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France puts fans first at sports industry summit

March 19, 2014, Staff report,

NASCAR Chairman and CEO emphasizes importance of outreach to Millennials

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NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France kicked off the 2014 IMG World Congress of Sport on Wednesday in Dana Point, Calif. as part of a keynote panel of leaders in sports and entertainment. France addressed the importance of connecting Millennial fans with the sport's live content at the track.

As NASCAR returns to the scene of one of its most dramatic finishes at Auto Club Speedway of Southern California, France asserted that NASCAR is in a unique position to appeal to Gen Y. In fact, drivers of that generation, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano, were the combatants in last year's last-lap battle at the two-mile oval near Los Angeles.

Gen Y or Millennials, the generation born between 1980 and 1995, are "getting interested in sports differently," France said.

"We're in a position because of all of the telemetry and data flying around as part of our events coming from the crew chiefs, the cars ... to have a natural way to make the experience of NASCAR important (to the Millennial fan)."

"Sports is still the one thing you can't miss live," France said, and the live event experience has stepped up with initiatives like DAYTONA Rising at Daytona International Speedway.

France said the effort to reimagine an American icon in Daytona Beach will "accommodate the social aspect of the sporting experience."

"This is all building off of the digital rights that all of us have been developing for quite a while," France said.

"(Millennials) want the device to have relevance to the actual game. That's not going to be upon us tomorrow morning, but over the next decade and longer, it's going to be a very big factor."

France cited the NASCAR Fan & Media Engagement Center powered by HP as an important resource to listen and respond to fans. The innovative facility also arms partners with insights into activating in the sport. 

"On a real-time basis … we understand where the sentiment is going on a particular topic," France said.

NASCAR understood the importance in addressing the changing complexion of marketing and selling the sport. The sanctioning body made the massive investment in reacquiring its digital rights to provide fans and the industry with tools and a platform to showcase compelling content.

When asked whether he was concerned about fans looking down at a device while attending an event, France said, "They are watching our races. They're just watching it differently."

The NASCAR Chairman and CEO joined a panel of captains of the sports industry, including MLS Commissioner Don Garber Maple Leaf Sports + Entertainment President and CEO Tim Leiweke; Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Sounders President Peter McLoughlin and Google/YouTube Global Head of Sports Content Claude Ruibal.

In its 13th year, the IMG World Congress of Sports, a Street & Smith's Sports Business Journal conference, is billed as the place "where the leaders in sports business convene." In addition to the leaders listed above, this year's speaker faculty includes NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.


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