In this edition of the Turn 2 Blog, Richard and Michael discuss the elements of good promoting.
Richard: I recently read a post on social media that stated something to the effect of “track ownership and promoting are two totally different things”. If I could remember where I saw it, I would give credit where credit is due. But no matter who said it, the message is spot on. Fortunately, we have several good promoters in our area who do all they can to put their events and the sport of dirt racing in the best possible light.
But what makes a good promoter?
In today’s society, there are more choices of things to do on a given Friday or Saturday night than there ever have been. It is up to the promoters of each track to lure customers to their events and their facilities. And that may entail much more action on the part of the promoter than was the case 20 or 30 years ago.
In a recent question on Facebook and Twitter, I asked, “What is the one thing you’d like for dirt tracks to do that would improve the fan experience?” Aside from responses regarding things such a general upkeep of the facility, answers varied greatly. But some things that stood out were the need to get younger fans involved in the sport and offering a greater variety of events at the track.
Obviously, cost has to be considered. If a track goes over the top in promotion for an event, it will never make its money back. But what are some things promoters can do to get more people to the race track?
Michael: Promoters have to find a way to get into the communities and reach people, especially the kids. If the kids decide they would like to see a race, the parents obviously have to bring them. The easiest way to reach kids is through their schools. There are a variety of things already being done across the country such as this.
Visibility is key as well. Having a promotion at a sponsor’s place a business where race cars are on display is an easy eye-grabber. Drivers being on hand to talk to people really appeals to many fans when they see those cars on display and decide to stop in to check them out. Those are a couple of effective, inexpensive methods that are still tried and true ways to reach fans.
Advertising is still a good way, but a promoter has to be wise about where to spend those advertising dollars. It used to be that a local newspaper was the way to go. Newspapers are dying a slow death and often times their ad rates can be quite high. Radio ads still seem to be effective both in reachability and cost.
There are too many promoters out there that think releasing a press release to major racing sites and posting it on some message boards is promoting. That simply is not the case. Your audience is very limited in doing that.
Richard: Getting out into the community is essential. The idea of race cars at a place of business is one of the easiest and most effective ways of stirring interest. It’s good for both the track and the business. After all, what kid, or adult for that matter, can walk by a race car and not want to take a closer look?
A blend of advertising methods seems to work best as no one medium can reach everyone. But yes, newspapers are dying away yet they continue to price their ad space as if they’re still mainstream. My parents are good examples of folks who read newspapers. They are in their 70s and never leave the house after 7:00pm.
Radio spots work, but have to be run frequently to be most effective. This can be cost prohibitive for some.
I believe the most effective tool in the track promoter’s arsenal is interaction. Going out to appearances like those we mentioned above or taking advantage of events such as the Food City Race Nights here in this area create a buzz and make people want the track to succeed. Also, it is important for the people involved in the racing to interact with the fans at the track itself. Autograph sessions and track walks with the winning cars and drivers on the front stretch after the event is over can go a long way, especially with kids.
Like you said, a couple of posts on the track’s website is not promoting.
Michael: What really bugs me is when a promoter puts very little effort into what they do, whether it be for a weekly race or a special event, and then complain about the poor attendance and/or low car counts. The average to casual fan does not follow the sport like us die-hards follow it. A promoter needs to recruit them and let the fans know why they should come.
I feel like the big stir of last week over scheduling, and who did what to whom, could have been avoided if the offended promoter had done a better job of promoting his race for that night from the start. There was little to no promotion of the race. A good promoter will surround him or herself with good people to help them do the best job possible. In this case, some of those good people were replaced by those that lack the know-how to effectively promote an event.
Richard: You are exactly right to point out that average to casual fans don’t follow the sport as closely as die-hards. And because of that, those casual fans have to be engaged so that they will know something is going on at the track. The die-hards will know what’s going on because they seek to know what’s going on. So only using a track website or a message board is reaching a group that does not have to be reached because they already know what’s up.
One new medium in our modern world is that of social media. As a high school teacher, I can assure track owners and promoters that if they want to reach young people, they’re on Twitter and Facebook. For that matter, older folks are on there too. And the best part of both of those things as far as race promotion is concerned is that they are free.
And if the promoter doesn’t want to do it, a child or grandchild will most likely relish the chance to serve as the social media representative of the track. And it’s a great way to involve the next generation of leaders in the sport.
But as with the community appearances we’ve mentioned, interaction is the key. Too many times, I’ve looked at the Twitter accounts of certain race tracks to see that they only tweet a couple of times a week and never respond when questioned or mentioned.
As far as the flap of last weekend, it seems as if just a little communication could have gone a long way. If handled properly, a situation to benefit everyone involved could have been created rather than an attempt to seek vengeance. Sometimes promotion involves working with others involved in your line of business just as much as the customers meant to be reached.
Michael: I am still amazed in 2014 how little some tracks will use their social media accounts to keep fans updated with events and results. The same could be said for track web sites. Not getting results posted until Monday is unacceptable in today’s world. I know people that are in charge of such things (like myself) have other things to do, but it only takes a few minutes to post results. A story and photos can always come later. People want results ASAP.
Richard: I guess the bottom line in good promotion as far as I’m concerned is being part of the community and interacting with those who need to be reached, whether that be fans or fellow promoters. And in this modern world, it’s important to use the modern tools available. Many already do, but we in this sport all need to be pulling together or we’ll fall apart.