Published in Editorials

NASCAR's Fan and Media Engagement Center Makes 'Creepy' Data Collection a Good Thing

by on15 March 2015 1865 times

Data collection, monitoring, storage, and mining are simply part of our online lives. If you connect to a site, it is going to collect some information about you. If nothing else it will collect the session information (IP address, time on site, pages read etc.), but will not use that for anything more than understanding traffic. Other sites will collect and maintain more information than that and in extreme cases you will get much more collected than that. However, no one seems to know what use this data is being put to and if there is any benefit to the collection at all.

Recently we had the chance to see someone take data collection and put it to some good use. Just before the Daytona 500 we were given the chance to hear how HP built a new system for NASCAR. This is the Fan and Media Engagement center. The system is designed to track and quantify information floating around on the internet about NASCAR, Drivers, Teams, and more. The information can come from Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other social media. They take this data and use it to change the way that NASCAR interacts with their fans.

There were two examples given that showed how this data was used to improve the fan experience and how it changed the way NASCAR reacts to issues that happen. In the first example we heard about how NASCAR reacted to an issue during a rain delay. The team monitoring the Fan and Media Engagement center noticed that interest in the race was dropping drastically and that the post that they were seeing were increasingly negative. To combat this NASCAR’s media team sent out a tweet asking fans what driver they would want to spend time with during a rain delay. This pushed interest in the race back up during the time when they were drying out the track and it ended up being a great race.

The second example involved an incident between two drivers on the track. Normally NASCAR would have released a statement immediately to control the message. In this case they noticed that the reaction by fans was very small with less than 1% of posts referencing it. They decided not to make the incident any larger and just let it sit. There was no negative impact to NASCAR, the drivers or the fans.

This is one the only times where I have seen creepy data monitoring/mining actually provide a real benefit to consumers/fans. Everything we saw seems very benign and while there is an obvious benefit to NASCAR, there is also a benefit to the fans of the sport. As the Daytona 500 started up we saw a demonstration of how the Fan and Media Engagement center worked with real time data on what fans were talking about and which drivers were had the most posts and tweets. The system could also identify where people were inside the track (if they had location data turned on). It was interesting to see the tweets in real time and see exactly what people were the most excited about.

FMC

Normally I am against data collection (outside of the minimum needed for traffic analysis). I just do not think that sites and businesses need to know everything about my online life. It would be nice if all of that data collection could be used to benefit consumers in the same way that HP and NASCAR’s system is, but that would go against most company’s drive for profit and we can’t have that now can we?

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