “Obviously, it’s a big deal for our sponsors to get our cars in the All-Star race,” she said. “I have a lot of fans say they see updates and vote every hour.” These are mart ways to use the social media to sway fans and a fun way for fans to participate.
However the article mentions an example of twitter going off course, some in NASCAR can tweet too much. Darrell Waltrip recently apologized for scooping Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s announcement he’d drive the No. 3, a number made famous by his late father, in the Nationwide Series race at Daytona in July. In responsible hands social media can be a great way to reach fans who may not be reachable in other ways.
Belief 3

Is there more than twitter? According to NASCAR.com article few drivers are in on the craze some who are “As of March, Montoya was the NASCAR driver with the biggest following (131,899 people) followed by Nationwide Series driver Danica Patrick (109,288). @MW55 (Michael Waltrip) leads the Baby Boomers with 34,000. Drivers’ wives also are getting into the action and attracting plenty of followers. Delana Harvick leads the way with 20,000 followers.” (G)
More drivers have twitter but do not use it correctly. This week I followed Kurt Busch to see what he had to tweet. All I got was his departing message, “leaving for the track.” During the weekend a short blurb about qualifying and another one after the race and that was it. NASCAR.com should post all the drivers twitter links. I know they have them because they post it for the media on the NASCAR Media site instead. I guess they want the writers to take the quotes and use them in their articles. I guess (try to use something else other than I guess) the public cannot handle what the drivers have to say. Recently Denny Hamlin was fined by NASCAR for what he tweeted after the Bud Shootout. NASCAR keeps a tight rein on the sport and wants to keep its wholesome squeaky clean image. This may be why they do not release the twitter links. That will have to change in the future because the information will become common knowledge in the future. When I go to Hamlin’s web site (H) I see RSS feeds, Twitter, Facebook, e-mail and news feeds proving my point fans can find ways to stay connected.

Summary

As stated at the beginning of the paper, NASCAR is always on the cutting edge of media and that includes social media as well. The area they can improve is thinking outside the box. Taking the available technologies and using them in new and exciting ways. Reaching fans is their number one objective today, so use it to connect every fan to their favorite driver. Give them an exclusive look at racing through the eyes of their beholders. There are 43 separate races that happen during a race and even more trying to make races include them all in the coverage, make it a personal experience for each and every fan. That is the future of social media today.

References
A. https://www.nascarmedia.com/corpinfo/history.aspx
B. http://www.amyjomartin.com/2011/give-nascar-a-chance/
C. Information taken from the 2009 PR NASCAR Summit Resource Guide By NASCARMEDIA.com
D. https://www.nascarmedia.com/news/default.aspx?ArticleId=35238
E. https://www.nascarmedia.com/nascar_announces_new_integrated_marketing_communications_department.aspx
F. http://www.cbssports.com/nascar/story/13382235/drivers-use-social-media-to-gain-allstar-support
G. http://www.nascar.com/news/features/what.is.twitter/index.html
H. http://www.dennyhamlin.com/media/

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