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August 20, 2015

NASCAR Analytics Races To ‘Younger Crowd’

NASCAR is seeking to engage with racing enthusiasts via a new analytics platform that seeks to leverage, among other things, unstructured text data collected directly from NASCAR fans.

The motor racing organization began working with partner HP Enterprise Services in 2013 to develop the Fan and Media Engagement Center, or FMEC. The platform is designed to track social media and break down unstructured text data using real-time analytics. The goal is to expand NASCAR’s fan base as current die-hard fans get older.

Along with gaining a better understanding of social media and NASCAR’s “brand presence,” FMEC helped the racing organization forge tighter relationships with sponsors. (Sponsor ads are often plastered all over racetracks and race cars.)

Given the hazards inherent to racing, the platform also helped NASCAR manage racetrack incidents more quickly.

According to a white paper detailing the FMEC initiative, social media brand presence wasn’t the top priority. Instead, NASCAR’s overall goal was to “generally broaden the appeal of NASCAR with specific focus on youth and multicultural market segments, with the objective of developing lifelong fans and also to drive increased coverage of NASCAR on key media outlets through increased insight into fan behavior and opinion.”

Similar audience engagements efforts launched by the National Football League and Major League Baseball have spawned lucrative baseball “rotisserie leagues” and NFL fantasy football leagues.

NASCAR is using unstructured text data collected by the FMEC platform to determine how viewers respond to marketing messages. It also provides feedback to advertisers, racing teams and their sponsors.

Further, the effort seeks to move beyond “retrospective text analytics” to evaluate what fans are posting throughout NASCAR events. HP provided standard reporting techniques used to sift through unstructured data generated by social media posts in real time. Relevant information extracted from text messages contained keywords about individual racing teams—revealing fan preferences—along with events and the names of drivers. That data was later used to shape marketing and advertising campaigns.

FMEC analyzes posts about NASCAR from Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets and then pushes it to a reporting platform. The partners could then monitor social media throughout race days. NASCAR social media representatives joined conversations as a way of boosting audience engagement.

Marketing feedback uncovered by text analytics was then delivered to advertisers on a weekly basis, helping NASCAR strengthen relationships with sponsors, according to the white paper.

With auto racing come accidents. A spectacular crash during a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in July at the Daytona Internationals Speedway sent wreckage flying into catch fence. Some of the debris ended up in the grandstand, sending at least one spectator to the hospital.

Accident details often emerge faster on social media than traditional news outlets. Hence, another FMEC application is real-time monitoring of crowd-sourced information to help race officials respond more quickly to racetrack accidents.

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