With one of the biggest fan bases in sports, NASCAR races remain extremely popular among auto racing enthusiasts. As NASCAR fans increase their use of social media to share their race experiences with other fans, decision-makers for the organizer of auto racing events recognized an opportunity to use analytics tools to gather and analyze fan sentiment across a variety of topics and use these insights to strengthen fan engagement.
“Social has become such a key to the second screen experience,” said Sean Doherty, Director of Digital & Social Media Engagement at NASCAR in an interview with theCUBE during the HP Big Data Conference 2015 last month. “People don’t just watch TV anymore. They watch TV and talk about what they’re watching with their friends and even with people they don’t know online. At NASCAR, we want to be part of that conversation and to keep tabs on trends that are occurring…and become more efficient at responding to our fans,” Doherty added.
Doherty and his nine-person team began analyzing NASCAR’s social media presence three years ago. “We monitor a lot of the real-time trends around what fans are saying around our race events,” said Doherty. “If someone mentions NASCAR or one of the drivers or one of the tracks or one of the race hashtags, we have a command center (in Charlotte, NC) where we can see what’s trending. To help with that fan perspective, if there’s a great save (when a driver prevents a spin out) or a great pass made by a driver, we can include that video highlight in the social feed. “
Doherty’s team is using TIBCO Spotfire data visualization and analytics to determine the topics that are trending in social media, such as the start engine command, the green flag (indicating a race is being started), the checkered flag (signaling the end of the race), or a critical pass or a save made during a race.
During a live race, Doherty’s team can segment data based on fan sentiment around a variety of topics, including the broadcast team, food concessions, what they think about commercials that are being broadcast, etc. “We can use this to help our partners (sponsors identify what’s trending) and to help the event managers to manage the event experience,” said Doherty.
While NASCAR’s use of data visualization and analytics tools continues to mature, the racing organization continues to find new opportunities to engage with its fans as new social media platforms such as Meerkat, Snapchat, Instagram, and Vine continue to emerge.
“Providing analytics and research back to our industry and for our own internal business units…has been hugely valuable,” said Doherty. “We want to meet our fans where they are.”