The Frontstretch: One Day After Talladega, NASCAR Announces Awards For "Listening To the Fans" by Jeff Meyer -- Thursday November 5, 2009

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One Day After Talladega, NASCAR Announces Awards For "Listening To the Fans"

Voices From the Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Thursday November 5, 2009


Yes, you read the headline correctly… and no, this is NOT another edition of BSNews!

Almost before NASCAR could decide the “official results” for last Sunday’s AMP Energy 500 at Talladega, the sport proudly announced in a press release that they had received not one, but actually two prestigious awards for listening to the voices of their fans. Turns out they won the Forrester Groundswell Award in the Business-to-Consumer Listening category, as well as the Vision Critical 2009 Panel of the Year Award.

Just what are these awards, you may ask? NASCAR PR explains it best, so I will let them.

About the Forrester Groundswell Awards
The Forrester Groundswell Awards recognize excellence in achieving business and organizational goals with social technology applications. The awards program was developed to support and recognize the principles outlined in the Forrester Research book Groundswell: Winning In A World Transformed By Social Technologies (Harvard Business Press, 2008). This year, there were more than 140 entries to the Forrester Groundswell Awards. Winners were chosen in Business-to-Business (B2B) and Business-to-Consumer (B2C) divisions across a number of categories – Listening, Talking, Energizing, Supporting, and Embracing – that represent the strategic goals that Forrester Research advises organizations to consider when using social technologies to interact with their customers.

About the Vision Critical Awards
Given at the Vision Critical Client Panel Summits in Toronto and New York, this award recognizes the Vision Critical client who does the best job of engaging consumers and generating business results from that interaction, using their online panel community. In addition to NASCAR, finalists for the Panel of the Year Award included Taco Bell, Allure magazine, and Aeroplan. Vision Critical is a global research and technology company specializing in custom online panels, private communities, and innovative online methods. Vision Critical delivers both the technology and full service research to help clients build stronger connections with their customers using interactive surveys, discussion forums, and 3D environments.

So now that you know just what the awards are, I will tell you now that NASCAR received them for the creation of the NASCAR Fan Council. In case you have not heard about that, or don’t happen to be a member of it, here is NASCAR’s description:

About the NASCAR Fan Council
The NASCAR Fan Council is a proprietary online consumer research panel managed by NASCAR through the use of technology provided by global research company Vision Critical. The NASCAR Fan Council was formed in 2008, with the primary objective of listening to and quantifying fan feedback on a variety of topics related to the sport. The NASCAR Fan Council has 12,000 members, representing avid NASCAR fans from all 50 U.S. states. In joining the NASCAR Fan Council, members completed an extensive survey about their interest in and connection with the sport.

Now that you know those facts, you are probably wondering just what in the world it was that NASCAR listened to us about. Believe it or not, their crowning achievements thus far are double-file restarts, as well as earlier and more uniform start times of the races in 2010.

And … that’s it.

So while I do accept that both of those things are very positive changes that needed to be made, I beg of you, don’t be stupid enough think that they were made because NASCAR suddenly created a wonderful online experience and took what the fans are saying to heart. It simply is not true, and in my opinion it’s nothing more than a PR stunt to make themselves feel good.

First and foremost, NASCAR is the sanctioning body and has been for over 60 years. As such, they should kinda have this whole racing thing down pat. After all, setting up some rules to create an organized competition to see which car/driver can beat another from point A to point B isn’t exactly rocket science — or at least it shouldn’t be.

In the earlier days of our sport, it was about the actual competition and, while featuring good competition, making a buck or two. Sadly, over the last 10+ years, the competition has been left out of the equation, with the emphasis by the sanctioning body solely aimed at making a buck or billion. Case in point: it is no longer called a “race” but a “show” by the very ones who sit in the ivory tower. The rules are no longer generated to increase the “competition,” but rather to generate a better “result of the competition” which, in turn, generates revenue.

Fans have been up in arms over the direction of the sport for the past several years. But is a 12,000-member “Fan Council” really the key to recent decisions aimed to turning the sport back in the right direction?

For example, take a look at the “Double-File Restart, Shootout Style.” At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I will go over this once again… as I have for several years now.

