Becki Civello, Commercial VP of InfrontX, and NASCAR’s Chief Digital Officer, Tim Clark, sat down for a webinar discussing “How NASCAR Continuously Innovates Fan Experiences: The Challenge of Capturing and Keeping Attention.” The webinar provided an informative insight into NASCAR’s development in business practices, its innovation in fan engagement, details how to grow with fans, and more.
To start the webinar, one area that Clark emphasized was how NASCAR’s business model has adapted and evolved over the years. Having had major growth within the media and digital spaces compared to ten years ago, they now have multiple mobile apps and 50+ websites living on their digital platforms. An additional aspect that Clark highlighted was NASCAR’s adapted business model and its new found approach to fan engagement. Clark emphasized that in the past they had a reactive stance on fan engagement, opposed to now having a proactive business model for fan engagement, that focuses on short-term engagement while simultaneously positioning the sport for future success.
NASCAR’s Fan Engagement
Clark stressed that NASCAR is just as focused on engaging and bringing in new fans as it is to catering to its loyal and existing core fanbase. A key theme that Clark accentuated was that NASCAR is dedicated to engaging fans on their terms- not forcing them to engage on the sport’s terms. An example of this is NASCAR’s new engagement with fans for its playoffs; they implemented a bracket-style tournament for fans to participate in, similar to March Madness, as a way to engage fans in a way they are comfortable with and excited by. One unique quality of NASCAR’s fanbase is its loyalty to chief sponsors and brands. Because of the honest and organic relationship between the three parties, NASCAR has helped generate loyalty from fans to not only the sport but the sponsors that support it. When Civello asked Clark “The next 18 months would be a success if…” Clark responded by saying “It’s up to the consumers...if all we’re doing doesn’t work for the consumers then it doesn’t work for us.”
Another central fan engagement strategy that NASCAR is now focusing on is the integration and expansions of an augmented reality fan experience, along with other digital modes of engagement such as eSports. One change that was implemented during Covid-19, that's staying for the long-run, is a virtual media center for fans to watch the sport. They also integrated eSports during this time to provide fans with virtual races; although Clark later confirmed that they won’t continue it on as large of a scale, but are looking for new ways to potentially continue with it in a different format. We’re interested in seeing what that will look like!
NASCAR used these virtual experiences to further involve its partners and sponsors in an organic, non-intrusive way. For instance, they incorporated a feature where users can perform burnouts in a virtual simulator, while simultaneously promoting their chief tire sponsor, Goodyear Tires. This acts as an intersection of organically involving partners that at the same time, provides a cool and fun experience for fans.
Integrating Fans into the Development of the Sport
A special component of NASCAR and its engagement and growth strategy is the incorporation and reliance of fan feedback. A prime example of this is NASCAR’s Fan Council. The Fan Council gives fans a voice within the sport. On a race-to-race and day-to-day basis, fans on the council can contribute their opinions and thoughts on all topics, covering everything from how the race is formatted to what type of content is shared and promoted. The Council consists of both new and existing fans to help NASCAR with its goal of drawing in new fanbases and retaining its older, loyal fans. Honest input from fans allows NASCAR to implement and make changes for the better. Consistent dialog and adjustments are beneficial for both parties, as communication is key for successful business operations and fan interactions.
Despite its toxicity at times, productive feedback found on social media is both useful and welcomed by NASCAR, as another form of integrating fans’ wants and needs into the sport. Social media interaction is an entry point to the diversification of the NASCAR brand. Additionally, a prominent aspect of fan development in the sport is engaging Generation-Z and diversifying demographics.
NASCAR has adapted its business model and outreach strategies to position the sport for current success while always keeping future growth at the forefront. Incorporation of fan input into the sport’s development, acceptance of new trends such as the incorporation of eSports, and prevalent efforts to build strong connections between the sport, its fans, and chief sponsors, are all reasons why NASCAR continues to create a promising future for itself.