From Twitter to TV, initiative helps NASCAR listen

jjones@charlotteobserver.comJanuary 14, 2013 

If a jet dryer happens to explode on a race track again, NASCAR will now be better equipped to handle the social media fallout.

Monday, NASCAR will unveil its Fan and Media Engagement Center, a technology initiative that collects and aggregates what’s being said about the sport in both social and traditional media and disseminates that information to the proper channels.

The center, housed on the eighth floor of NASCAR’s executive office building in Charlotte, is believed to be the first of its kind in professional sports. While several sports have a hub for social media engagement, NASCAR touts the glass-encased, 500-square-foot tech center as more than just that.

“As data comes in, whether it’s social media, digital, traditional media – it might be a TV piece or something on the radio or something that’s print-related – it’ll help us understand what’s happening out there from a fan perspective or media perspective,” NASCAR chief marketing officer Steve Phelps said. “We’ll have an understanding of what’s being said about NASCAR, whether it’s negative or positive. It’ll be able to allow us to react in almost real time to what’s happening.”

From a social media standpoint, workers at the center could respond to a tweet from a single user or alert radio and TV broadcasters to address a certain rule if there appears to be widespread confusion.

If a driver appears on a late-night talk show, the center will also compile media clippings and social media rumblings and send them to the driver’s public relations team.

The idea came to NASCAR CEO Brian France more than a year ago after he wanted a better look at the dialogue around the sport. After searching for a technology partner to turn this idea into reality, NASCAR picked Hewlett-Packard as its partner last spring.

Jones: 704-358-5223; On Twitter: @jjones9

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