Indy500 Co-Opts Fans’ Instagram Shots for Promo Campaign

A couple of weeks ago we had a very interesting discussion with the founder and CEO of VenueSeen, a new tool allowing users to simplify the process of creating and managing visual PR/branding/marketing campaigns. The company recently launched its biggest official project to date, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to highlight an Instagram branding effort done right.

The client is the Indianapolis 500, the classic Indy Racing League contest long considered one of the world’s three biggest motorsports events. Noting that many fans took photos related to the event and shared them on Facebook and Twitter, the Indy’s promoters turned to VenueSeen for ways to use this invaluable user-generated content for promotional purposes (without running into the whole “you stole our stuff” complaint that continues to give Instagram execs terrible headaches).

Here’s the deal: The event’s marketing team created a microsite and a hashtag with the theme “Indy 500 or Bust”, using VenueSeen’s service to produced a geotagged map that “tracks” participating users as they make the journey to Indianapolis for the event and highlights the pics they take along the way.

Unlike some other Instagram campaigns, this one included an enticing offer: fans submitting their pics will enter to win a 2014 VIP race “experience” including tickets and other goodies.

And here’s Indy500’s marketing director explaining to Ad Age that the project does not in any way amount to an exploitation of Instagram users: “When someone hashtags [an Instagram photo], we’re not using them commercially, we’re just showing them. People are making the choice.”

As VenueSeen CEO Brian Zuercher explained to us in our interview, the service can also send automated notifications to users when their photos have been featured in campaigns, thereby giving them an opportunity to request the pics’ removal and avoiding any potential privacy complaints. The hashtag also helps by clarifying that users actually want their photos to appear on the site. Here’s a screenshot demonstrating the variety of images chosen by the marketing team:

We never really understood why the whole “using publicly shared Instagram pics in branding campaigns” thing was such a big deal, but the Indy500 project serves as a good example of how to do it well by including the fans and encouraging them to actively engage with the brand.

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