NASCAR Races Toward Data
The National Association for Stock Car Racing (NASCAR) wanted to use new experiential methods and technology to market live events, as well as online where the company offers a kind-friendly website with search features and race-car driver virtual hangouts.
The idea to implement in-person experiential events and newer technology aims to increase the relevance of entertainment for the 75-year-old company in hopes kids learn more and become fans of NASCAR.
“I would love to have as many kids and their families at the track, because they are the future of the sport,” said Erica Wilkerson, director of multicultural and youth marketing at NASCAR.
The agency Outerkind has been influential in supporting this shift, helping Michael Verlatti, managing director of event experience at NASCAR, build the Kids Zone at each NASCAR event. The two companies began working together last year.
The NASCAR project led by Jason Wozny, partner at Outerkind, created new projects for kids of all ages at events after starting to work with Verlatti last year to improve the experience at the track.
Verlatti said Wozny understood the importance of partnerships with Lego and Walmart, and made the display feel like something more than stagnant objects. Prior to Verlatti joining NASCAR, licensed products for kid’s games sold at retailers such as Walmart funded most of the activities in the Kids Zone.
Verlatti, who worked at Sprint early in his career, realized that even with all the great activities created by Outerkind, the missing piece had been data.
“This year we’re trying to learn and measure to understand what’s working and not working,” Verlatti said. “Our fans said they wanted more from us in that area. Our licensees also were willing to contribute to do some activation. We put all that together, and that’s how we were able to partner with Outerkind to build out the NASCAR Kids Zone.”
Data could help determine traffic in and around the midway to improve the experience at the track.
NASCAR partnered with Endeavor Analytics to deploy sensors and measure cell phone traffic without collecting personally identifiable information or any type of personal information.
“All we know is there was a cell phone in the area,” he said.
Starting in Daytona, NASCAR has deployed these sensors at each racetrack to understand the “total addressable market” at the live events. It can detect how many sensor hits happen on a weekend — sometimes as many as 50,000. From that amount, it can determine how many visited the Kids Zone and other areas at NASCAR, as well as measuring how long a phone stays in the area.
From this data, NASCAR will create a baseline for 2023 to measure against in future years. It will help NASCAR determine which areas are busier than others during a specific time of day.
“If there’s a driver experience at the Kids Zone and I see more people hanging out in that area, I know it’s been successful,” he said. “It will really help us to prove out the investment and grow it in the future. If my budget stays flat and I’m able to increase the total cross-impressions in front of displays, I can increase the budget in future years.”
When asked whether text messages are targeted to the phone, Verlatti said “no” — the technology does not collect phone numbers or cell phone data. Beacon technology, when opted through an application, has that capability. Verlatti said it would be wise to look into technology that has this ability.