NASCAR is rolling out a new campaign that captures “the raw emotion, intensity and unpredictability of playoff racing.” The ads, starting with “It’s All on the Line,” feature live-action television creative and digital content across all 10 weeks of the NASCAR Playoffs.
“Now is when the pressure intensifies for all 16 drivers competing for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship,” said Jill Gregory. “This year, in collaboration with NBC, we’re letting the NASCAR Playoffs campaign write itself as the action and drama unfolds each week at the race track.”
brandchannel spoke with Gregory about fan engagement, content development and the new campaign.
How did the concept come about for the 2018 NASCAR Playoffs campaign, and where did you glean the insights from?
We’re taking a different approach this year, which is exciting for us. There were no production days. No scripts for drivers to read. Instead, we’ll have video crews at the track for all 10 playoff races to capture the intensity of live-action racing and driver emotions as it all unfolds on race day. Then we’ll roll out topical spots and digital content each week through to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship in November.
Our fans told us they want authenticity. They want to see the drivers as drivers—not necessarily as actors. Especially when it’s the playoffs and time to put it all on the line in pursuit of a title. And, of course, the racing itself is an essential part of our creative. This year, in collaboration with NBC, we’re showcasing what’s actually happening on the track and those storylines should resonate really well with our fans.
How is NASCAR’s content strategy driving a deeper level of engagement with fans on the whole
We know that whether you’re a new fan or have been with us for 20-plus years, you crave NASCAR content and you want it on your own time. That’s really been our focus over the past few years—not just creating the content our fans have come to love and expect but delivering it to them in a variety of ways, wherever and whenever they want it.
We’ve built a content strategy group that includes digital and social media, creative design, productions and entertainment—and we really think of it as functioning like a 24-hour newsroom. It’s doesn’t matter if we’re racing on Sunday and there are 10 laps left or its mid-week on Wednesday, the machine keeps moving because we’re a content-rich sport and have opportunities to engage our fans every day across multiple channels.
How do you think enhancing NASCAR’s top drivers’ brands impacts the NASCAR brand holistically?
It all starts with the drivers. They’re the stars and represent the faces of our sport. And we’re fortunate to have a unique blend of personalities including veteran drivers—some of whom are champions in their prime—and young, rising stars who are appealing to younger demographics.
When you look at our younger drivers, specifically, they’re digital natives. So, it’s been fun to follow them as they build their profiles across digital and video platforms—whether it’s Bubba Wallace through a Facebook Watch series, Ryan Blaney on his podcast on NASCAR.com or drivers like Austin Dillon and Daniel Suarez who are leveraging YouTube in creative ways.
Our drivers understand the importance of brand-building but we as NASCAR are very much involved, too, because of the clear relationship between their brands and ours. We have a great agency partner in VaynerMedia that is helping us both optimize what we’re already doing and explore new opportunities, particularly across social media.
Could you elaborate on the importance of data and analytics in advancing the auto racing sport?
The importance is paramount. Data and insights are the backbone that supports everything we do from a marketing standpoint. We have an expert team in house that is pulling and analyzing data every day and whose insights inform and guide our marketing strategies.
More than 25,000 fans are part of the NASCAR Fan Council, essentially a fan insights engine on subjects ranging from competition to sponsorship to general fan behaviors and preferences. Things like driver like-ability and team loyalties. It’s a living and breathing resource that is engaged for critical feedback and keeps our fingers on the pulse of NASCAR’s massive fan base.
Where do you see NASCAR in the next five to 10 years, in terms of its biggest potential growth areas?
Much of our focus is on getting younger and more diverse as we continue to serve our core fans. As our data shows, consumption habits of all sports will continue to change and evolve, and NASCAR needs to be on the front foot in terms of monitoring trends for key audiences and reacting and adapting quickly.
One example, introducing kids to NASCAR, is really important and will continue to be a priority. Right now, we’re in more than 30,000 classrooms across the country, working with Scholastic to integrate NASCAR into STEM lesson plans for middle-schoolers. Free tickets for kids to all NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events are helping bring families out to racetracks. If we can make fun, memorable connections with youth today, we can create fans for life.
Get more insights in our Q&A series.