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HP Software's community for IT leaders // April 2014
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Big Data puts NASCAR in pole position

Social media sentiment is helping NASCAR—and its partners—better build the brand and engage with customers.

The bottom line

What: NASCAR uses Big Data to achieve a new level of customer engagement.
Why: As the sports franchise attempts to expand its territory, Big Data allows for better targeting and marketing.
How: In partnership with HP Autonomy IDOL, NASCAR has created the Fan and Media Engagement Center to analyze and react to social media activity as it happens.
More: Dana Gardner's blog post includes the podcast and transcript about NASCAR’s Big Data initiative.

NASCAR is adopting a data-first approach to customer marketing that many other global businesses would do well to emulate. With a 65-year-old tradition, NASCAR is enjoying greater popularity than ever before, but the professional sports franchise is looking ahead rather than resting on its laurels.

Using the sentiment analysis capabilities of HP Autonomy IDOL, the NASCAR governing body has created a one-of-a-kind Fan and Media Engagement Center (FMEC) that is helping the organization achieve a new level of customer engagement. The FMEC allows NASCAR to

  • connect with its audience
  • optimize fan engagement strategies
  • invest in new markets
  • collaborate with partners

The platform scrapes and analyzes NASCAR-related social media activity from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram—18 million impressions in the first year alone—and uses it to understand what NASCAR fans, and even the media, have to say about the sport.

By combining fan chatter and news media inputs in the platform, NASCAR is able to get a more holistic understanding of how news is being received by fans. It starts, says Senior IT Director Steve Worling, with the questions NASCAR asks of its data. He ticked off some of those questions in a recent podcast with Interarbor Solutions analyst Dana Gardner.

"What are our fans saying, what are the news media saying, and how does that help or benefit our industry as a whole?" Worling asked. "What are the media saying about our sport, and then how do you tie those conversations together to get a really nice single pane of glass on the overall conversation?"

Monitoring a new launch

Getting an immediate gauge on the public perception of NASCAR news lets the organization decide whether official communication and/or response would better address concerns or shape perceptions.

This year, as NASCAR and General Motors roll out a new car, they intend to use the platform to understand the fan reaction to the vehicle and its new features, and share the feedback with GM. It’s a good example of how NASCAR wants to improve customer intelligence throughout the whole NASCAR ecosystem, which includes track owners/promoters, driving teams/drivers, and sponsors.

"Our goal over the next couple of years, as we work with HP, is to be able to sit down with [partners] and share the value of what their sponsorship—their partnership—brings to NASCAR," Worling said. "We give them real data on their … involvement in the NASCAR industry."

Expanding territory

NASCAR is also using the platform to understand how its newer investments in non-U.S. markets are faring. Filtering social media from specific foreign markets provides a reading on regional fan sentiment as the sport grows internationally.

"It’s really a great platform to allow us to right anything that we might be doing wrong [in those markets]," Worling said. "So if we need to enhance the marketing or enhance the engagement of those tracks, we’re able to do that through this platform."

NASCAR also intends to use the platform to engage with a younger demographic by adding new, trending social media inputs to the Big Data feed as they emerge.

Improving visualization

A recent initiative on the NASCAR IT team has been to add a command center to the customer analytics platform. Using HP Vertica and other technologies in HP’s HAVEn ecosystem, NASCAR has created a visualization tool so that analysts can see activity hot spots.

As people are tweeting, Worling explained, "we can dive down into that, understand what that data is, and then engage through our dot-com platforms and other media outlets to make sure that we're … addressing the concerns that are out there."

To learn more about the Big Data customer analytics solution built by NASCAR, listen to Dana Gardner’s HP Discover blog post for the podcast and transcript, and investigate the technologies behind it at HP.com/haven


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