Each year during NASCAR’s Champions Week, thought leaders get together at the annual Motorsports Marketing Forum. They share best practices in motorsports marketing and offer insight into trends and behaviors of their fans. Following are my key takeaways on how to apply their learning to brands in this space, and how to utilize sports marketing to drive fan engagement. 

  • Change the Conversation Around Ratings and ROI

Marketers are universally worried about TV viewership, but it’s just one unit of evaluating marketing effectiveness. Our success depends on the sport’s ability to demonstrate that ROI should come from all marketing channels, which helps substantiate the decline in TV viewership. Networks need to offer new ways for brands to engage a 2nd screen audience consuming motorsports content on multiple channels, at the same time. We must reach new fans in new places, by leveraging young drivers making more of an impact and by using technology to engage a younger audience in new ways. Our interactive engagement at Daytona International Speedway exemplifies this kind of ultimate fan experience.

  • Innovate and You Will Grow

Consumer expectations are high and the industry can do a better job of using technology to provide a compelling custom experience. Marketers offered solutions for pulling data from the car, grabbing biometric driver data and enhancing the at-track experience through app and digital platforms. The robust data available and proximity to drivers makes for an unparalleled experience that must be used to create new and impactful ways for consumers to experience motorsports.

  • Use VR/AR to Transform Your Brand Experience

Virtual Reality is a transformative tool for the sport. Experiencing racing as drivers do will continue to drive passion and excitement for consumers who already eat, sleep, and breathe NASCAR. And it will engage new fans who didn’t know what they were missing. As part of Sunoco’s Essence of Racing campaign, we debuted an AR experience in the Champions Week Fan Village that featured 7-time champion Jimmie Johnson. Through our interactive app, Jimmie conducted the sounds of racing, which led to an opportunity for fans to make a custom music track purely from the sounds of Motorsports. Allowing fans to truly engage with the brand and adding their own unique touch to the campaign.

  • Be Accessible and New Fans Will Engage

Fans have unparalleled access to cars, drivers, and partners. A good start, but sanctions should continue to find new ways to expand this access to an even broader fan demographic. The next generation of NASCAR fans are millennials and Gen Z’ers, who have different attitudes, identities, and values, and who need to be talked to differently. Much like the Boomer fans, they’ve got an affinity for drivers over teams, and are often engaging based on their love for certain drivers. This bodes well for NASCAR and INDYCAR, where driver access and personalities play a major role in driving the fan experience, and will result in more fan conversions as they introduce more young champions into the sport. 

  • Be Creative & Build Relationships

No one can accuse motorsports of being stagnant, creative problem solving has become part of the vernacular. But the conversation needs to be about more than just selling motorsports assets, we need to build, understand and sell marketing platforms. If we think that way, broadcast partners like NBC will tailor marketing solutions that offer broader value and reach. They’re dedicated to the platform of motorsports and want to allow advertisers to engage with a broader audience through more than just traditional commercial units. Social and digital integration, longer form content and new partnership models for production will allow brands to utilize their access and production capabilities to capture content that’s purposeful for all audiences. Formula-E (electric car racing) is following this model, they’re 90% non-traditional in breaking out their go-to-market media mix, focusing on short-form digital content on social and relying on word of mouth marketing to build and engage their fanbase.

Motorsports is a viable and exciting platform as long as it continues to adapt to stay relevant. Brands can maximize their investment by taking advantage of the unprecedented access and unique attributes, and embracing technology to translate their brand message into dynamic and engaging fan experiences at track and at home. 

If Brands continue to blaze the trail, sanctions will follow in helping to redefine and reshape the definition of “an impression” beyond attendance and eyeballs.