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How NASCAR Stays Up to Speed in the Ever-Changing Digital Space

Under Tim Clark’s leadership, NASCAR Digital Media team has rolled out multiple new initiatives since the NASCAR playoffs began.

Kraig Doremus

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NASCAR - AR - Digital Media

Tim Clark and his team at NASCAR Digital Media understand the importance of engaging fans and keeping up with the latest trends in digital media and technology.

Recently, they took advantage of new technology and made a move into using Augmented Reality and 360-degree video. The NASCAR Playoffs AR Experience was something that they experimented with during the 2017 season and pulled the trigger on for the 10-week playoffs in 2018.

“It’s been something that we have been keeping an eye on,” said Clark, vice president of NASCAR Digital Media. “We experimented with it last year, had it on the roadmap, and tossed around a few ideas for execution. We looked at the fan experience and how to involve our partners.”

The augmented reality experience isn’t just known as the NASCAR Playoffs AR Experience; the words ‘Refreshed by Coca-Cola’ play an important role, as NASCAR’s digital sales team was able to engage longstanding NASCAR partner Coca-Cola.

“It’s an ongoing conversation compared to a pitch,” Clark said. “The folks at Coca-Cola challenged us to provide unique opportunities to activate their NASCAR partnership. The AR partnership checked boxes and got things done for various stakeholders.”

What amazes Clark is how quickly the concept came together.

“We had the concept early in the summer, were able to take it to Coca-Cola during the summer months, and get things cemented right around late August, near playoff time.”

WATCH: Inside Toyota’s Massive Daytona Activation

One of the most unique things about the chance to experience AR is that anyone with a smartphone can do it. Fans simply place a 3D Coca-Cola can in their environment, which creates a superimposed portal into all the intensity surrounding the NASCAR playoffs action.

“I knew that we were on to something when we could test the demo with everyone from ages seven to 70,” Clark said. “That’s not an exaggeration. All you need is a phone and a NASCAR mobile app. We put a demo video together to show fans how to get the most out of it. It’s a great experience, and we’ve gotten great feedback. We’ve been updating content weekly as we go through the playoffs.”

Fans walk through the portal and are able to experience a number of cool moments that can’t actually be done at the track with just a typical ticket or even pit pass. They can see team celebrations, pitstops, victory lane celebrations, burnouts and more, thanks to the AR Experience.

“Around the Roval event at Charlotte, fans engaging with the NASCAR Playoffs AR Experience Refreshed by Coca-Cola were on a pit wall during a pit stop for Austin Dillon’s team,” Clark said. “The goal is to use this technology to put fans somewhere they can’t really access. You can put a camera somewhere and gather content from somewhere they can’t access.”

In addition to augmented reality, Clark and his crew also experimented with 360-degree video and succeeded beyond their expectations, allowing fans to see Ryan Blaney’s last-lap pass for the win at the inaugural Roval event at Charlotte Motor Speedway from a 360-degree perspective.

“I’m more excited about this than anything else we’ve done over the last few years,” Clark said. “We have a phenomenal team at NASCAR Productions that help us tackle a host of challenges associated with video — ranging from weight of the camera, to how it’s going to sit in the car, and the battery life. We were thrilled to get Blaney’s pass executed live.”

Blaney’s pass allowed the NDM team to launch yet another new type of activation, but Clark knows that in the digital space, patience is key.

“We have to be patient from an activation standpoint,” he said. “It’s a new and unknown commodity. We want to make sure fans are aware, but it’s new and we’re still learning and evolving. That will continue, especially as we get more comfortable and the technology gets stable.”

What’s next for Clark and his team? Only time will tell, but the ideas are neverending.

“We’re always looking for new ideas and have some cool stuff up our sleeves as the season wraps up,” Clark said. “It’s all possible thanks to the great team and partners we have. It’s been great to see the fans’ reaction to everything, and we’re going to keep creating great content.”

Kraig Doremus is a content writer for Front Office Sports with a focus on NASCAR. He holds a B.S. in Sport Studies from Reinhardt University and is currently pursuing his M.A in Sport Education from Gardner-Webb University. He can be reached at kraig@frntofficesport.com

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Golf Digest Back Charging For Growth With New Owner

Golf Digest is set to embark on its third ownership transition in its nearly 70 years of operation and all signs point to growth under new owners.

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Photo Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Discovery, Inc. continues its drive into golf with the acquisition of Golf Digest.

Discovery had already entered the golf space, attaining exclusive rights deals outside the U.S. for the PGA Tour, European Tour and Ladies European Tour. GOLFTV, an international streaming service launched by Discovery this past New Year’s Day, is in year one of a 12-year, $2.4 billion deal carrying the PGA Tour’s TV and streaming rights outside the U.S. Discovery also has global content deals with Tiger Woods and Francesco Molinari, using GOLFTV as its platform.

The bullish approach follows the trend of niche content in today’s media landscape. Discovery knows this firsthand with Food Network and MotorTrend. In sports, Discovery has had success with Eurosport and realizes sport fans crave consistent coverage.

READ MORE: The Caddie Network Partnership With Golf Digest Shows Power of Niche Platforms

“We’re looking to evolve our business and investing in content and genres that work for traditional and digital channels,” says Alex Kaplan, Discovery Golf president and general manager. “We learned from our experience with Eurosport Player, it’s very difficult to build an engaged fanbase when we offer multi-sport content.

“Let’s go deep into a specific vertical. Golf rights were available in an expansive way, and it’s not just compelling to watch, but fans play it, buy it, travel for it. It’s an ecosystem that was particularly compelling.”

