During this past off-season, NASCAR looked took a page on how to reach new fans on TikTok from an unlikely source: The Washington Post.
NASCAR had launched its account on the platform in October, but it took a wait-and-see approach to its content strategy, according to Chris Littmann, NASCAR’s director of social media strategy.
With no race coverage these last few months, NASCAR saw the Washington Post’s success on TikTok as something it could replicate.
“I think they’re a great inspiration for us in the off-season because they’re good at using an office space as a backdrop and being able to pull in different elements,” Littmann said. “There are fans who have enjoyed seeing what it’s like to work at NASCAR, where you work, or what it’s like day-to-day whether we’re doing something silly or something serious. Getting in a little bit of a different comfort zone in terms of our content and how it ties back to NASCAR is probably the thing that you’ll continue to see us do.”
Despite not catering directly to a sports or pop-culture audience, The Post has accumulated more than 374,100 followers and 19.2 million likes on TikTok. Those numbers surpass notable sports leagues like Minor League Baseball and the XFL.
What’s worked well for the D.C.-based newspaper? Being able to maximize their content potential out of an ordinary office space, Littmann said. Videos ranging from employees doing #ThrowbackThursday-like tributes to bad fish jokes have seen anywhere between 308,000 and 611,400 views on TikTok.
Since leaning more into The Washington Post’s simplistic TikTok approach, NASCAR is already watching some office-based videos gain as many as 250,400 views and 18,000 likes.
Despite not paying much attention to TikTok in early 2019, Littmann now is utilizing it to promote the circuit and its unofficial start to the 2020 season at February 16’s Daytona 500 with NASCAR’s presence on TikTok.
As of February 12, the league has surpassed 100,000 followers and more than 1.2 million likes on TikTok. It reaches the century mark even though, at this time last year, NASCAR wasn’t on the app.
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NASCAR’s ascension on TikTok has been, like many other accounts launched by sports properties, quicker than anticipated. Less than two months after joining TikTok, the circuit grew to more than 71,400 followers and roughly 793,000 likes. A post of NASCAR driver Corey Lajoie reenacting Kylie Jenner’s “Rise and Shine” video became one of the league’s most popular posts; as of February 12, it has more than 634,700 views and 40,400 likes.
It is not just the interaction with its drivers that has served NASCAR well on TikTok. On October 26, the league published two videos: one of a crew member scraping debris off a tire during a pitstop, and another of a crew team fixing the back of a race car with WWE commentary weaved into it.
As of February 12, these two videos are still NASCAR’s most successful posts on the platform. Each has more than 3.4 million views and accounts for a combined 222,200 likes. Together, they account for approximately 18.5% of NASCAR’s total likes on TikTok.
“I think we’re getting more and more comfortable doing content that’s loosely related with NASCAR,” Littmann said. “Maybe those things are just like subtly branding it NASCAR as opposed to feeling like everything has to be a repurposed highlight or repurpose video. When we get out to the track, we’re going to have opportunities to be more deeply integrative.”
As is the case with TikTok, brands have activated on the app for the sake of its trend worthiness. Little goes into concepting a concrete content strategy, and that can quickly ruin any chance at establishing itself on TikTok.
According to Kristi Wagner, director of sponsorship and content at Mindshare, NASCAR served itself well by waiting to join TikTok. While it seems like a simple tactic, she has seen NASCAR lean heavily into this, and carefully plan out their intentions on TikTok.
“They didn’t rush into jumping on TikTok,” Wagner said. “They were very thoughtful about how they brought it to life, and they’re using a lot of custom content for TikTok. They use their Twitter channel more for news purposes. They use Facebook, which is slightly more leaning toward their older audience, and then Instagram obviously for shorter bits of content.”
“From that perspective, they’ve found the right balance as to who they’re speaking to on which platform and listening to their fans and what they want on in each of those scenarios,” Wagner added.
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Months into NASCAR’s TikTok presence, Littmann still feels a sense of amazement when analyzing other sports accounts. A single piece of viral content can instantly change one’s following within a matter of minutes.
Littmann doesn’t want to get caught up in TikTok’s follower metrics, however. Instead, he wants to continue to see gradual growth and lay the foundation for what could be massive gains in the future for NASCAR.
“If we can continue to get those little incremental wins in pieces, rack up a few million views, and consistently – a few times a month – expose NASCAR to people that otherwise don’t have a touch point with it, follower growth will come with that, but I think that exposure is more important,” Littmann said.