SBD/Issue 56/Events & Attractions

Motorsports Marketing Forum: Examining The Role Of Social Media

Marciani Notes Michael Waltrip's Avid Twitter
Use Helps The Racing Team Reach Fans

A panel yesterday at SportsBusiness Journal/Daily’s 11th annual Izod IndyCar Series Motorsports Marketing Forum only needed to hear that Facebook page hits now equal Google’s to comprehend the value of social media. The discussion, “Social Media and its Role in Motorsports,” featured Sprint Nextel Dir of Sports Marketing Tim Considine, Intersport Senior VP/Strategic Partnerships Chuck Johnsen, NASCAR HOF Manager for Sales & Marketing Lauri Wilks, Michael Waltrip Racing VP/Sales & Marketing Chris Marciani, Mazda North American Operations Manager of Alternative Marketing Jim Jordan, and GMR Marketing Exec VP/Sports Marketing Mike Boykin. “It’s a new world,” Jordan said. “Internationally, Facebook is 25 percent of all page views in Europe. That’s an incredibly powerful medium.” NASCAR’s Michael Waltrip might be the prime example of someone who has embraced the newish interactive world. Boykin was golfing with Waltrip when Waltrip stepped aside two or three times to hunch over and tend to some business. They had not even played nine holes. Boykin asked Waltrip what he was doing. “Tweeting,” Waltrip said. Marciani confirmed that Waltrip tweets with regularity. The key is that it is Waltrip. “It’s a PR tool for business, and it helps us reach avid fans,” Marciani said. “Michael is passionate about it. I applaud him. Luckily, we haven’t been in trouble yet. But it has to be authentic. It has to be Michael.” True fans easily spot frauds, and artificial messages and disingenuous pitches, which can be detrimental to any race team. The message cannot be overly corporate, either. “You have to let the personality of the driver, or teams, come out,” Jordan said. Mazda’s Facebook presence is small, he said, and does not require too much oversight. “Good or bad, you take the hits,” Jordan said. “We’ve found that fans police it. There’s nothing more powerful than that peer-to-peer interaction.”

Jordan Says Nothing More Powerful
Than Peer Interaction On Facebook Page

REACHING OUT: Considine cited data that showed NASCAR’s Facebook followers are younger than the average NASCAR demographic, which bodes well for the future. Another test resulted in a 96% positive interaction rating, among 250 responses, with the Sprint brand. “That’s unheard of. What fans say confirms that the time and effort we’re putting into it is worthwhile for us,” Considine said. “It’s a huge positive.” Jordan found it remarkable when someone from the Mazda team sent out a tweet telling fans they could receive a Mazda key ring just for coming by the company’s area and showing their keys. “I was shocked how many came by,” Jordan said. “Little things like that bonds them to us and makes them feel special. Hey, Mazda cares. I’m part of the Mazda team. We have fun with that.” Travis Pastrana, an extreme sports legend on the motorcycle, had fun creating a video highlighting his debut in the '11 NASCAR Nationwide Series. “It got 150,000 views on YouTube right away,” said Marciani. The 27-year-old from Maryland has more than 1.5 million Facebook friends and quickly attracted 40,000 followers on his Twitter account. The panel on average believed that Pastrana will race in the Daytona 500 within the next four years. Marciani follows the NBA and marveled over its 6.7 million Facebook followers. From there, fans can tap into the pages of favorite players or college programs, high schools or the Basketball HOF. “You can go anywhere you want in the universe of basketball,” Marciani said. “The world of social media knows no boundaries. It’s 24/7, 365 days a year. We’re trying.” Finally, whom does the panel follow on Twitter or Facebook? “Carl Edwards,” said Considine. “Ozzie Guillen,” said Johnsen. “Miss Sprint and Denny Hamlin,” said Wilks. “Kim Kardashian,” said Marciani. “She has 5 million followers! That’s a pretty big city, if you think about it.”

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