NASCAR Uses Big Data to Better Engage With Fans

Posted 02-06-2013

NASCAR Uses Big Data to Better Engage With Fans

By Paul Hyman

The huge entity that governs auto racing events has teamed up with Hewlett-Packard to make sense of the flood of data being generated by social media and elsewhere.

When big data threatens to overwhelm with just too much data, organizations like NASCAR, the sanctioning body that governs much of stock car auto racing, need help keeping things on track.

That is why NASCAR is now partnering with HP, which leveraged its business solution design and implementation services, plus its Autonomy software, into a high-tech platform being used in what has been dubbed the NASCAR Fan and Media Engagement Center (FMEC).

The business challenge that had confronted NASCAR was making sense of all the structured and unstructured data relating to the racing industry–from social media like Facebook and Twitter to media outlets in print, radio and TV, according to Charles Salameh, vice president, Americas region, Communications, Media and Entertainment Industry at HP Enterprise Services.

“NASCAR needed to be able to make the data applicable to their business so they could analyze it in order to better understand fan sentiment, to identify emerging issues, and to uncover trends so they might be able to take some meaningful action,” Salameh says.

To do that, he explains, HP is using its Autonomy Media Aggregation Service to interface with traditional and social media and to grab information that then goes to HP’s Autonomy Explore software to identify keywords, like “Daytona 500” or the name of a certain driver.

Then HP employs the pattern-matching techniques and probalistic modeling of its Autonomy Intelligent Data Operating layer to form a conceptual and contextual understanding of all the digital information gathered.

Finally, HP Digital Signage displays project the results in a way humans can understand it.

“The NASCAR ecosystem is a huge one involving fans, race teams, owners, drivers, racetracks, promoters, sponsors, advertisers, media and many more,” says Sean Doherty, director of digital engagement and integrated marketing communications at NASCAR. “The FMEC is now capable of taking all that data and slicing and dicing it to make it relevant to each of those audiences.”

For example:

Race teams can gauge fan conversation and reaction to a new paint scheme for one of its cars to decide whether to alter it before future races.

The Charlotte Motor Speedway is tracking conversations and levels of interaction about one of its recent ticket promotions.

A sponsor is following track response and media coverage about a new marketing campaign.

“FMEC’s uses are really endless,” says Doherty, “and the system gives us a lot of flexibility to segment the data to provide custom-tailored analytics to each of the groups within the NASCAR ecosystem.”

NASCAR Uses Big Data to Better Engage With Fans

Meanwhile, the success of the custom-built solution HP created for NASCAR has prompted other companies to inquire about how the platform can be replicated to meet their needs, reports HP’s Salameh. “They want to know about consumer sentiment regarding their new products, marketing campaigns, partners and suppliers. Their needs are no different from NASCAR’s.”

While Salameh says he can’t provide the names of recent inquirers, he revealed that the movie and TV production company DreamWorks Animation is an HP partner and uses a similar technology to better understand its industry.

Salameh‘s advice to CIOs about using social media and technology to better engage with customers is to communicate with their company’s business units, perhaps its CMO, to discuss how information analytics can help support the business from a marketing operations standpoint.

“Ask the business leaders about how the understanding of complex information sources can be structured in a way that can create intelligent insights,” he says. “We’re seeing more and more of the business units pushing on the CIOs to do that–and not vice versa.”

About the Author

Paul Hyman is a freelance technology writer and editor. He was an editor-in-chief at CMP Publications (now United Business Media) and currently reports for such publications as Communications of the ACM, IHS’ Electronics360, and CRM Magazine. See an archive of some of his stories.