The double-file restart should have been instituted at the same time that racing back to the flag under caution was eliminated and the “Lucky Dog” rule was started. This is just plain common sense, as the only reason lapped cars used to restart on the inside line was to give them a chance to get ahead of the leader and get back on the lead lap. Once the “Lucky Dog” was instituted, it all became a moot point. Whoever is the first car a lap down is going to get his lap back, whether he is one car behind the leader or 25 cars behind the leader. Things like that, in my opinion, should be obvious to the leaders of a sanctioning body that has been putting on races for 60 years.

Instead, NASCAR is now telling you, the fan, that the double-file restart is what you wanted and the reason you now have it is that, now that technology today being what it is, you were finally able to contact them! But if that is the case, and the “Fan Council,” which was created in 2008, is the reason we have it, why wasn’t this outstanding change in restarts started at the beginning of the 2009 season? Why did the sport wait till AFTER this year’s All Star race to implement them? Maybe a bit of PR from NASCAR, dated June 4, 2009 explains it best.

NASCAR recently used the “double-file” format for its non-points NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, which produced an unpredictable finish.

So is it coincidence that the double-file restarts were started after the announcers of the All-Star race publicly went on and on about how great it was and how, since the “Lucky Dog” came into effect, it should have been that way all along? But wait, let’s back up the train a bit further, before there was even the notion of a “Fan Council…”

Remember a few years ago, the fans got fed up with races finishing under caution and pelted the track with beer cans (which track was that again…oh yeah, Talladega) when yet another race finished under caution? Remember how NASCAR refused to think about implementing a green-white-checkered finish for the Cup cars? Remember NASCAR’s Jim Hunter saying… “Here and Daytona, we’re not going to run a one-lap shootout just because of safety. We feel like here and Daytona, those just aren’t the places to do that.” Remember how just a few short weeks later, suddenly the “G-W-C” was a good idea for the Cup cars!? Where was the “Fan Council” then, in 2004? OK, never mind all that for a moment… let’s talk about the new network start times.

Reliable inside sources have told me that, in light of years of falling television ratings and race attendance, the networks have recently tried to renegotiate the multi-billion dollar deal that is currently in place with NASCAR. NASCAR, however, has flatly refused and insists that the networks must pay every penny. NASCAR does, of course, have that right, but don’t for one minute think that the new uniform start times scheduled for next year have anything to do with fan input. Well, in a way it does, but the main reason is because the networks have to do something to try and get the ratings up. NASCAR, while refusing to give them a discount, has been at least generous enough to let them try to standardize start times in an effort to get the ratings back up a bit. After all, NASCAR would hate to have to go through all the hassles of turning the account over to a collection agency. It has nothing to do with listening to you, the fan, in the sense that they want you to believe.

The bottom line is, it should not take the creation of an ‘“online panel” for the voices of the NASCAR consumers to be heard, and it doesn’t, as a few well-thrown beer cans in 2004 has already proven. The awards that NASCAR recently received for “listening to the fan” are nothing more than recognition by Forrester Groundswell and Vision Critical for a client (NASCAR) spending millions of dollars with them, and they appreciate their business. Unfortunately, the people that now run the sanctioning body known as NASCAR are too stupid to even know what they are being awarded for.

Stay off the wall,

Jeff Meyer

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11/05/2009 06:59 AM

Don’t worry Jeff, no long time fan of racing ever believed that Nascar did anything in ‘response to it’s fans’. They never have, and they never will

Not in the Stands Anymore
11/05/2009 08:08 AM

Sal, you said it best… It’s just NASCAR J***king Off the fans again.

The Turnip!
11/05/2009 11:05 AM

Hey Jeff, we all watched the results of how NA$CRAP listens to “the fan council”, it was called TALLADEGA: NOV 1ST EDITION!

Yep, the “fan council” theory is really working!


Never actually as long as “THE KING”, as in Brain Farce, is in charge!

(unless the “fan council” also drinks and snorts, then they would be buddies for sure)
maybe then he would listen!

11/05/2009 12:08 PM

I laughed so hard when I saw this award had been made. What a joke! NASCAR doesn’t listen to the fans. Heck, I’m on the “fan council” and I know they aren’t listening, but then again, according the Brainless France and all the other talking heads in Nascar-land, “everything is great”. Yep, what a great way to toot your own horn and pretend to the fans that they pay attention to why we’re no longer watching the “show”. Now, if they actually showed me a race, I might be interested again but only if the brick on wheels isn’t the automotive component.

MI Mike
11/05/2009 12:43 PM

This has got to be the joke of the day LOL
If anyone from the Ivory tower were to listen to the fans all they would have to do is go thru Jayski blogs weekly and learn from the masses.

