International Speedway: Where the CIO Runs Marketing

By Jim Nash  |  Posted 03-07-2012

The ultimate proof that the functions of the CIO increasingly overlap those of the CMO (and vice versa) would be an IT chief who switches careers to marketing. Time will tell if that'll ever happen, but the next best thing can be found at International Speedway Corp.

Craig Neeb is CIO and VP of multichannel marketing with International Speedway, which owns and/or operates 13 auto racetracks around the country.

"We decided three years ago that there is an operational segment to marketing," says Neeb. That segment often is a drag on a marketing team's strengths. "Creating this post frees up traditional marketing to deliver on marketing innovation" that is intrinsic to both marketing and IT.

Marketing is a primary function of International Speedway, which owns and/or operates 13 auto racetracks across the United States, including the NASCAR fan favorite, Talladega Superspeedway. It promotes more than 100 motor sport events annually.

Can one measure the return on investment of putting the CIO in charge of marketing? Yes, if indirectly, Neeb says.

International Speedway's "marketing dollars have gone down, not up. We're spending less in mass media and more on digital marketing, and yet we're doing more in directed marketing than we were before the change."

My side (of marketing) includes the call center, site design and all digital channels and traditional IT," says Neeb, who's a 30-year veteran of IT.

Wait, site design?

"Yeah," says Neeb. "You can master the art and still fail with navigation. There's art and science to online work."

All About Social Media

But it wasn't the eternal cool-versus-useful design debate that prompted the firm to create its joint IT/marketing post. "It was about 2008," Neeb says, "right when social media started really coming on." International Speedway executives thought social media would become one of its major channels. But it's all shouting in the dark without tools and metrics that can best be deployed and managed by IT, according to Neeb.

Having a CIO with a firm footing in marketing helps in creating effective metrics and methodologies. It also can lead to cohesive goals and a unified culture.

For example, Neeb has deployed a workflow app used by both IT and marketing on shared projects. Whereas most sizable firms use such apps, it's less common to see one deployed that tracks the progress of IT and marketing single team.

As much as it might surprise (and unnerve) some, it's possible that such joint IT/marketing deployments might be increasingly necessary in today's competitive business environment.