At the Nascar Coke Zero 400 in Daytona, Florida on July 6, drivers weren't the only participants. That's because the broadcast of the event on TNT also included a 60-second Twitter race billed "the shortest race in Nascar history," which asked fans to tweet to help their favorite drivers win a virtual race.
The initiative, the Sprint 60 Unlimited, resulted in nearly 7,000 votes.
Never.no, a social television platform for TV producers, said race sponsor Sprint and advertising agency Leo Burnett used its social TV advertising platform, Sync, during race coverage. The 60-second race ran during the last 30 laps.
In it, fans were asked to tweet their favorite driver's car number along with the hashtag #Sprint60 as many times as they could in 60 seconds. Each tweet increased the driver's virtual speed as viewers watched live.
Nascar Coke Zero 400 drivers included Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick.
Never.no says its social TV platform was used to harvest incoming hashtags and calculate the speed of each driver. The top five drivers at any time appeared on TV on a virtual track and their position in the race was based on continuously incoming votes.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Sprint 60 Unlimited race. Never.no did not disclose how many votes he received.
"This was a direct call to action for watchers to not just participate in an example of social TV gamification during an ad spot, but also created a social share benefit in real time," Never.no says.
In addition, Never.no says the ad placement's strength lay in utilizing a "perfect trifecta" for driving user attention: it created an interactive mode of engagement, it could not be skipped due to programming integration and it parlayed the ability of second screens to drive multiple viewer touchpoints in a "fun and intriguing manner."
The unique aspect of this integration was that it played onscreen side-by-side the live race, a Never.no rep writes in an email. Fans had the option to keep tuned to the race or to participate briefly if they desired.
"In a world where multitasking and second screen behaviors often differ from audience-watching experiences, this kept users involved on the screen, rather than the myriad of other items they could be conjoining with their TV on laptops, mobiles or tablets," the rep says.
Miss Sprint Cup represents the Sprint brand around the track and in Victory Lane wherever the Nascar Sprint Cup Series competes, which, in 2013, includes Las Vegas; Bristol, Tennessee; and Talladega, Alabama.
To promote the program, Sprint aired 15-second teasers during pre-race coverage. A second promotional spot aired during the first half of the race. And within the final 30 laps, another 30-second spot featuring Miss Sprint Cup was shown indicating the start.
The week before the race, Miss Sprint Cup and several Nascar drivers tweeted about the race. In addition, the drivers encouraged fans to follow @MissSprintCup to learn more. The initiative was then promoted on air during the event.
@MissSprintCup has 76,000 followers.
"Product placements and sponsorship have always had a strong resonance during live sports. This specific initiative, however, leveraged some intriguing new facets of social TV and interactive/participatory TV," the rep says. "In addition to fueling additional interest in Miss Sprint Cup, it created a live social call to action with the Sprint brand. It added earned media. Additionally, it allowed fans a direct interaction with an ad placement. They were able to control and interact in real time. It wasn't just ad messaging, but gaming executed to drive engagement."
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Lisa Lacy is senior staff writer at ClickZ. In addition to ClickZ, her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Luxury Spot, LearnVest, MarthaStewart.com, GoodHousekeeping.com, amNewYork, and The Wall Street Journal. She's a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism.
March 19, 2014