Richard Petty Driving Experience Revs Up Fan Engagement 700% on YouTube

At NASCAR races – the most popular spectator sport in the U.S. – it’s all about heart-pounding action. Can you imagine actually strapping yourself behind the wheel of a NASCAR racecar and hitting nearly 165 mph like the pros? Not only can you imagine it, you can live it at the Richard Petty Driving Experience, where fantasy becomes reality for thousands of fans at racetracks across the country who pay to experience race car driving on the track.

Elliott Antal, eMarketing Manager at the Richard Petty Driving Experience, knows how to turn fans into customers using the power of sight, sound, and motion.

“NASCAR is something you have to see, hear, and feel – the roar of the engines, the speed of the vehicles, the breathless expressions on people’s faces when they are up close and personal,” he explains. “Right around the same time I started working at the Experience, Google was coming out with amazingly powerful tools that enable smaller companies like ours to play in the same online sandbox with industry giants.”

Working closely with Google, Antal implemented a “hugely successful” YouTube TrueView in-stream ad promotion that increased fan engagement by 700 percent – raising viewership from just over 14,000 to over 117,000 during a 30 day promotion.

To capture new business during the company’s typically slow summer months, the sales team created a Summer of Speed package, inviting everyday people to spend a day or a weekend geared up to drive (or ride in) NASCAR race cars. The Richard Petty Driving Experience’s channel on YouTube was already loaded with great content from television news coverage, ESPN footage and reality shows. Viewership was growing through social networks as well as from natural search.

But the company had yet to mount a targeted sales effort for its driving experience – and here was the perfect opportunity to take the YouTube TrueView product out for a test drive to see just how powerful a strong call-to-action could be.

“We used our strongest tool – video – to inexpensively execute a campaign powered by Google, the company that has mastered the art and science of search, and is now putting brilliant video advertising techniques into the hands of advertisers large and small,” notes Antal.

TrueView in-stream ads ensure viewers are engaged by enabling them to watch or skip after the first five seconds when the ad plays before a show. The advertiser only pays when a viewer watches at least 30 seconds of the video without choosing to “skip” the ad, which counts as an increased view on YouTube.

Out of 107,000 Summer of Speed views, over half of viewers watched the entire video, which lasted over a minute. “Crazy good, in my book,” says Antal, adding that, unlike other ad programs, TrueView in-stream ads allow clips to run over the 60-second mark.

With 650,000 overall impressions and a low cost-per-view, Summer of Speed sales exceeded expectations.

“Results were so hot, we didn’t want the campaign to end,” said Antal, who ended up pulling additional dollars into the effort to further boost the uptick in sales numbers.

No other content on the Experience’s YouTube channel had reached the 100,000 viewer mark.

“It was incredibly exciting for everyone at the company to watch those numbers pick up pace in real time,” Antal said. No other print or media advertising was used to market the Summer of Speed package, or any other Richard Petty Driving Experience promotion.

One of the biggest advantages of the TrueView program, and one that is too often lost in the shuffle, said Antal, is the 30-day remarketing option in TrueView, which enables advertisers to reach out to site visitors who didn’t buy, but are self-expressed as interested in a product or service.

“Remarketing is one of the most cost-effective strategies out there,” he said. “It can have a profound impact on a business model and help formulate what you want to sell when.”

More tips from one who’s been there, done that, on a small budget: “Test everything so you can justify it. Keep successes in you back pocket so you can refer to them down the road and not waste resources re-inventing wheels that don’t need it,” Antal said.

As a constant reminder of how to tell a great video story, Antal regularly strolls down to the pit, turns on a flip cam, and points it at overwhelmed customers as they climb out of the cockpit. Footage captured, emotion prevailed.

“Find your niche and off to the races you go. Little advertisers with little budgets can make big noise,” he said.

The Petty team has the ready-for-a-close-up ESPN pit reporter Jamie Little as a spokesperson, but advertisers still should put the most compelling part of their content up front no matter what, advises Antal. The first five seconds of the Summer of Speed promo featured a laughing Jamie Little trackside, cars zooming by, asking the viewer if they’d rather spend summertime and money in air-conditioning while lolling on the couch, or behind the wheel of race car.

Having a good relationship with a local video crew is also one of the keys to success, according to Antal. With low-cost equipment readily available, affordable talent is there for all budgets. What’s important is that a crew has the right feel for your product, shows creativity, and can edit fast. The entire Summer of Speed video was produced over one weekend, and the final cut was on Antal’s desktop two weeks later.

In between promotions, the Richard Petty Experience team uploads quick customer testimonials from the side of the racetrack. They have been able to capture raw emotion from customers like John Anderson from ESPN, who speak directly to the camera in between laps around the track.

Moving forward, the Experience team plans to launch a new program called Exotic Driving Experience again using YouTube to sell it. He wouldn’t be surprised if results surpassed Summer of Speed, attracting a new audience longing to drive a Lamborghini around a track.

“The car is the star,” he said. “And video is its runway.”


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