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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
May 18, 2012
THE MODERATOR: Welcome you all here today, wish you all a happy NASCAR day. For those among the greatest fans in all of sports watching on the live stream on NASCAR.com, we welcome you, as well.
This is a very exciting announcement for us. I want to welcome and introduce you to those on the stand today. First here on the far right we have Omid Ashtari, he heads Twitter's sports and entertainment practice. He is otherwise known as @omid. We have NASCAR senior vice president and chief marketing officer, Steve Phelps, who is @StevePhelps. We have the driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, known as @Keselowski, Brad Keselowski. And over on the far right, we have Nelson Piquet, Jr., driver of the No. 30 Alpinestars Chevrolet in the NASCAR Camping World truck Series who goes by @NelsonPiquet.
Steve, talk a little about the partnership with Twitter and what it's going to mean for our sport.
STEVE PHELPS: Thanks, Brett, and thanks to the media for being with us here for this important announcement.
Social media and Twitter, in particular, are very title to the growth of our sport in the future. It provides great access to our drivers and others that are participating in the sport. Our sport is founded on access to the drivers, and Twitter is just a great opportunity for our fans to get closer to our drivers.
So here today, we are going to announce this great new partnership, and this partnership is one that I couldn't be more thrilled about. We are the first league that Twitter has chosen to partner with, and it's going to provide a great complement to our race broadcast for our fans, and a great behind the scenes access for our fans.
Again, we couldn't be more thrilled to be part of this announcement.
OMID ASHTARI: Brett and Steve, thank you. Brad and Nelson, thanks for joining us, and the media, thanks for coming. Also thanks to Charlotte Motor Speedway for hosting us.
We are thrilled to be here in Charlotte to talk about our new partnership with NASCAR. We look at the fans that the NASCAR nation has as some of the most passionate fans in all of the world of sport and we want to help bring those fans closer to the race.
A little bit of context going back in terms of Twitter and live broadcast, Twitter and sports were made for each other. You look at the world of sports and Twitter, and a conversation is flown on our platform.
What makes it awesome is that Twitter gives an opportunity to fans around the world to get closer to the teams, the athletes and the Leagues that they love. Some of the best examples we have seen in that are from the world of NASCAR. The most memorable recent Tweet was from our friend, Brad Keselowski, during the Daytona 500. I think we all remember, it was a very unique moment for all of us and it gave the fans a different perspective and unique angle that they had not seen before.
Another favorite example of mine was when 12 of our drivers were headed to the White House recently and Jimmie Johnson shared a photo of Dale Junior trying to tie his tie as they were headed to the White House. And they shared their moments on this journey as they were headed to the White House inside the White House on their way over there; and it was unique because we got to go along for the ride, no pun intended there.
Twitter and sports were made for each other, and as you look at the two worlds, what is awesome is how the Twitter environment complements the broadcast environment. As the fans tune in to watch what's on television and as they watch the races, they get to share their emotions on the platform of Twitter. They get to be fans amongst each other, even though they are not at the race venue.
And what happens you is get to feel the roar of the crowd on our platform and we are very fortunate to have the fans that are passionate enough to have the conversation to get to see what others are saying, and they feel this roar happen because everyone shares the same passions, either they love or they may not like something that happened on the track, but they all share it together, even if they are sitting at home or if they are on the road and they are not at the same place together.
With Twitter's growth, having now over 140 million active users generating over 340 million Tweets a day, we are to the point where the conversation is picking up, and that roar is getting louder and louder.
So we have taken it upon ourselves as a platform to partner with NASCAR to organize that conversation, and a key part of that organization is to utilize the hashtag of #NASCAR.
So. What we will be doing is promoting the hashtag along with our partners here at NASCAR, the drivers, the families, to make sure that the fans are not only trained to use the hashtag but to search out the hashtag. Because the hashtag, on Twitter, you can follow a broader conversation and it's an easier way to try to capture everything in one place, as opposed to be searching for multiple different names and multiple different people.
So hopefully we'll be see the hashtag at the venues, at the racetracks, digitally, as well as on broadcasts; so the consumer knows not only to use the hashtag, but again, to also search for the hashtag.
And with that, we want to talk about this new product that we are launching at Twitter.
We are working with NASCAR to bring a more unique experience to the NASCAR fans, and what you'll see on the screen is a new page that you'll be seeing on Twitter starting on June 10 at the Pocono races.
So while the fans will be tuning in on TNT to watch the race, they will be getting a new, unique experience on the Twitter platform around the #NASCAR. There's a number of new features we'll talk about later on the same page. There's a lot of photos being drawn in, certain accounts being featured but most important the time line will be a combination of search algorithm, as well as curation from our editorial team.
