ACCELERATING AN INDUSTRY

BACKGROUND

Declining attendance at NASCAR races during the economic downturn had created intense discussion in the motorsports industry and in the media about the future relevance of the sport to fans and sponsors.  To identify key issues and underlying societal trends impacting fan and sponsor support, as well as develop approaches for addressing these issues, NASCAR commissioned Taylor to conduct an in depth strategic assessment of the industry.  Partnering with NASCAR’s executive team, Taylor oversaw a landmark 15-month engagement which will help fundamentally transform the sanctioning body’s corporate communications and fan engagement strategies.

THE ENGAGEMENT

“At a critical moment in the history of the sport, NASCAR turned to Taylor to spearhead its transformation for the 21st Century,” said Steve Phelps, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, NASCAR. “Taylor’s unique capabilities in areas like strategic planning and digital consumer engagement helped NASCAR frame a vision for its future in a way that only a Bain or McKinsey could have matched, but Taylor’s sophisticated understanding of the motorsports landscape set them apart.”

The engagement began with a top-to-bottom review of NASCAR’s overall communications strategy, which resulted in the creation of a new Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) capability within the sanctioning body.  NASCAR subsequently asked Taylor to develop a series of four strategic initiatives designed to assess essential areas of the
industry:

  • an assessment of the fan experience at live race events
  • an in-depth examination of digital / social media strategy within
  • NASCAR, and throughout the digital ecosystem of the sport
  • an exploration of the most promising next generation fan segments for NASCAR
  • an assessment of NASCAR driver star power

To inform these initiatives, Taylor designed and managed a program of consumer insights research that broke new ground on three levels: scale, innovation and speed to market.  Working with best-in-class research partners nationwide, this consumer insights work included conversations with hundreds of fans across the country; over 50 focus groups; extensive social media listening; and in-depth ethnography studies at nine NASCAR tracks.   In many cases, no existing “off the shelf” research methodology existed that would uncover the vital insights needed to inform Taylor’s strategic recommendations; in these cases, Taylor created entirely new approaches.  The scale of the research commissioned by NASCAR would normally have warranted an execution timeline of over a year.  However, the desire of NASCAR CEO Brian France and the NASCAR Board of Directors to deliver key findings and recommendations by the start of the 2011 season at the Daytona 500 necessitated an aggressive six-month execution window, and required both significant commitment from NASCAR and flawless execution from the Taylor project team.  This commitment by the sanctioning body sent a powerful message to the entire industry.

“Few American business enterprises have embarked on such a sweeping series of initiatives to transform their brand, customer experience and communications model, in such an aggressive timeframe, as our client partner NASCAR,” said Christian Alfonsi, Executive Vice President of Strategic Planning at Taylor.  “Their commitment to understanding and enhancing every aspect of the fan experience speaks volumes about NASCAR’s larger commitment to the future health and growth of the motorsports industry.  We see them as a model for how other world-class enterprises can transform themselves to compete and win in the 21st Century.”

THE RESULTS

Upon presentation of findings and recommendations to NASCAR’s executive team, Taylor’s Brand Counsel Group facilitated a series of workshops with the NASCAR leadership to help develop a Five-Year Industry Action Plan for addressing the challenges and opportunities uncovered by the four strategic initiatives.  A key theme which emerged across all four initiatives is that digital is the key to the future for NASCAR. Accordingly, the sanctioning body turned to Taylor to develop a digital and social media immersion program for its senior executives and key communications professionals.

Taylor’s principal strategic recommendation was that NASCAR should embrace a new role that goes beyond its traditional function as the sanctioning body of the sport and become the essential, forward-thinking thought leader and quality control aggregator for the entire motorsports industry.  Recognizing that this role would inevitably require a new, more collaborative partnership model between the sanctioning body and key ownership constituencies, as well as with the sport’s sponsors and media partners, NASCAR asked Taylor to conduct a series of joint briefings with key stakeholders in the sport (including track ownership groups, team owners, drivers, sponsors, and media partners) to share the findings from the four strategic initiatives and the Five-Year Industry Action Plan.