On Sunday at the now ultra-fast Pocono Raceway, NASCAR, one of the best sports at fan engagement, will launch their latest attempt to capture casual fans by partnering with Twitter for a co-branded racing page.
It will be promoted at the racetrack and on television, and the Pocono 400 will be renamed the “Pocono 400 Presented By #NASCAR,” which for a sport that is all about selling every possible piece of real estate to brand partners, is a very big move. The page offers a brand-new Twitter interface that prominently features photographs and is optimized for quick navigation. The #NASCAR page will be curated by Twitter employees, with a custom mix of tweets from racing personalities, organizations, family members, and sponsor promotional accounts. It will also be set as a draw for people new to twitter as well as casual fans drawn in to see what NASCAR is all about in a medium they are familiar with.
Turner Sports has also bought into the experiment with cross-promotional elements to see how a social media following can also increase tune-in on a very busy spring weekend.
Now the quest to bring in ancillary eyeballs is not new for NASCAR. Attempts have been made to mainstream the personalities of the sport and their loyal followers with everything from Harlequin Romance books to fine wines, all to various degrees of success. Some die-hard followers have seen this type of outreach as a betrayal of a brand, while new advertisers see it as a way to find new followers themselves.
Will it work for Twitter as a promotion? Probably? Has it gotten NASCAR some buzz and additional interest? For sure, as it is always great to be “first” in a partnership. Will brands look at the data and then find ways to use this large scale page and outreach to customize offerings away from the race and the broadcast, which could lead to new sales from an audience not exposed to NASCAR? That remains to be seen.
One key positive is that, smartly, NASCAR has worked to engage all areas of media in this partnership. The track promotion, cross-promos with drivers and most importantly the link to broadcast, gives everyone a fighting chance. Many brands, leagues, teams and athletes have sought to just create “social media” without integration, and while sometimes there has been a great pop, the follow-through has been less than expected, and very quickly those trying to engage and draw dollars just from “social media” go on to other things to spend money and time.
If it works, for sure other entities will follow. If not or if the results are negligible, it will be back to the drawing board for NASCAR, and for twitter as an effective and lucrative way to pull in followers and eventually dollars for a property.