As a sports league that both produces a ton of its own content and needs to market its brand to younger and newer fans, NASCAR exists as both a publisher and a marketer. It’s forced the league to restructure how it approaches its editorial and marketing content internally.
Last summer, NASCAR created a new 40-person content strategy group to oversee the league’s editorial and content marketing operations. Previously, NASCAR had separate teams dedicated to its website, social pages, video production, creative design, advertising partners and entertainment marketing efforts. These were individual business units, with their own, often overlapping goals, which created natural inefficiencies with how NASCAR created and distributed videos and other content across platforms.
“Entertainment marketing would come up with a project that they thought was good for entertainment marketing, and then they would tell the social team to share the video, but there were no conversations about whether that video even made sense for our social audience,” said Evan Parker, managing director of content strategy for NASCAR. “Even if it was something as simple as getting referrals back to the website — the social team is trying to build as big a following on social platforms as they can, and sometimes referring people back to the website doesn’t make sense.”
The new group, which is overseen by Parker, was created to oversee all of NASCR’s digital and social content and marketing efforts. It consists of the previous teams as well as six new digital content producers with backgrounds in writing and video production and editing. NASCAR’s TV production team and entertainment marketing team still exist as separate units, but have several staffers embedded within the content strategy group and participate in the group’s daily meetings every morning, Parker said.
A big focus for the content strategy group is to develop new projects that help bring the sport closer to new and younger fans across different platforms, according to Jill Gregory, CMO of NASCAR.
“Content strategy plays a major role and now we’re able to be smarter about it and funnel resources into channels like Snapchat’s Our Stories that expose our brand to [younger] audiences,” she said.
In addition to a deal with Snap to produce and curate four public stories during NASCAR races this year, NASCAR recently sold a show for Facebook Watch, which aired on the platform last month. The docu-series, called “Behind the Wall: Bubba Wallace,” which chronicled the racer’s preparation for and performance at his first Daytona 500. The series collected nearly 5.3 million video views on Facebook Watch across its eight episodes.
Other projects the content strategy group is involved with include the “Glass Case of Emotion” podcast hosted by driver Ryan Blaney and a YouTube talk show with driver Austin Dillon.
As Parker described it, the Facebook Watch show is a direct byproduct of the entertainment marketing team, which is routinely pitching TV and digital video series in the market, collaborating with the NASCAR productions unit and NASCAR’s social team, which oversees the relationship with Facebook.
“Bring those three together and we now have knowledge on how to sell a show, how to create content for social platforms and the ability to actually create high-quality content,” said Parker. “It’s not something that would have been easy to do in the old model because those three teams would not be talking to each other as they are doing every day today.”
Up next for NASCAR: ramping up its ability to create even more digital and social videos. The league is currently building a new digital and social studio space at its Charlotte headquarters.
It’s a necessary move for NASCAR. Just like with other American sports and linear TV in general, the league’s TV ratings are down. This year’s Daytona 500 drew 9.3 million linear TV viewers, down 22 percent from the previous year.
“People are getting their info elsewhere; they’re streaming content or following along on Facebook and Twitter, instead of being parked in front of a TV,” Parker said. “It’s a trend that’s probably going to continue. If we didn’t adapt, we would be left behind.”
Image courtesy of NASCAR via Getty Images