The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

Keeping its fans first is important to NASCAR

As we move into the fall here in Dallas, one of the events that comes to my mind is NASCAR at the Texas Motor Speedway. Recently some of us at HP had the chance to engage in a bit of Q&A with Steve Phelps, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of NASCAR, to find out how the new style of IT is making a difference.

 

Steve oversees all NASCAR efforts in corporate marketing, brand/consumer marketing, Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC), licensing, automotive group, business development, digital and social media, broadcast, entertainment, NASCAR Productions, information technology, corporate events and human resources. With over 75 million fans, that can be a big job and since NASCAR is so innovative about how they interact with this audience, the conversation is worth sharing.

 

Q. With the influx of Big Data throughout many industries, analysts are predicting that CMOs will become the new CIOs of the future. What role does Information Management and Analytics play in your daily activity?

A. The amount of data generated across both traditional and social media surrounding our sport is staggering. Fans connect with our sport digitally and share their experience with us more than ever before. Due to a shifting media landscape, news coverage of our sport is constant, coming from hundreds of print outlets, television broadcasts, and online publications. Candidly, before partnering with HP to develop the Fan and Media Engagement Center (FMEC) there was no easy way for us to make sense of all the noise. Thanks to HP’s cutting edge technology, the engagement center ingests huge amounts of data related to our sport and allows us to focus a lens on almost any topic that we want. We can now make informed decisions on just about every aspect of our business. We are just beginning to tap into its capabilities, but the value the FMEC has already provided through measurement and analytics can be felt on a daily basis.  

 

 

FMEC 2.jpg

 

Q. We’ve heard a lot about Big Data jamming the systems of many corporations and enterprise groups. NASCAR must have had massive data stores in place. How did process automation and HP Enterprise Services consulting view this challenge?

A. HP provided a true end-to-end solution for us. HP’s Enterprise Services team has helped us build this solution from Day One of our collaboration and has been a partner in the evolution and development of this process since launch.

 

In terms of hardware and software, our Fan and Media Engagement Center is HP-powered from front to back - from the back-end HP Blade servers and 3Par storage to help us store and manage all this “Big Data,” the middle software analytics layer powered by HP Autonomy, to our front-end display matrix with the latest in digital signage, it is all HP.

 

Q. Much of Information Management and Analytics has to do with gleaning the right information from the data to make it actionable. What were your goals when you started the project? Now that the engagement center has been implemented, how have these goals changed?

A. The idea of the Fan and Media Engagement Center came from our Chairman, Brian France. He wanted to create a resource that would benefit not only NASCAR, but the entire NASCAR industry by providing business-impacting insights tailored to specific audiences within the NASCAR ecosystem, including race teams, tracks, and partners.

 

In its first year of existence, the FMEC has already delivered value to each audience, yet we have only scratched the surface of the system’s capabilities. The FMEC is a “Version 1.0” platform, and we continue to learn, tweak, and refine the system. Our immediate goals have not changed, however, I envision that our goals will evolve as the system does.

 

Q. At HP, we talk quite a bit about information being the most valuable asset in the enterprise. How has the data you’ve been able to analyze proved beneficial to sponsors and partners? 

A. NASCAR is now able to provide insights to the many partners in our sport’s ecosystem. We can analyze fan levels of engagement around sponsor at-track activations, measure how a partner’s brand is perceived by our fan base, and learn more about what our fans like and dislike.

 

Additionally, we can hone in on specific topics – sentiment around broadcast partners, feedback on a sponsor contest, for example – and produce in-depth insights into fan behavior, so we can serve them the best content and provide the best experience.

 

Earlier this year, Chevy unveiled a new production model at a press event during the weekend of the Daytona 500. Within an hour after the event was over, our President Mike Helton was able to hand deliver a dashboard to our partner showing how fans and potential customers felt about the new car.

 

That kind of value can’t be measured.

 

Q. Have you seen an uptick in sales, or fan base growth? Are sponsors and partners more willing to make an investment when they are able to see data and know their return with more certainty? How has it enabled them to get ROI?

A. The FMEC wasn’t developed to be a direct revenue generator for NASCAR. However, I like to characterize ROI when speaking about the FMEC as a Return on Information. The FMEC is providing our entire eco-system with business impacting information. In certain circumstances, the impact can be felt in real-time, however a number of partners will use the information to help formulate the way they activate in our sport for years to come. That is truly when partners will be able to maximize on the value the FMEC provides. That said, the demand for FMEC information has been high this entire season and continues to grow. 

  

Q. What is one of the largest differences you’ve seen in the way your marketing organization works now that you have the Fan & Media Engagement Center?

A. One of the biggest benefits that the FMEC has provided us is the ability to market in real-time. For example at this year’s Talladega race, bad weather forced some pretty significant rain delays. Talladega is one of our largest tracks, over two miles. Rain delays can cause significant impact to fan interest, our broadcast partners, and our corporate partners.

 

During the rain delay, we were able to keep a real-time handle on levels of conversation about the race and delay, and take action to keep fans engaged via our social media channels, asking and answering questions, providing updates, sharing photos.

 

We were also able to zero in on sentiment about the track drying system, how many people were talking about it, noting how impressive it was in improving track drying time. We were able to analyze the public sentiment and provide a snapshot to track partners who are considering it for their own tracks.

 

This was a situation that could have been a negative - a significant weather delay - that we were able to turn into a positive by keeping fans engaged and showing the value of a new technology product to partners.

 

To learn more about how HP and NASCAR are working together, check out these videos:

 

 From one race fan to another, I hope to see you at the track soon!

 

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