America’s Largest Spectator Sport Is Finally Embracing Digital

Nascar’s new multifaceted social campaign

@ JimmieJohnson thinks fans need to grow beards if he’s going to win the current Sprint Cup Chase. And as they tweet him pictures of themselves in fake beards, they often hear back in real time. Other fans think @KaseyKahne needs a lucky penny, and they tweet him pictures of coins.

Nascar, America’s largest spectator sport, is not only a powerful brand in its own right; it also serves as a convergence point for some of the country’s largest marketers. Ogilvy & Mather’s current work pulls together the Nascar brand, teams, drivers, fans and sponsors to cheer on their favorite cars and drivers through the use of #whatdriversneed across all their social sites. Individual drivers also get hashtags, such as Johnson’s #what48needs. The campaign’s focus is Twitter and Instagram, with support on, Facebook, TV, radio and in print.

“This is our first big digital push, but every year going forward will have a digital focus,” said Kim Brink, vp, marketing at Nascar. “We’ve created an ecosystem where everyone is codependent in a good way.”

It’s an important turning point for Nascar, which wants to attract a new generation of younger and multicultural fans. Nascar sold its digital rights to Turner Sports in 2001 and only this year regained them.

“We were behind in the technology space. That’s what spurred them into taking the rights back,” said Andrew Campagnone, senior managing partner, Sports Marketing Consultants, which reps companies coming into Nascar.

For Ogilvy & Mather New York president Adam Tucker, using social is a no-brainer: “Nascar has such a cult fan base who are more engaged than in other sports.”

The campaign was a factor in driving digital growth. After five weeks, Nascar has added 25,000 Facebook fans, 20,000 Twitter followers, 46,000 YouTube subscribers and 1,000 Instagram followers. There have been 3,000 Twitter posts and 10 million impressions. Brink joined Nascar in 2011 from General Motors, where she got to know top owners and drivers through Chevrolet’s Nascar brand partnerships. Aside from creating a more ambitious social and digital strategy, she is looking to elevate drivers’ profiles with help from the likes of ESPN, which is airing spots featuring Nascar hashtags. Ogilvy and ESPN agency Wieden + Kennedy coordinated their work.

Calle Sjönell, Ogilvy New York CCO, said the drivers in commercials easily sell Nascar. “They are the most approachable of sports superstars and are close to fans. They’re helping redefine Nascar for a new generation,” he said.

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