The acquisition includes all brands under the Golf Digest brand, including Golf World, Golf Digest Schools and The Loop. According to the press release, Golf Digest attracts 4.8 million monthly readers and 60 million monthly video views. That’s along with its 2.2 million social followers.

This is Golf Digest’s third transition of ownership in its nearly 70 years of operation. All three have brought the media company different advantages, says Golf Digest editor Jerry Tarde, who’s been with the company for 42 years.

Tarde said The New York Times, which acquired the magazine in 1969, brought the basics and values of journalism, while Conde Nast, the owner since 2001, brought design, art and sophistication to the brand. Now, Tarde believes Discovery will bring growth.

Tarde, along with being editor-in-chief, gains a new title and role: Discovery Golf global head of strategy and content.

“This is an organization we’re at the heart of, in terms of developing sports and connecting with a high-value audience that’s passionate about the subject,” Tarde says. “This is the most exciting thing to happen to Golf Digest since it was founded in 1950. It lights a fire under us and gives us an opportunity to improve and expand U.S. coverage.

“We’ll also be able to extend it worldwide to more than 200 countries.”

On the other side of the equation, the acquisition gives Discovery a golf presence in the U.S. Kaplan said Discovery has been collecting its golf assets and knew an editorial vertical would be crucial, but it could take years to build. The Golf Digest acquisition allows Discovery to acquire that piece with one check.

“Our offering to golf fans and golf advertisers is now that of a global platform,” Kaplan says. “We can bring an aggregated golf audience anywhere in the world.”

READ MORE: GolfPass Could Set Standard in 21st-Century Sports Media

With a strong strategy in place, it will be business as usual for the time being, Tarde says, but there will be talk of new ideas and potential investments. Discovery will retain Golf Digest staff, continue the U.S. monthly print product and acquire global licenses for editions 70 countries.

“We’ve got a great team that’s been underutilized, really,” Tarde said. “Because of the way the publishing economy has been treated, our business has been in retreat. That’s now the way I spent my first 30 years. We were charging.

“This is the exciting part, we’re back on the charge.”

Like Tiger Woods on the prowl on Sunday.

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Inside the XFL’s New TV Deals

With nine months to go until its first game, the XFL has locked in its lineup of broadcast partners for all 43 regular season games.

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Photo Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else. 

With nine months to go until its first game, the XFL has locked in its lineup of broadcast partners.

The deals will see all 43 games appear on either broadcast or cable TV and will see them divided up between ABC, Fox, ESPN, ESPN2, FS1 and FS2.

What do you need to know?

1. – 24 of the XFL’s 43 games to be on broadcast TV (13 on ABC; 11 on Fox)

2. – According to Joe Flint of the WSJ, the deals are for three years, but no cash is changing hands.

3. – As part of the deals, the broadcast partners will cover the production costs of the games, which John Ourand notes will run $400,000 per game.

4. – Disney and Fox will keep all the television advertising inventory for the games while the XFL will handle the selling of sponsorships in the venues, according to Flint.

Will we see a repeat of 2001? 

The XFL’s reboot will come 19 years after McMahon and company attempted to make spring football a thing. Like the AAF this year, the league started with a promising opening night and then sputtered to the end. By the end of its first and only season, the XFL saw its ratings fall from a 9.5 to a 1.5 at their lowest point, according to OSW Review.

While the first time around may have not gone as planned, executives from all sides of the table are enthusiastic about the possibilities.

“The effort Vince is throwing behind it with his own personal capital and the combination of Fox and Disney platforms give us the best chance to make spring football work.” – ESPN programming chief Burke Magnus to Joe Flint of the WSJ.

Rolling into upfronts…

The announcement of the deals couldn’t have come at a more strategic time for all parties involved with upfronts scheduled to begin in six days. Given the fact that the broadcast partners will be responsible for selling ads, it would be rather surprising if the XFL inventory wasn’t included in their presentations.

Last year alone, the television upfront market for commercials generated $20.8 billion in commitment from advertisers, up 5.2% from the previous year, according to an estimate by Media Dynamics.

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Why Fewer Ad Breaks are Coming to the Super Bowl

Fox will be cutting back the number of commercial breaks for the big game by one, having only four breaks per quarter instead of five.

Front Office Sports

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Photo Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else. 

Next year’s Super Bowl might feel slightly different to viewers.

That’s because Fox will be cutting back the number of commercial breaks for the big game by one, having only four breaks per quarter instead of five, according to Brian Steinberg of Variety.

Fewer breaks, but the same amount of commercials…

Although Fox will be cutting down one whole commercial break each quarter, the four that remain will be slightly longer, allowing the broadcaster to still have the same amount of slots for advertisers even with fewer breaks in the action.

This isn’t a first for the NFL…

The league has been working with broadcast partners since last year to find new ways to deliver advertisements during telecasts. The initiative last year focused on delivering more sponsored vignettes and less “billboard” ads, a change that could be difficult at times for the networks seeing as in the past they have used the “billboard” inventory as bonuses to big-spending sponsors, according to Variety.

Why do they want to cut down? According to calculations from Streaming Observer’s Chris Brantner, the average NFL fan watches almost 24 hours of advertisements in a season.

Or other leagues…

As leagues battle for the attention of their consumers, making sure they give them less time to check their phone or change the channel has become a priority.

Earlier this year, MLB announced that it was planning to reduce each national commercial break by 25 seconds, NASCAR has been using split screen advertising since its days on ESPN back in 2011, and the NBA has done it with ESPN during timeouts.

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