This week in particular would be a good indicator of how happy the fan base is. My guess is 100% would say it was BORING and a huge boondoggle.
Having said that did the NASCAR bosses listen to the fans? I dont think so, all they had to say is the fans dont get it, this was an exciting race blah blah blah.

At least I got a laugh today LOL (-:

11/05/2009 12:59 PM

Good Lord, can things possibly get any worse!
I need a HANS device just to think about “Nascar”, “fans” and “awards” in the same sentence.

11/05/2009 01:56 PM

Oh my God!

I read that title and almost fell out of my chair here at work while laughing! I scared people with my outburst! Which made me laugh even more. I’m glad my boss is not here today.

11/05/2009 05:17 PM

Hey Jeff – I don’t want to say that Talledaga was boring, but I turned over to The Golf Channel just to see some action! I think that next Sunday, I’ll just go to Tara Hills.

11/05/2009 06:18 PM

Nascar listen to us yea right they still stick there nose in were it doesn’t belong wake me up with 30 to go at Texas

11/05/2009 10:09 PM

I want to see The Turnip on the fan council.

Jeff Meyer-FS staff
11/05/2009 11:09 PM

Hey RickyT,
If the weather is nice, shoot me an email, maybe I’ll join ya!

11/06/2009 11:36 AM

Jeff, if you don’t mind, I need you to clarify a few things for me, please…

Do you believe the NASCAR Fan Council was set up as a PR tool for NASCAR to feel good about themselves, which in effect, makes it useless? Or do you believe it was set up as a PR tool, but turned into something NASCAR hadn’t planned on, an honest expression from the fans on the council on what’s wrong with NASCAR, and suggestions how to fix it?

To those ends, is your article an indictment on the NFC or an indictment on NASCAR?

Jeff Meyer-FS staff
11/06/2009 01:51 PM

Robbiejr asks: “To those ends, is your article an indictment on the NFC or an indictment on NASCAR?”

Good question Robbiejr. I’d have to say it is a little of both. I’m not putting down the members of the NFC, for they are just trying to have some sort of input to the sport they love. I’m am saying that there was simply no need for it. How is it that the people who run this sport, suddenly don’t know what makes for good competition after 60 yrs of sanctioning races? Look at the comments above. As most have said, when they heard of the awards, their first impression was one of tally dis-belief! Simply put, the NFC is just something nascar cooked up as a pr stunt to make it APPEAR that you have a voice. Nascar wasted a vast amount of money buying a product from Vision Critical to learn information that a)they should already know, b) any idiot could simply read or actually talk to fans or just hide and listen to know.
Nascar is not stupid. They are using the NFC and the recent ‘changes’ as a ploy to a) make it seem like the average joe has a say, and b) so they don’t have to stand up and simply say, “we screwed up, the DF reatarts should have come in with the Lucky Dog and the start times should have been more uniform all along.” Why can’t Brain France admit he was wrong? Nascar, especially since the Brian era, has a great track record of pissing down your back and telling you it is raining!

I am glad they have made the changes they have so far, but it is NOT because they suddenly started ‘listening’ to you and I. A member of the NFC sent me a little info about the surveys:

“So you know, they don’t have a survey after every weekend, they ask you how much of each series you watched or attended over the weekend. If you answer below 50% they don’t allow you to conduct the survey for that survey. They ask three standard questions every survey. How did the race make you feel, how did the television coverage make you feel, how did the race results make you feel. They ask those for all three series. And it’s rated on a 1 to 10 scale. 1 being the worst and 10 being the best.”

“I’ve been asked to take a survey about tissot before and what they represent in NASCAR.”

“I’ve been in a survey that asked you to identify drivers by face only. It seemed the focus of that survey was about David Stremme and it came out two weeks after Pocono race that he and Robby Gordon tangled.”

So there is a small sampling of how things work. Again, I am not saying the NFC is a bad thing, just that it is not as BF would have you believe. It is simply a prop.


Contact Jeff Meyer

Recent articles from Jeff Meyer:

Voices From The Cheap Seats: The Tale Of Two Tires
BSNews! Bruton’s Plans Extend Beyond Bristol’s Track
Top Ten Reasons Fans Failed To Show Up At Bristol Sunday
BSNews! NASCAR CEO Given "Special" Award Amidst Lavish Fanfare
Fan Coun-ci-What? Just What Is It That NASCAR Wants To Study?

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