SBJ/November 26-December 2, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NASCAR site developed with tablets in mind

NASCAR is in the final phase of developing a cleaner, simpler website and new suite of mobile and tablet applications that will launch in January.

The effort comes a year after NASCAR cut a deal with Turner to reacquire its digital rights and follows an eight-figure investment in a new digital division. NASCAR hopes that it helps drive race viewership and attendance and helps the sport engage a younger audience that almost exclusively consumes news and information digitally.

The sanctioning body will offer its first public overview of the site this week at SportsBusiness Journal/Daily’s NASCAR Motorsports Marketing Forum in Las Vegas.

The new site features a dominant, full-screen module that spans the width and most of the length of a browser window. The top module will rotate through two to three features at any one time. Above it are a series of tabs for
things ranging from standings to drivers. Visitors can click on those tabs and jump to pages on those subjects or scroll through a series of modules below to reach browser-wide sections on news, standings, drivers and other new media elements.

The design was developed with a tablet in mind so that the site will look the same in size and shape on an iPad or Samsung Galaxy as it looks on a desktop or laptop computer. It also makes written news secondary to digital illustrations and informational graphics predicting the winner of the next race. For example, modules designed with next year’s Daytona 500 in mind show the three drivers most likely to win the race and a horizontal line graph highlighting the probability they succeed. A separate module shows Jeff Gordon’s car for the
NASCAR will offer its first overview of its new website this week. The overhaul includes new applications for mobile and tablet users.
Daytona 500 surrounded by a series of numbers that visitors can scroll over to pull up a video about restrictor-plate racing or a short text burst on brakes.

“We’re looking at different ways to deliver and a broader definition of content,” said Marc Jenkins, NASCAR vice president of digital media. “It’s not about a 1,500-word story, necessarily. It’s — how do we tell the story of the coming Daytona 500? We’re really taking advantage of the digital nature of what we’re doing and the interactive nature.”

In addition to concentrating on delivering a digital rather than print experience, NASCAR focused on developing a site and apps that provide a second-screen experience for TV viewers. The digital team logged long hours working on a live leaderboard that keeps up with changes on the track throughout the race. The leaderboard can highlight NASCAR-selected, featured drivers such as Gordon and Clint Bowyer, who recently fought after a race, or the race leaders or a fan’s favorite drivers.

NASCAR’s live leaderboard will look the same on its website as it does on both the free and premium apps it plans to offer next year.

“We spent a ton of time on it,” Jenkins said. “It was one of our core objectives if not the core objective — that second screen complement.”

Customization was another area of focus when NASCAR developed the new digital offerings. The company worked with its digital developer, SapientNitro, to develop an algorithm that can determine what news fans get based on their avidity levels. Casual fans could get an info graphic that explains the banking of a track while avid fans could get an info graphic laying out the various lines on a track.

Fans also can personalize their digital experience by selecting their favorite drivers. Images of those drivers’ and the recent race results will appear at the top of the driver page, and news on those drivers will dominate the website’s news section. Those drivers will also be highlighted on the website’s and apps’ live leaderboard.

NASCAR worked with Omnigon, a digital strategy agency, and SapientNitro on its two apps — NASCAR RaceView and NASCAR RaceView Premium.

RaceView is a free app that includes the live leaderboard and news on a fans’ favorite driver. It includes offers to buy upgrades like in-car audio.

RaceView Premium, which NASCAR will charge for, features a more data-rich experience that includes telemetry and virtual video that follows any car around the track, so that hard-core Kasey Kahne fans can follow him at all times around the track even if Fox or ESPN is following Dale Earnhardt Jr. during the race broadcast.

Pricing for NASCAR Race-View Premium is still to be determined. Sprint subscribers will get the higher end app for free.

Turner is selling advertising on NASCAR.com and the fleet of apps. It will sell ads to NASCAR sponsors, team sponsors and corporations and brands not involved in the sport.

“Part of the reasons we brought our digital rights back in-house is because it’s such a powerful activation channel,” Jenkins said. “We’ll take any advertisers. We won’t shut anyone out, but at the end of the day, I think you’ll find there’s higher value for industry partners.”

NASCAR’s new website doesn’t have any tabs for teams. The focus is on drivers. Jenkins said teams will have a chance to collaborate with NASCAR and contribute news and information on their drivers, but how that will work is to be determined. He added that NASCAR.com may add links to the team sites at a later date.

After it launches the site next January, NASCAR Digital plans to tweak the site based on user feedback, Jenkins said.
“In our mind, this is a major step, but it’s just the first one,” Jenkins said. “The fans will tell us what the next one will be.”

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