Is ‘Live’ Technology Hurting or Helping Racing?

Over the past few years, I’ve worked with a number of race tracks across the country. One of the subjects that comes up over and over again is live updating.

I’ve had countless conversations with members of the industry who emphatically believe that live results published on social media are hurting our sport. With apps like Meerkat and Periscope, fans can now stream live video (for free!) right from the track or pits.

You might not be surprised by this, but I disagree with the argument that live updating stops fans from buying tickets. Fans come to the race track for the experience, not just for the results. Mistake that, and you’re missing out. 

It’s my opinion that live results are meant for fans who can’t make it to the track that night, whether they’re in a wedding or another state. They’re not for fans who just choose to stay home that night because they can find out who won on Twitter. 

In fact if results, or even a little bit of video, are satisfying enough to stop someone who would normally buy a ticket from walking through the gates, I think that says something worth thinking about. Either that person isn’t a serious race fan, or they don’t find the experience worth paying for.

If the first, are they really someone you want to cater to? Are they adding to the atmosphere at your track? If the second, maybe the product isn’t enticing enough to bring that fan there in person. Is the entertainment experience at the level it needs to be at? It’s a question we all need to ask ourselves if we want to keep the sport in good health. 

Personally, I feel that live updating, whether that’s text, photo or video, does two positive things for the sport: it satisfies the curiosity of those who can’t attend that race, and gives current non-customers a taste of what they could see if they came to the track in the future.

How many people joke about racing as a bunch of guys turning left? Simplistic, yes. But can you imagine if you tried to describe the game of football to a non-football fan? Do you think they would ever buy a ticket to an NFL game based on an oral account of first downs and touchdowns? Absolutely not. Most football fans are made, and kept, by what they see on television and social media. Not by the live in-stadium experience.

How many people do you think we could bring into the sport if they could see the excitement of racing at their fingertips, in the same way as other sports? More than without it, I can almost guarantee that.

So, you’re convinced. But should you be the source? It takes time and effort, but if you can do it then I recommend yes. If your fans are already watching Twitter – even from in your track’s stands or pits, we all do it! – they can either get live updates from you or from someone else. If they’re using someone else as their source of information, you’re losing out on the opportunity to engage your customers.

Personally, I think you should take every opportunity you have to build relationships with fans that seek it out. Because that’s what this sport is made of: relationships.


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About the author

Kristin Swartzlander Kristin Swartzlander is passionate about applying business sense to racing 'nonsense' in hopes of growing the sport of dirt track racing. She is a business strategist who works with entrepreneurs and small businesses to help them learn how to use public relations, marketing and social media to achieve their goals. Learn more about social media, marketing and racing sponsorship on the DirtyMouth blog.