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.”
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.”