by Martha Heller

How IT Innovation Helps International Speedway Engage Racing Fans

Apr 29, 20133 mins
CRM SystemsInnovationSocial Networking Apps

The chief marketing officer at International Speedway offers insights into how innovative technology can improve the guest experience.

Daryl Wolfe, chief marketing officer at International Speedway, talks about how IT innovation can improve the guest experience for all types of racing fans.

[Related: Mobile, Analytics Help Sports Industry Score More Sales]

How are you using technology to engage fans?

Daryl Wolfe: Our goal is to give fans a thrilling experience driveway to driveway, which starts when they buy their tickets. We segment customers into categories and then engage them at the appropriate level.

For example, “casual” fans, who have never been to a facility, can access 3D maps, live-chat options and information about parking. “Avid” fans will opt for more detailed event information on our digital channels during race day.

Tell me how technology affects the race-day experience.

Daryl Wolfe: A Nascar event is a combination of a music festival, state fair and sporting event, all wrapped around a thrilling race. We want our technology to augment that experience. We’ve invested in “in-seat” and “at-track” technologies such as FanVision, which offers 10 channels of video and in-car cameras that let fans experience the race from the drivers’ perspective.

Telemetry data provides information about car performance, and scanner technologies let fans in on the communications between the driver and crew. Mobile apps let fans navigate the facility, review event schedules and follow social media feeds.

How does technology keep the customer engaged once race day is over?

Daryl Wolfe: We send out post-event surveys, which allow fans to give us feedback on their experience. We measure 12 touch points, including their experience at the entrance gate or with food service or restrooms. Improving the guest experience at our stadiums is a never-ending journey.

If you had to hang your hat on one technology innovation, what would it be?

Daryl Wolfe: There are many, but one that comes to mind is a pilot program where we gave our fans cards that allowed them to register their names. They could walk around the property and check in at different tap towers [that dispense beer].

Our goal was to generate more customer data, but what surprised us was how much the fans loved the program. They turned it into a scavenger hunt, where they searched for these tap towers and posted their successes on Facebook. It turned out to be another way to entertain the fans during the event.

That requires a tight relationship between marketing and IT. How do you make that work?

Daryl Wolfe: Five years ago, our then-CIO (now VP and chief digital officer) Craig Neeb and I decided to foster a tight collaboration between IT and marketing. Our teams started attending each other’s meetings, and now we have IT people thinking like marketers and marketers thinking like IT people. We changed our terminology–I stopped using terms like “psychographic,” and Craig stopped saying “architecture.”

What technology innovation are you most excited about?

Daryl Wolfe: It has to be how social media is continuing to evolve. Three years ago, I tried Twitter but didn’t really get the value proposition, so I stopped using it. Then, about a year and a half ago, some colleagues suggested I give it another shot as it would be a great vehicle to voice my thoughts about the company, the sport and our fans. Now I love using the platform. It’s such an efficient way to give and receive information.

Martha Heller is president of the executive recruiting firm Heller Search Associates and author of The CIO Paradox. Follow her on Twitter: @marthaheller.

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