Social media at 190 mph: Las Vegas Motor Speedway turns to Twitter

If “The Bachelor” TV show can post Twitter feeds from viewers during its broadcasts, the Las Vegas Motor Speedway figures it can offer instantaneous social networking quips at a new social media nerve center at this weekend’s NASCAR race event.

Speedway officials are rolling out the social media hub at the Neon Garage for the Thursday-Sunday NASCAR weekend, which will feature guests from Team Lowe’s Racing, NASCAR, Sprint and media churning out real-time comments. About 130,000 fans are expected for Sunday’s NASCAR main event, the Kobalt Tools 400.

The hub — dubbed the Kobalt Social Media Command Center — will host computers and large video monitors that will give fans a live glimpse at the racing luminaries cranking out insights on Twitter and Facebook. NASCAR racer Brad Keselowski, the Sprint Cup Series defending champion, is the circuit’s famed Twitter man. He was fined $25,000 for using a cellphone to send tweets from his car during a race.

“There’s no question it’s a must-do at this point at every major sports event and property. You have to be active in social media,” said Nancy Lough, University of Nevada, Las Vegas professor of higher education and editor of the Sport Marketing Quarterly.

Lough said that the fans’ responses and observations to the race’s social media content will allow NASCAR and Speedway officials to monitor trends among their fans.

“They’re putting out content that can be accessed by their consumers, and then they can listen to what the response is by taking out the intermediary,” Lough said Tuesday. “Twitter is a monitor or meter, if you will. You can monitor what is resonating with fans.”

Racer Jeff Burton is a fan of Twitter and enjoys sharing real-time experiences with his followers. Burton, who just cut a sponsorship deal with Kwikset, also uses Twitter to post fun photos that include his sponsors.

Burton, who drives the No. 31 car for the Chevrolet RCR team, used his @RCR31JeffBurton handle to tweet a photo of himself standing inside a wheel of a Caterpillar construction vehicle because Caterpillar is one of his sponsors. And he said a Kwikset video was also tweeted.

“Twitter is a great tool to socialize with fans and give them bits of information. You can also show people what your sponsors are all about. Fans like it,” Burton said Tuesday. “I like to make things interesting, and I don’t want to be a guy always selling.”

Dave Wills, a radio broadcaster for the Tampa Bay Rays of Major League Baseball, sends several tweets and answers many fans’ tweets during Rays game broadcasts.

Wills said using social media is all about connecting instantly with fans.

“Twitter allows me to have one-on-one conversations with my followers while still broadcasting to the masses,” Wills said. “It’s all about fan connectivity, first and foremost.”

Social media also allow sports leagues and teams to disseminate instant information to correct rumors or wrong information, Wills said.

Sports teams and leagues are working to monetize social media, so the current value rests with “the ability to monitor trends and tendencies” of consumers, Lough said.

At the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, feeds from drivers, fans, race teams and sponsors will be tracked and displayed on monitors from the Neon Garage’s the second floor, speedway officials said.

“The various forms of social media have become a part of our everyday lives, and we think this new attraction in the Neon Garage will set an industry standard for how sports venues will handle this generation of communication,” Speedway President Chris Powell said.

The Kobalt Social Media Command Center hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday; 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday; 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Contact reporter Alan Snel at asnel@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5273.

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