Even without fans at races right now, NASCAR is making sure it provides them a quality experience – from their cellphones.
The governing body is partnering with Facebook around the launch of the tech company’s new mobile app, Venue. Venue, which will be available on both iOS and Android, will look to improve the second-screen experience for fans watching sports at home.
NASCAR, which will be the first sports partner with Facebook around the app, will utilize it to bring fans and commentators together to experience NASCAR’s live events.
The app will rely on the help of expert commentators who will act as hosts of a venue for each NASCAR race. Each venue will give fans unique insight into the race and will also be able to easily join multiple to get different takes on it. They range from well-known personalities like journalists and current and retired athletes to aspiring “fan-analysts.”
Some hosts that fans should look out for at venues include FOX Sports NASCAR reporter Alan Cavanna, driver Landon Cassill, and social media personality @nascarcasm. The man behind @nascarcasm is an anonymous resident in Indianapolis whose parody account on Twitter helped land him a full-time job with NASCAR digital media. After launching the profile in June 2010, it has grown to more than 180,500 followers and is followed by drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick.
Through Venue, fans can split their attention between the race and phones by its “Moments” function, which allows commentators to create short-lived digital opportunities for fans to connect with. Users will receive a notification whenever a new Moment is created so they can join and exit the app at their choosing. They can also stop scrolling or search to find other Moments that others are reacting to.
“As NASCAR makes its return to action over the coming weeks, Venue will provide users with a unique and exciting way to connect with fellow race fans from around the globe – all from the safety and comfort of their own homes,” Tim Clark, NASCAR chief digital officer, said in a statement. “NASCAR was built on innovation, and we couldn’t be more excited to help a great partner like Facebook’s New Product Experimentation team innovate around new platforms.”
NASCAR’s involvement with Venue came courtesy of Facebook’s New Product Experimentation team, which is responsible for researching, testing, and refining new product experiences.
“Facebook’s New Product Experimentation team is launching Venue to bring fans and creators together around live events, starting with NASCAR,” Ime Archibong, the head of Facebook’s new product experimentation team, wrote in a statement. “Digital spaces can connect us when we can’t be together in person, and Venue is one way to feel the energy of watching live events with other fans.”
Venue is the latest example of NASCAR tapping into innovative technologies to connect with its fanbase. During the league’s pause, it leaned heavily into content centered around classic races and throwback content, Clark said. Its partnership with iRacing helped fuel NASCAR’s investments into both the esports arena and the development of the Pro Invitational Series.
Ahead of NASCAR’s May 16 race at Darlington Raceway – its first since March 8 – it added numerous features to its mobile app. They ranged from a “scanner” that allowed fans to hear audio from nearly every car in the race to live data taken directly from the vehicles and delivered to users.
NASCAR’s “scanner” functionality has taken on a bigger life of its own. It is not only available on the website and the league’s mobile app, but it is also available on Amazon Alexa devices. Clark sees this as further proof that in a time when the coronavirus pandemic has yielded more questions than answers, NASCAR will continue to test out new products that can strengthen its relationship with its supporters.
“We are constantly in experimentation mode,” Clark said. “That is not meant to suggest that we will change just for the sake of changing, but we are always pushing ourselves to do more and do it better. I certainly believe that we are providing arguably the best at-home fan experience of any sport.”