What will happen is we'll be looking specifically at the various accounts of drivers, families, media and the NASCAR family to make sure that we are pulling in the best content and highlighting it for the NASCAR fans. So on this page, you'll see a variety of content, all focused around that race that's happening and it will be launching on June 10 at the Pocono 400 on TNT.
And so with that, my team and I are here in Charlotte to train and meet with a number of people from the various racing teams, drivers, and their various constituents that are helping them out with their social platform.
THE MODERATOR: Let's go to Brad for a minute, obviously Omid mentioned your moment, which became our moment. Talk about how Twitter has impacted you personally and your brand and your comments on this new arrangement.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I think Twitter has had a large effect on myself personally and the sport, as well. And I think it's a great effect.
It's an opportunity to combine technology and furthermore, access, for our fan base, which from everything they tell me is a great deal. Every fan I see, I get a lot of comments when I meet people in person like, hey, I follow you on Twitter and I loved your Tweet from such‑and‑such. Obviously Daytona is one of them that I get a lot. Yeah, but sometimes, it can be something completely out of the ordinary that I feel like Tweeting on any given day.
So I love that the opportunity to really connect with a larger fan base than what I can meet in one day. It's amazing the type of connections that you can have. It's just such a positive thing for the sport, and really, the key thing that I think of it as, is an opportunity, not just for myself, but for all of the key partners within the sport to really engage our fans.
So, I'm thrilled to death, and excited to be a part of Twitter and a part of this announcement. So I think there's a lot of great things to come. I think this is a very encouraging move for the sport.
You look at right now, as it pertains to other leagues, as Steve was alluding to, that might have the 30‑minute blackout periods and so forth; and NASCAR is on the complete opposite end where we are embracing social media and its ability to relate to fans. So I think that's very encouraging, and I'm glad to be a part of that.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Brad. Nelson, one of our great global personalities, you'll be on‑site in Pocono as one of those who is producing great content. What are some things you'll be looking for at Pocono to take to the fans?
NELSON PIQUET, JR.: I think I started Tweeting in June of 2009 when I was in Formula1, and for anyone who follows it, it's a difficult sport to get a bit of access and Twitter was the perfect tool to be able to show the fans a little bit more what's going on before the race, how the drivers get prepared and what food will we eat. I think that's how it all started.
NASCAR surprised me when I arrived here on how open they are to the fans and how close the fans can get to the drivers and that connection, how close it is. I have fans that follow me in some of the races that they would never be able to do the same thing in Europe. I think NASCAR does a very, very good job, and you know, you have to start Tweeting more and more to give them more information; the more you give them, the more they want it and they start asking them questions and it start getting so close to you sometimes that you even make friends without even knowing them. It's like every day, the same guy saying good morning, good night, good afternoon and how are you doing. It becomes something so personal, so close.
But I think in Pocono I'm just going to try to‑‑ still thinking how I'm going to be creative but obviously I'm going to try to ask the fans what they want to see, if there's anything different; what angle they want to hear about the race or if there's any specific kind of picture or comments they want to know about.
I'm going to get well prepared for them for sure and do a good presentation for them.
THE MODERATOR: Can you share a little more light on why NASCAR and what brought the relationship together over the last several months?
OMID ASHTARI: Yeah, it's exciting to do this with NASCAR, because we look at you as a sports league as one of the most innovative ones in the technology world. You have always embraced technology in getting it to bring your fans tans closer; similarly the way you have done with social media. You've always moved forward and you give an access point to your fans that nobody else does and that's what our platform was great for, and that's why it was such a great partnership.
On top of that, you have an amazing fan base who comes every single weekend to watch races. It's not that you have two teams or four teams playing; you have all of your fans watching at the same time, and it gives us as a platform a great opportunity to iterate and learn and get a huge fan base watching at the same time so while we get them closer, we can always see what they like and learn from that and experiment and grow from there.
Q. Was there any one moment or one Tweet that inspired all this? Was Brad stopped inside the car at Daytona 500, was that perhaps a starting point for some of this?
OMID ASHTARI: To be fair, it wasn't, because I had been talking to Brad over e‑mail, not in person yet, long before that. I had actually met with our friends at NASCAR a few months before that. It was a combination of a number of things just lining up properly, but I think it was the fact that the league is so progressive that, that made it work so well for us.
Q. From the sheet that we got, it just looks like if you were searching #NASCAR, this is what you would get. Can you explain maybe more of what the partnership entails?
OMID ASHTARI: Yeah, absolutely. The partnership includes a number of things; parts of it being that we want to educate the user base to use the hashtag more prominently, but we also are driving a different experience on this page and that it's not a search result. It is part search algorithm and part editorial.
