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Live from Las Vegas: We went down to the crossroads

LEAN IN AND DON’T APOLOGIZE: There’s an interesting dichotomy in motorsports today – especially when it comes to NASCAR – which was evident on the first day of the ’16 Motorsports Marketing Forum. Many touted the size and scale and reach of the sport, and the fan base, which cannot be overlooked. Comments like “lean in,” “not apologizing,” and “take those numbers over most sports any day of the week,” were balanced by the stark reality of softer TV ratings and attendance, with sponsorship harder and harder to secure. One thing is certain – after 17 years of holding this Forum, the lines of communication and cooperation by the stakeholders across motorsports seem to be stronger than ever. However, even with that, most agree there are still gaps and unavoidable chasms due to the size and pace of the industry. Interesting times, to say the least, and all while stakeholders await a new title sponsor for NASCAR’s “premier” series.

WHAT’S UP TODAY: We will hear more from various motorsports team executives about building winning cultures and where innovation can be brought to these traditional motorsports. Also, one of the sport’s good guys, Chip Ganassi, will sit with SBJ/SBD’s Abe Madkour and talk about his life, which has touched virtually every area of racing. One of the most talked about sponsors in motorsports, Monster Energy, will sit with Feld Entertainment and talk about their partnership on the global series, Monster Energy Supercross. There also will be a look at where motorsports can leverage their media assets. We will close the day with a fun session featuring a conversation led by longtime IndyCar writer Curt Cavin with three IndyCar stars and Indy 500 winners: Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, and Alexander Rossi.

ONE THING YOU CAN’T IGNORE: NASCAR’s respective series champions – Jimmie Johnson and Daniel Suarez – offered thoughtful, relatable comments about their back stories and future goals. Both came across as likable, down-to-earth ambassadors for the sport. Suarez, whose interview with Fox NASCAR’s Jamie Little was the final session of Day 1, got stuck in traffic on the way to the conference and forced the crowd to sit and make small talk for about 15 minutes until he arrived. But then the young driver was so charming and funny as he talked about his experiences learning English, picking the brains of other drivers and trying to become a role model that no one minded the wait. Johnson, in a chat with NASCAR.com’s Holly Cain, had the rapt attention of the crowd when he talked about becoming a team leader, driving under pressure and balancing work and family. Two great representatives of the sport, and we’re looking forward to seeing more today.

WAITING FOR THE YOUNG GUNS: It’s rare to get consensus when you’re talking to a group of executives from diverse areas of the industry, but when moderator Madkour asked the opening panel what would have to happen to make 2017 a great year, three of the five agreed on one thing that the sport needs: the emergence of the next generation of winners. Asked to complete the sentence, “2017 will be a great year if …”:
IMS’ Doug Boles: “If you have someone from the next generation of drivers win the championship.”
NASCAR’s Jill Gregory: “If some young talent can really prove themselves on the track.”
NBC Sports’ Mike McCormack: “I’m intrigued by the young new talent and when they are going to take the mantle and carry the sport through the next decade.”

The outliers:
Team Epic’s David Grant: “If the industry can start to demonstrate that all of these other ways the sport is being consumed can more than offset the deterioration of traditional television.”
Roush Fenway Racing’s Steve Newmark: “If our sport can differentiate from other sports through technology. If teams can continue together to find more efficient ways to run their operations.”

BOTTOM LINE SUCCESS: What’s it going to take to declare the new NHL team in Vegas a success? When owner Bill Foley and his management team appeared on stage, each had a viewpoint.  “We want to be competitive the first year,” Foley said, and referenced the processing of growing fruit. “By the third year, we should be harvesting some fruit. We have a very specific plan on winning the Stanley Cup. That’s why [GM] George [McPhee] is here.” McPhee said he wants to stress culture.  “Building it the right way is through your culture,” he said. “Culture is your invisible difference maker. If you go to West Point, you’re going to know what they stand for. If you join the New England Patriots, you’re going to find out very quickly what they stand for. … That’s our focus, getting the right culture to help us win.”  Team President Kerry Bubolz talked about his vision for the business side.  “We’d like to be a top 5 revenue team in every measureable category within five years,” he said. “I believe we can do it.  It’s not the 40th largest market. It’s a national market. It’s a major market. People are coming from all over the world. We have a unique opportunity to tell a story to a national and international audience.”
  
SOCIAL ANIMALS I: MVPindex co-Founder Kyle Nelson had some rapt attention from attendees when he showed some of the motorsports related research he’s gathered around social media. Among his findings: 94% of the top 300 posts by NASCAR teams were on Facebook; Facebook links receive 33% more engagement than photos when posted by NASCAR teams; Video is seeing 51% more engagement than photos on Facebook; 73% of driver posts are text-based on Twitter. He also said that people tune into Twitter during a race. Tweets that include a call to action, such as asking followers to retweet, received 6.3X higher engagement. In addition, more than 50% of the top 100 Instagram posts by NASCAR teams feature a race car; 70% of Instagram posts by NASCAR teams include at least one brand, hashtag, handle or keyword, including NASCAR and series-related terms; and Facebook is driving most of the value – while representing only 15% of the NASCAR content over a month, it resulted in 57% of engagement and 47% of impressions.

SOCIAL ANIMALS II: Social Media QB Jeramie McPeek offered some of his learnings from his professional career focused on social media, much of the time at the Phoenix Suns and now as a digital and social media consultant.  He started the session by having attendees do the wave to get the energy going. Among his takeaways: Video is really important no matter what channel it is on; Brands/teams/leagues he admires on social: WWE,  Atlanta Hawks, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks; Best platform to reach young people: SnapChat and Instagram.

SOCIAL ANIMALS III: Yes, we went heavy on the social discussion today, but it drew a great response from our crowd. Near the end of the day, we heard from Andre Pinard, Octagon’s Group Director, Insights and Planning. His takeaways:
— 93% of millennials want to experience something new and blood rushing – notion that experience trumps things.
— 78% of millennials would rather pay for an experience than material goods.
— 63%of Gen Z prefer to see real people over celebrities in advertisements.
— 82% millennials went to a live event in the past year, such as concerts and festivals, and 72% plan to increase spending on such outings.

SOCIAL ANIMALS IV: Johnson drew a few laughs from the crowd when he looked back at how he slowly warmed to using social media: “I was probably late to get on the social media train; people were doing it before me and I read some things on a blog when it first started coming out, and I couldn’t believe just how rude people could be to me or my fiancé at the time. But once my skin thickened up, I realized the importance of social media, and obviously the world has moved in that direction, and I’ve done things on social media that haven’t been recommended. Everyone says, ‘Leave the trolls alone.’ [But after] a couple drinks on a plane ride home, it’s fun to poke the trolls.”

SOCIAL ANIMALS V: We don’t have the numbers yet to back this up, but we’re pretty sure that there was more activity this year around the event hashtag, #sbjmmf, than we’ve had in previous years. Our thanks to our most frequent tweeters: Tim Southers (@tsouth1968); Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass); Lee Spencer (@CandiceSpencer) and Ken Ungar (@Kungar).

Among the tweets we liked:
@MattioliAlivia: .@andreataccess presentation on Youth Marketing & the "New Era" is enlightening on new knowledge/notions on social connection.
@lenperna: Thanks to Bill Foley, George McPhee & Kerry Bubolz for a great panel at #sbjmmf #vegasgoldenknights will be biggest NHL launch ever!
@mikepistana: Great to see @JimmieJohnson talking about his 7th championship at #sbjmmf @MandalayBay
@jeramie: Figured it was only fitting to turn my trademark conference wave into a 3-lap race at the @sbjsbd Motorsports Marketing Forum!

 

WIN SOME SWAG: If you didn’t already drop off your business card at the registration desk, be sure to do so this morning for a chance to win prizes from sponsors Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar. Up for grabs: an IndyCar mini-helmet signed by all of the 2016 full-time drivers; and an IMS logo metal sign and Indy 500 logo metal sign, both autographed by the full 33 driver field for the 100th running of the Indy 500. The winners will be announced this morning.

THE FUTURE OF THE SPORT: And while you’re at the registration desk (or any time during the morning), say hello to our two conference volunteers, Katelyn Aardema and Trey Stafford. Both are students at Belmont Abbey College in the motorsports management program directed by Pat Wood, who you’ll see again this morning as a guest moderator.

CONFERENCE COORDINATES: The Jasmine Ballroom was packed during the first day of the Forum, and we’re expecting similar crowds today. As a reminder, breakfast and exhibits open at 7:30 a.m. PT, with the program starting at 8:15 a.m.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: All the information you need about the conference — agenda, speakers, venue, etc. — can be found in the conference app and the program guide. You can download the app from the iTunes store or the Google Play store, and you can use any device to view our digital program guide.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: If you’re in the room today, we hope you’ll contribute to the conversation. You can send questions to our session moderators by using the MMF app or by texting ‘SBJSBD’ to 22-333. If you are posting tweets or photos, be sure to use the conference hashtag: #sbjmmf.

FOLLOW OUR FEEDS: Follow all of our social media posts throughout the conference using our Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram feeds.

NEXT CONFERENCE UP: We’ll be in New York next week for our last event of the year, the Learfield Intercollegiate Athletics Forum. We hope to see you there!

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