NASCAR: Listening to the Roar of Fans

On Sunday, October 25, 2009, I sat in the stands at the Tums Fast Relief 500 at the Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Virginia with my eyes glued to the scene unfolding before me as the roar of 43 super-charged, racing machines circled the short-track 500 times, traveling at speeds of 90-plus miles per hour, much of it bumper-to-bumper, touching side-to-side.

NASCAR's double-file race restart line-up Having grown up going to the races with my dad, I knew a day at the Speedway would be beyond loud and that excited fans would cheer their fav drivers with a fervor akin to the defense of home and country. But, at that moment, amidst the deafening thunder as the cars streaked by in front of me, I did not know that what I was seeing had anything to do with NASCAR's ability to listen.

The fact is that NASCAR took the “checkered flag” for "B2C Listening," a category in the 2009 Forrester Groundswell Awards in the Business to Consumer Division. By working with Vision Critical to create the NASCAR Fan Council - a community of 12,000 fans - they were able to triple the amount of research done and reduce those costs by 80%. Out of this B2C, or business to consumer, research came the suggestion by the Fan Council to allow the line-up for race restarts to be double-file instead of the traditional single-file.

NASCAR accepted this suggestion and, in an unprecedented move, implemented the change mid-season. As a spectator, I was thrilled to see the cars in a double line-up as they followed the pace car waiting for the caution to be lifted. It made the mood more intense, the roar louder, and left us as anxious as the drivers for the race to resume. As a fan, not on a council, I was glad NASCAR had been listening.

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Josh Bernoff, top research analyst for Forrester who co-authored with Charlene Li, “Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies” covers all 13 award winners in his blog post:  Winners of the 2009 Forrester Groundswell Awards.

Photo credit:  Z. Kelly Queijo

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Z. Kelly Queijo writes about business and technology, people and their passions.  She is a frequent contributor to Handshake 2.0.

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