How NASCAR Drives Better Storytelling With a Unified Team

How NASCAR Drives Better Storytelling With a Unified Team

The 40-person team handles: Social media Digital media (including all content for NASCAR.com) Videos for the brand website and social channels Creative design for all of NASCAR, including licensing, event signage, executive presentations, and more Partner engagement, which involves helping partners tell stories on their channels, as well as creating content for advertisers and partners on NASCAR-owned channels The NASCAR entertainment marketing group in Los Angeles, where Evan started with the company in 2011, also has a dotted line to the content team. And eight people on the NASCAR Productions team help shoot and edit video content for Evan’s group. With the new content team, NASCAR has more resources to get engaging stories into the limelight through social media and PR, and to create long-term content strategies, than the individual drivers, team owners, and tracks would on their own. For example, the team produced a video about Wessa Miller, who met seven-time NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt Sr. through the Make-A-Wish Foundation in 1998. The project brought together multiple groups within the content team, from video production to editorial to social media. Although NASCAR had already built a production studio for TV broadcasting, it wasn’t optimized for the kind of on-the-fly video that lends itself to digital and social channels. Instead of the content team chasing stories, drivers now say, “I have a story to tell. I want to come by, hang out, and collaborate with NASCAR around an idea.” The studio also made it possible for the team to create (and sell to Facebook for Facebook Watch) an eight-part docu-series about the first African-American driver in the Daytona 500 since 1969. New structure, new content studio, new possibilities Although Evan has some P&L responsibility and the ultimate goal is to drive revenue, the content team remains a cost center for now. Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute Author: Carla Johnson Recognized as one of the top 50 influencers in content marketing, Carla's latest book, Experience: The 7th Era of Marketing, with CMI's Robert Rose, teaches marketers how to develop, manage, and lead the creation of valuable experiences in their organizations.

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Editor’s note: Evan Parker is a finalist for 2018 Content Marketer of the Year. We’ll share insight from all the finalists in this blog before the winner is announced in September at Content Marketing World.

Enterprise content marketing is an exercise in collaboration. Planning, creating, distributing, and promoting content typically involves people on more than one team. It also leads to overlapping or conflicting priorities that can slow everything down.

That’s the challenge Evan Parker faced when he set out last year to lead NASCAR’s new content team.

The mission was daunting: to engage NASCAR’s fan base beyond the racetrack and win new fans among a generation that seems to watch any screen but television. But the results his team ultimately achieved – hundreds of millions of online views, a Facebook docu-series, a broader audience – earned him a nomination for Content Marketer of the Year.

Here’s what we can learn from how he and his team did it.

Unite the content team, solve the traffic jams

In 2016, NASCAR tapped Evan to head up a content group that included representatives from social media, digital, public relations, brand marketing, entertainment, and other departments. It was a first step to aligning the teams, but problems remained. The group functioned more as a committee than a unified team: Each department still had its own goals.

“Entertainment marketing created their content, brand created their content, social created their content. Everyone created content,” Evan says, “but it could be at the expense of another group, or we could be leaving opportunities on the table by not thinking how someone else could take advantage of it.”

In mid-2017, NASCAR leaders united the teams and put Evan, who reports to NASCAR CMO Jill Gregory, in the driver’s seat.

The 40-person team handles:

  • Social media
  • Digital media (including all content for NASCAR.com)
  • Videos for the brand website and social channels
  • Creative design for all of NASCAR, including licensing, event signage, executive presentations, and more
  • Partner engagement, which involves helping partners tell stories on their channels, as well as creating content for advertisers and partners on NASCAR-owned channels

The NASCAR entertainment marketing group in Los Angeles, where Evan started with the company in 2011, also has a dotted line to the content team. These connections help make sure content is integrated across the board. And eight people on the NASCAR Productions team help shoot and edit video content for Evan’s group.

“Our structure is unique in sports, and it gives us the ability to be successful. If we came up with an idea and took it to an agency,” Evan explains, “we’d lose control, lose flexibility, and it would be cost prohibitive.”

The new structure helps the team focus less on narrow job descriptions and more on creating the stories that help build the fan base.

Tell better stories, win hearts and minds

The NASCAR content marketing team focuses on stoking the passion of core fans. At the same time, it also works to build relationships with new (often younger) audiences who might otherwise only notice NASCAR during major events like the Daytona 500 or Talladega races.

To get both groups engaged year-round, Evan’s team needed to involve the drivers and help them tell great stories. With the new content team, NASCAR has more resources to get engaging stories into the limelight through social media and PR, and to create long-term content strategies, than the individual drivers, team owners, and tracks would on their own.

For example, when two-time Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. told the story on his Dale Jr. Download…

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