This Spring, Austin Streitmatter and I had the opportunity to cover the NASCAR race at Talladega Superspeedway from behind the scenes. We were lucky (as my mom says … blessed) to receive media passes that granted us access to cover the event on socials from an analytical/business + faith viewpoint.
Here are 7 things I learned from the experience…
Give it a shot.
Apply for that job (or in our case - media pass). You never know where you’ll end up. Two college kids asked drivers questions (even after the win) and had people tell us we sounded so professional and did a great job - even the President of Kyle Busch Motorsports. Heck, one lady even said that us asking questions gave her courage to ask them; so … go for it.
NASCAR isn’t done yet.
Sure, it may not be like it was 20 years ago, but that doesn’t mean it’s not thriving - especially in certain areas. NASCAR is doing great with two things in particular: fan immersion and competitive parity. The competitive parity is something the sport has going for it compared to F1 or IndyCar. It seems like every week Max Verstappen has won another race, while there have already been 11 different winners this season in NASCAR, only through 17 races. Given the playoff format as well; a driver who has his lucky day can get in the playoffs and have a real shot at winning the cup if the chips fall their way. Just ask Ross Chastain last year. Immersive fan experiences put NASCAR fans in the action. From the Talladega Garage Experience to the interaction between drivers and fans; this is truly something NASCAR has a competitive advantage on compared to many other sports or entertainment options.
Kyle Busch is nowhere near “washed up.”
As I just spoke on competitive parity; one of the two drivers which are trying to keep that from happening this year is none other than a driver who was being questioned on how much he still had left in the tank. Kyle Busch is on what some may say a “revenge tour” after not getting a sponsorship deal with Joe Gibbs Racing, who he had been with for 15 years. With 3 wins in and 10 top 10’s in only 17 races, you have to feel like this may be another glimpse of the 2015 season. When Rowdy is faced with adversity, he comes back better than ever.
Attention spans are short.
When posting content; people gravitate toward short bits of high-energy content. When analyzing the Center for Sports Analytics video posts of race week, there was an 8.5% drop in watch through rate for every 10 seconds (see chart below; video length on the X-axis). Interestingly, everything posted 3 seconds or less had a 100% watch-through rate.
Fans want action.
This is of course intuitive, but the proof is in the pudding. When posting to the Center for Sports Analytics Twitter, there was a significant jump in engagements and impressions for “in the action” and “behind the scenes” type posts. Of the engagements garnered from our posts which was roughly split in half (photo/text vs. video), 79.13% of the engagements came from video (ex: interviews with drivers, race video, pit stops, wrecks, etc.) while only 20.87% of the total engagements came from text or photo posts.
Bubba gets a bad rap.
The people are what make the sport great.
Just about everyone I met virtually and at Talladega were nice to us and treated us like family. We had fellow media folks on site from South Florida & Illinois (Austin’s stomping grounds) show him around, and I think he had more fun learning from and talking to them than he did with anything else. Mr. Mike Verlander (Kyle Busch Motorsports), Josh Slate (Niece Motorsports), and Henry Hobbs (Behind the Wall Media) all took time out of their days to give us great insight into how the teams drive revenue (even in out-of-the-box ways), create content, and provided us with great information on how to get the most out of the media experience. Everyone wanted to lend a helping hand, and it showed … all we had to do was ask. The hard part is getting fans to the race. Because if they get there, they’ll want to come back - time and time again. It’s about the people, the experience, and what’s on the track … it comes last.
Smith, Marshal. “Talladega.” 23 April 2023.
About the Author
Marshal Smith is a current Sports Business MBA student at Samford University where he is the Graduate Assistant for the Samford University Center for Sports Analytics. He received his undergraduate degree in Entrepreneurship with a concentration in Sports Marketing from Samford University. Marshal’s goal is to gain valuable sports experiences and eventually teach Sports Business, Marketing and Analytics in the Brock School of Business.