Say Goodbye to 2014. Motor racing’s future is upon us

Short-range Bluetooth communication

For the past several years, I've been one of many preaching about changes needed to revive motor racing's sagging popularity. Unlike others however, I have stressed that the changes needed won't solely come from the more routine solutions that periodically arise from various sources. Instead, the real changes of noteworthy distinction will be represented by the relevant use of now emerging technology.

As a marketer, I believe that motor racing's revitalization will rise from the doldrums through the fan's experience at a race event, my "events begets fans" philosophy more than any other single modification. Motor racing must build a cohesive coalition of interested sponsor partners, series participants and related parties who will help radically change the way fans experience attending a motor race through the use of technology.

Bluetooth Beacons in Macy's

Recently, I've been reading more and more articles that illustrate just one aspect of this trend. For example, one recent press release announced that Macy's is installing Bluetooth beacons in all its stores to provide greater customer experience while shopping and a second article pointed to similar announcement that MLB will also be installing and utilizing beacons in its stadiums to enhance the fan experience.

What's retail and baseball got to do with racing? It's ample evidence that this kind of enhancement to the public "experience" ranging from shopping to going to a ball game is about to transform our lives in general and its addition to the world of motor racing is more than a logical extension, it is a pivotal, if not transformational, development.

Motorsports has ample and obvious deep rooted commercial affiliations with all types of high technology businesses that can generate interactive marketing capability of truly ground-breaking scope. I anticipate NASCAR and Indy Car and others to roll out more and more elements that take full advantage of these new technologies and increasingly build a marketing arena powerhouse that little resembles what we commonly recognize today.

So what are Bluetooth beacons and how do they relate to motor racing? In basic terms, my rudimentary understanding is Bluetooth beacons are inexpensive and small radio beacons strategically located in a store or stadium (or race track) that enable location aware apps to trigger specific customer messaging of relevancy. When Bluetooth technology is switched to "on" on your smart phone, as the individual enters the specific and localized beacon territory, a maximum of 50 meters range, the app recognizes that location and will automatically send that phone a very specific and relevant message.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Despite the ever present concerns for privacy and the overuse of unwanted messaging, if implemented properly, with transparency and real elements of enhancing a fan's experience at the track, the potential for creating motorsport sponsorship value is far reaching. Bluetooth beacons can commence interacting with race fans the moment they enter the facility. Bluetooth can drive sales, inform fans of activities, provide increased access, generate highly relevant coupons, discounts and greatly increase fan interaction with the event in very personal ways.

A revolutionary blend of racing action with an invisible, wireless technology actively tuned to help fans effortlessly enjoy the race in a much more intimate fashion, an up close relationship with elements they're most interested in. Everyone's personal experience at the race will be different based on where they go on-site and what their interests are. Bluetooth beacons are cheaper than Wi-Fi and the messaging is passive meaning the fans don't have to do anything other than cross the beacon location to receive a timely message of interest.

Of course, the real importance in all this is the commercial ramification. I believe it's critically important that motorsports emerges from a brand exposure centric sponsor model as the means to generate benefits to one that enhances the fan experience and engagement factors to build more relevant impact for companies actively involved as sponsor partners.

Will fans "accept" this new technology? According to these reports, 60% of the app users opened beacon sent messages and 30% used the offer to purchase an item via an ad generated by the beacon. These are powerful figures.

Taken in combination with the legendary fan support of commercial sponsors over the past decades, it is indeed possible these figures could be conservative within the sponsor friendly confines of a racing event. As long as the messages sent contain information of interest and enhancement, a race fan will, I believe, welcome the messages to a high level of interaction. If the messaging relies too heavily on sales advertising with no specific racing or attending the event benefit, then interest is likely to fade as messages are ignored and/or Bluetooth simply disengaged.

However, motorsports has always enjoyed the major advantage of a very energetic and receptive fan audience eager to support sponsor companies involvement. With these new technologies designed to encourage a higher level of engagement, the opportunity for business and sponsor success has never been brighter. This is why focusing on generating more race fans that will be engaged to as high degree as possible, is so important.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Do the math. If 30% of a fast growing and much larger audience actually use a beacon sent message to purchase sponsor oriented product at a race event, the sport would seem more likely to turn the heads and talk the language of corporate sponsors. Now that highly sought after fan loyalties can be intersected with far more relevancy and intimacy than ever before, the impact is real, tangible and more readily measureable.

In order to compete in future seasons, it is clear that the entire motorsports industry should consider implementing increasing levels of savvy interactive marketing structure. While not the only thing that will "save" motorsports from an obscure and dated future, I'm in the camp that foresees this type of technological wizardry will signal the beginnings of a far more modern and relevant one.

By working with the series and its commercial partners, the use of relevant technology is a promotional strategy that could help motor racing usher in a new era of fan experience that is unique, exciting and unforgettable. Events begets fans, and the fan's experience at the race track is the key to building a far brighter future.

Brian C. Mackey is president of Mackey Marketing Group, Inc.
He can be contacted at
brian@mackeymarketing.com

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