As we go about and we get the best content, the best content from the media, the drivers, the teams, is what will be highlighted on this page, not just everyone's search results.
Q. Will all drivers now be encouraged to be on Twitter; say, Dale Junior, who is not on Twitter?
OMID ASHTARI: I encourage everybody to be on Twitter (Laughter). I leave it to the drivers to make their own decisions but we would love to have all of the drivers joining in on this.
STEVE PHELPS: I would edge oh this as well. Obviously we have a lot of drivers whose personalities that have really come out on Twitter. Great access for our fans. But it's up to the drivers themselves when they want to come to Twitter; if they want to come to Twitter. But we are certainly encouraging them to do so.
Q. In some ways, is it like if you had had a NASCAR list, so to speak, pulling selected Tweets from NASCAR lists‑‑ you know what I'm saying?
OMID ASHTARI: Absolutely. Yes, you can at it that way. It is a curated list, essentially, by Twitter, trying to make the best experience for the consumer. Obviously as a user, you can go create your own list, but it's somewhere between your own list and the pure search results where you find this mix.
Q. Obviously you could do this 24/7. How do you ration the time you devote to Tweeting, primarily on non‑race days, Tuesdays, Wednesdays? How do you work that out?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Sure. That's actually a really good question, because I think it's one that some of the people that might not understand Twitter, if they understood that answer to the question, they would be more forthright in joining.
But my favorite thing is Twitter is the fact that I can choose whatever pace I want. If I decide that I want to spend two straight days and pull a 48‑hour binge on Twitter, I can do it. And if I decide, you know what, I want to take a week off and just disconnect, I can do that, too.
I think that flexibility allows me to fit it in as my interests dictate. Today might be a day where obviously I'm on track a lot, I don't get a tremendous amount of time and I might only send out one or two Tweets and tomorrow morning, while there's no on‑track action, might be a time when I'm going to send a lot of stuff out. I think you saw at Daytona that that was obviously a red flag in action and we were stopped, but that felt right to me.
So I just go off of what feels right, and nobody has to force me to do anything. I don't allow anybody to force me to do anything; for one, and nobody tries to, so that's great. But it's at my own pace, and that's what I love so much about Twitter.
Q. You're talking about the progressiveness of this league. For anybody on the panel, where do you think this could go for the driver, for NASCAR, for Twitter? What do you see in the future for a progressive lead like this that might be sort of innovative right now, off in the distance, with Twitter?
STEVE PHELPS: You know, for us, this is going to be certainly a learning experience, and I think for both partners in this great new digital partnership.
We are not sure where it's going to go, quite candidly. Our promise, certainly, is to continue to innovate; to find ways to create new access and new opportunities to get our fans closer to our drivers, and that's what they want.
OMID ASHTARI: And I will echo what Steve is saying, we innovate through experimentation. This is the first time we are doing an experiment like this, and we want to learn, along with our partners, on how to bring the action closer to the fans; to complement their television watching, television broadcast experience.
Q. In terms of pulling the content, is that going to be a subjective judgment in terms of what readers might or might not be interested in, and how does that happen in real time?
OMID ASHTARI: We have an editorial team who will be keeping an eye on a list of accounts, a large list of accounts, basically the whole NASCAR family, press, drivers, pit crews, families, as many people as we can pull in.
The beauty of the pages is that it's part search algorithm and part editorial. So it will be the editor's choice in terms of what gets pinned at the top of that page, but a lot of the content that flows through the page is also done by algorithm. If it just happens that a great Tweet goes through the algorithm, we may also end up pinning it at the same time. I don't know what the process will be, because frankly we are testing it out right now. As we figure it out, we will have a better idea of how to share.
Q. To that same line of thinking, will the editorial board be censoring and pushing forth pro‑NASCAR Tweets and maybe bringing down the negative or criticism Tweets, or angry, raging fan Tweets?
OMID ASHTARI: (Chuckling).
STEVE PHELPS: Anyone that has positive things to say are all at the top. (Laughter).
OMID ASHTARI: So if there is a Tweet that not necessarily is the happiest of Tweets, and it is resonating through the platform, it will definitely show up through the search.
So we will be highlighting the most interesting, unique content but all of the content will have an opportunity to flow through the page and utilizing the #NASCAR is what is going to make it appear in the search results.
Q. I know you're calling this a partnership, but is NASCAR paying Twitter? Is Twitter paying NASCAR? Are you guys neither paying each other and just offering services? Can you give us an idea of what the business relationship is?
OMID ASHTARI: We are working together to try to make this the best experience we can. There is a lot of conversation going on in terms of how to help each other out. We obviously need a lot of great content but we also make sure that we are educating the whole NASCAR family, and that's basically where the current relationship is at.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports