SBJ/March 5-11, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NASCAR retooling more active Web presence

The future NASCAR.com is beginning to take shape.

Months after closing a deal with Turner Sports to reclaim control of its digital assets, NASCAR’s head of digital media Marc Jenkins has begun imagining what the site will look like after it relaunches in 2013. He sees a vibrant site with a home page filled with NASCAR-related news and videos as well as links to separate driver pages with driver-specific news and video.

In short, he sees a site not all that different from the one that other major leagues have — a home page with league-related news and links to team sites with team-related information. It’s a vision that he will take on the road this week as he begins meeting with teams to talk to them about the future of NASCAR.com.

“We spent a lot of time figuring out what users are going to our site for,” Jenkins said. “We want to have that same balance between league sites and team sites.”

NASCAR has hired SapientNitro to help develop the new site. The company built Target.com and also worked with Chip Ganassi Racing on its team websites. Jenkins said that in its meeting with teams, NASCAR will discuss whether team pages should be featured in addition to driver pages on NASCAR.com and who would be responsible for posting articles and videos to them.

“They’ve got some of the best creative minds,” Jenkins said. “They’re able to take a vision and add value to it.”

When Jenkins meets with teams, he will be soliciting their opinions for how driver pages and team pages might look and be populated with news and information on NASCAR.com. He’ll also be talking to them about how much they’ll contribute to the news that appears on those pages.

Currently, NASCAR.com features static driver pages. Turner Sports, which manages the site, updated driver sponsor information and the teams they are racing for shortly before drivers showed up in Daytona for races. The driver pages will be updated each week with where they finished in races, but won’t feature any articles about the driver or additional information.

Jenkins envisions NASCAR.com having general stories about race results and news in the sport, and fans being able to link through to driver pages that have short stories with a driver’s perspective on his individual performance in a race and other feature articles that illuminate the driver’s personality off the track.

In addition to meeting with teams in the coming weeks, NASCAR will begin hiring staff to support the redevelopment of NASCAR.com. Jenkins said he will hire a handful of direct reports first and then hire staff to support them. He believes the team he brings on board will be designing the new site at the perfect time.

“We’re on the cusp of knowing where social [media] is, where the user interface is, what the third experience is,” Jenkins said. “The way you interact with computers is changing, and we can build for that.”

SPONSORS REV UP: For the first time in three years, sponsors’ displays filled the midway at Daytona International Speedway. The addition of displays by brands activating for the first time, such as Banana Boat, Farmers Insurance and Goodyear, pushed the total number of partners activating in the midway up 14 percent from last year to 40 companies. It’s the highest level of activation at the track since 2009.

NASCAR officials and agencies, who saw companies pull back on activation spending during the recession, were encouraged by the increased interest this year.

“We all need data, and that’s my take on what everyone is doing,” said Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III. “There’s a real effort now to engage fans, and at Daytona you’re going to drive more volume and you’ve got 10 days to set up and reach people.”

Executives from Goodyear, which set up a display at Daytona for the first time, were encouraged enough by the foot traffic they generated during Speedweeks to consider
Goodyear set up an interactive display at Daytona for the first time this year.
Photo by: WUNDERMAN (2)
setting up at other tracks later this year. Goodyear’s display featured a 15-by-40-foot Plinko game where fans could drop a tire down a board filled with pegs and win a prize if it landed on a large Goodyear logo at the bottom. The activation was developed by Wunderman and attracted more than 1,000 fans a day, on average.

“I expect you’ll see us back here in July, and we’re looking at other tracks we have relationships with to see what makes sense and where,” said Kris Kienzl, Goodyear NASCAR marketing manager.

NASCAR GOES HOLLYWOOD: NASCAR’s Los Angeles office is making headway on two new projects: a behind-the-scenes show on young drivers, and a scripted movie about the early days of NASCAR, which Vince Vaughn has signed on to help develop.

Vince Vaughn has signed on to work on a NASCAR movie project.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
The sanctioning body is developing an original show on young drivers and is shopping the show around to potential networks. The show follows drivers such as Sprint Cup star Joey Logano, 21; Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 24; Nationwide Series driver Johanna Long, 19, and others to reveal what their lives are like behind the scenes. It still doesn’t have a name or logo; that will be determined by who ends up buying it. NASCAR has partnered on the show with producer Mark Burnett, the executive producer of “Survivor.”

The scripted movie project is very early in its development phase. The idea is to create a movie that’s part biopic, part origin-of-NASCAR story that would see Vaughn play the role of Bill France Sr., from the creation of NASCAR in the 1940s to its showdown years later with Jimmy Hoffa, who was trying to unionize drivers in the 1960s.

“It’s very early in the development, but we are in business together,” said Zane Stoddard, managing director, entertainment marketing and business development at NASCAR. “It could be a really exciting project.”

FRANCE REACHES OUT: NASCAR CEO Brian France did more outreach to the sport’s constituents than ever before prior to this year’s Daytona 500.

The sport’s top boss sent an email to media prior to Speedweeks thanking them for coverage; he delivered an open letter to fans the day of the race thanking them for their support; and in the weeks prior to the race, he mailed more than 15 handwritten notes and all-access, seasonlong credentials to chief marketers at several brands involved in the sport, including many team sponsors. It was the first time France had undertaken all of those efforts in a single season.

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