Now, very little should come as a surprise to NASCAR observers when it comes to the ways in which the sport presents itself itself to the public. But this move into social media is a real barnstormer.
Across America NASCAR has placed itself on cereal packets, hotel receptions and consumer good promotions, via a range of its own products that runs from baseball caps to romance novels. The list of ways in which the sport has kept itself front-of-house is endless.
As of this week, NASCAR’s digital operation is catching up these traditional outlets fast; starting with the announcement that NASCAR has become the first professional sport to create an official partnership with Twitter.
The launch of twitter.com/#NASCAR effectively gives ownership of a large chunk of Tweets to NASCAR itself. Anyone wanting to discuss NASCAR on Twitter has to hashtag it, right? So by making your hashtag an official communications tool, you can talk directly to the people talking about you.
Up until now when Tweeters click on a hashtag, for instance #F1, they are shown a page littered with tweets which are random, disjointed and, in the case of this year’s #BahrainGP, plain bonkers.
By contrast, clicking on #NASCAR you immediately takes you to a smoothly-styled paged (pictured above) rather than a random stream of consciousness. Twitter feeds all #NASCAR tweets through an algorithm to NASCAR’s branded page, beautifully laid out and offering ways for Tweeters to engage with the sport through the site.
Clearly the time when most people are tweeting about a sports event is when it’s happening, so there are a number of incentives being laid out to encourage Tweeters to participate at this weekend’s Pocono event – renamed the Pocono 400 Presented by #NASCAR.
For the fans the trade-off is increased involvement. A great deal of extra ‘behind the scenes’ information from Pocono will only be available via Twitter – even to fans in attendance at the event. In addition there are plans for a “Tweet Your Seat” competition: effectively an online lottery draw in which the winning seat number will be crowned as honorary starter and wave the green flag to start the race.
Some may say ‘Big brother’ and suspect that, having offered ‘beads to the natives’, soon NASCAR is going to be censoring Tweets before long. Others may think that someone in NASCAR’s digital department has got a bit too addicted to reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But however you feel about it, the focus is increasingly on social media across all entertainment and that isn’t going to change in a hurry.