NASCAR, the racing series, is tapping consumer insights and digital data to drive innovation right the way down to the track layout, as will be demonstrated at this weekend’s Bank of America Roval 400.

Norris Scott, NASCAR’s vice president/analytics and insights, discussed this topic at the Association of National Advertisers’ (ANA) 2018 Data and Measurement Conference.

And he cited the inaugural Bank of America Roval 400 – the first playoff “road course” race in NASCAR’s history – taking place on Sunday, September 30th as proof of powerful insight in action.

While NASCAR has long been associated with high-speed action around oval circuits, this weekend’s contest at the Charlotte Motor Speedway will feature two chicanes and 17 turns – a change Scott described as “massive” and “risky”.

Such a dramatic shift was based, in part, on research that undertaken with a regional cohort of brand loyalists in the Charlotte area.

“We talked to both lapsed fans who haven’t been to the track in a few years as well as avid fans who had attended a race very recently,” Scott said. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: Confidence in data, analytics drives NASCAR from oval to “roval”.)

Although some fans were oval purists, “we found that lapsed fans had some interest in a new concept” – namely, a “road course” – with more turns contained within the oval, or what was termed a “roval”.

“This was a big opportunity for us and we wanted to get it right ... Our hypothesis going into this was that we needed to get fans to realise that the new track could be the best of both worlds,” Scott said.

More face-to-face research validated the theory. “Fans said they liked the track shape because it was genuine,” said Scott. “They also felt this track was innovative. Again, we learned it made sense for us to be trying new things.”

Additional corroboration came from NASCAR’s Fan and Media Engagement Center (FMEC), which boasts 25,000 fans as members, and has the digital tools to break out their second-by-second points of interest in a race.

“[NASCAR] looked at social sentiment and engagement from other road course races during the season. It helped us understand what drove engagement and interest,” Scott said.

“We learned, again, that fans thrive on this unpredictability but also enjoy the speed and the community that NASCAR brings. “

Sourced from WARC