NASCAR Stays on Track With Fans

Nascar fans

Lately, we’ve been looking at Listenomics, the new business model that encourages business to seriously listen to the customer – and to do what they suggest.

We’ve been looking for case studies and found another one at NASCAR, the ultimate ‘fan driven’ business.

By tapping into their fans and listening to their suggestions, NASCAR has significantly improved brand images and fan satisfaction.  The approach has been so successful that they just won a Forrester Groundswell  award as #1 in business-to-customer ‘listening.

To find out how they did it, I talked with Brian Moyer, Managing Director, Market and Media Research, at NASCAR and he put it simply, “We’ve found a model that works.”

About a year and a half ago, NASCAR worked with Vision Critical to set up the NASCAR Fan Council, a panel of 12,000 avid NASCAR fans who have become very important to NASCAR plans and policies.

In order to keep it manageable, the panel is restricted to 12,000, with a waiting list that asks a simple question, “Tell us why you want to be a member of this council?” For most fans, the answer is obvious – they want to be listened to – they want to be part of Listenomics.

And, Brian says, there are no gimmicks, “No marketing. No offers. The incentive is that they get to talk to us and see that things are happening at the end of the day”.

And, unlike some companies, he says, “ We didn’t need to create a community – they already exist. We were looking at a research approach.”

NASCAR uses this approach to help steer the organization. They listen to their customers and then do something about their suggestions.

When there was a controversy about race restarts, NASCAR internal stakeholders wanted to make sure that the right business decision was also a fan focused decision. So, they asked the Fan Council for suggestions. The result was Double-file restarts, seen by most NASCAR fans as an improvement to the sport.

As Brian says, ‘We listened, validated and made the change’.

NASCAR’s approach is open. They want to hear the good and the bad. Every time they reach out to the Fan Council for input, the first question asks, “Is there anything on your mind you’d like to share with us about NASCAR?”

When the fans say something, Brian pays attention.  “I read all the verbatims everyday. It’s time consuming but it pays off.”

He says that the surprise has been how the Fan Council has impacted the NASCAR culture. “It’s more than a tool to the company and the industry. It’s a seal of approval that we are listening. We don’t use the word panel – we use the word ‘Fan Council’ because that’s what it is.”

To Brian, the Fan Council is an extension of NASCAR’s passionate relationship with its fans. “Our fans can see us, visit the race shops, etc. – it’s built around family – the fandom is built at the household level.”

So far, NASCAR’s brand of Listenomics is generating real results, even though it’s early in the game.

“We’re having fun with this. The Council members like it. We’re still getting our feet wet. A sample of 12,000 lets us touch people at least twice a month – and the fans want to talk to us more often. Over 60% have told somebody they were part of the council.”

And, NASCAR is getting very smart about digging deep into their customers. They are moving beyond the mechanics of the races and have started tracking a key question among panel members, “How did the race make you feel?

From fandom to feelings, NASCAR is on the right track.

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