Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Turner Motorsports encouraging fan revolution via social media

Turner Motorsports is going beyond Victory Lane and life on the track, reaching a
whole new platform via social media.
Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR

 Revolutionary:
Radically new or innovative; outside or beyond established procedure, principles, etc.: a            revolutionary discovery.

Turner Motorsports and the #TMSFanCrew is taking the term "revolutionary" to a whole new level. Through social media the Crew's hashtag has been popping up in Twitter timelines and creating a buzz but also some confusion. Texas Motor Speedway has a fan crew? No, simply a case of mistaken identity. Same initials, but that is where the similarities stop.

The #TMSFanCrew is breaking ground in the fan club meets social media arenas. But labeling the crew as a fan club is an injustice. Fan clubs are so 2011; fan crews are the new and modern way to socialize.

Ted Bullard, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) for Turner Motorsports, had the revolutionary idea that sparked the #TMSFanCrew. The Fan Crew consists of fans of the Turner Motorsports team of drivers or any NASCAR fan, for that matter...all with the goal of rallying behind the team and at the same time making new friends.

“I’d love to be known as the architect of it because it is an idea I have had for a while and (Steve) Turner has given me the latitude to get this off the ground. I want credit to go where credit is due, as far as carrying the load and getting the details out there. That goes to the team,” Bullard said, shifting the focus to his crew. He rattled off names like I could name off relatives, it really was that easy for him because the fan crew is more than a fan club, they have become a tight knit family.
Twitter names seems to fit for Niki and Ted, aka @EpicTMSFan and @TedBullardJr.
Photo courtesy of Niki and Honey Bear. 
During our insightful chat, I also spoke with Niki Nikolopoulos who is known on Twitter as "Momma Bear."  The connection between Bullard and Nikolopoulos was evident and it was great to listen to a "head honcho" from a team connecting with the fans on such a personal level.

Nikolopoulos and Bullard dissected the Fan Crew dynamic, and it breaks down to the theory of crowdsourcing, a term that the TMS crew throws around loosely.

Crowdsourcing is simple: it is a group of people working together to achieve the same goal. With the TMS Fan Crew, Bullard is the mentor and adviser to the group, but this is a team project. The team assigns responsibilities suited to the members' skills. For example, Niki likes to write, so she handles communication. Laura heads up the new member division because she's good at that level of interaction. The team works together toward the goal of making the Fan Crew a success.

The TMS Fan Crew may feel like a family, but they lay out the basis of their organization when you sign up for it. From a mission or vision statement to a code of conduct and a core values brief, it's all included in the official welcome packet you get when you express interest in joining the group.

Nikolopoulos explained that within the Fan Crew there are little groups, each with a mission and goal. From outreach to social media, everyone has a part in the operation. “About 80% of our conversations are not even NASCAR-related. We are just having fun getting to know each other, and it really is like a family. We all have started to create these relationships and look forward to talking to each other each day on Twitter, Facebook, or wherever.”

The Turner Fan Crew is still in its infancy. Though it's been only about two months, already the members are having an impact on each other. Bullard described how the group rallied around one team member who just experienced a death in the family. Keep in mind this is not someone they've met in person, but that does not matter – they are family nonetheless.

Thinking outside the box

To explain the genesis of the concept, Bullard used the example of former TMS driver Ricky Carmichael. "We spent a lot of money, a lot of time, [and had] great people marketing Ricky Carmichael. And then he left, all of his fans that were Ricky fans left with him. We didn't really retain, didn't capture those fans," Bullard stated.

When he originally pitched the fan crew idea to his bosses at Turner, "they thought I was crazy." But, to Bullard's credit, he was adamant that a team can better capture long-term fans than an individual driver can.

The vision for the fan crew is grand. Picture this: going to the racetrack and seeing an entire section of the stands with everyone in similar team gear. That is the vision behind the #TMSFanCrew. "I would like to create this fan crew where we will have an entire section of the track; you see it all the time in baseball, hockey and every other sport. One of the ways we can galvanize that movement is through social media."

Bullard has big plans for the TMS Fan Crew that will only grow larger as the group flourishes. One basic idea is to have crew members or even interns at each race to hand out free t-shirts, hats, etc. to fans and broaden the group's reach. While giving items away, they will hopefully be recruiting new members to the Fan Crew family. "Over time, what you can imagine is that we can build an enormous fan base by doing that; they are Turner-loyal. I think they will be loyal to us for several reasons," Bullard continued. "We are exciting, doing things that other teams are not, we are truly engaging the fans. We really want to hear from our fans and do things that are fun and exciting. I love hear from our fans, but so do our drivers, general managers and even our pit-crew guys."

Not only will the Fan Crew be an integral part of building the fan base of Turner Motorsports, but it is also essential for Bullard's job as the team's Chief Marketing Officer.

Bullard explained that not only is the Fan Crew a great basis for building fan loyalty but in the long run, he  will be able to use this when he is out searching for marketing for the team. Sponsors inquire about a team’s reach in social media; the #TMSFanCrew will extend Turner's reach far beyond what their drivers currently do now.

"I am the CMO. I chase money a lot of the time, and it makes my job easier when I can go to a potential sponsor and say 'Hey, by the way, we are unique over Hendrick, Roush, all the other big boys because check this out, I have a database of 10,000 Turner Motorsports fans and here is all their data.'"

The #TMSFanCrew is hitting their stride through social media, utilizing Twitter, Facebook and Google+. In the next few weeks, the Crew's website will be launched, so joining the group will be even easier.

How can you join at this point?

The TMS Fan Crew welcomes all fans to join their movement. Signing up is simple. Laura Dent is the Crew member in charge of new recruits, sending out their welcome packets, etc., and she can be contacted via Twitter or email.

Once Laura sends you the welcome packet along with the code of conduct, collecting your basic biographical information, etc., you are in. As mentioned, once the website is up and running, registering for the Fan Crew will be a one click process, for now it is still as easy, but a bit more personal.

Network with the Fan Crew:

Twitter: @TMSFanCrew and of course using the #TMSFanCrew hashtag
Facebook: #TMSFanCrew Facebook Group
Google+: #TMSFanCrew

And be on the lookout for the #TMSFanCrew at the track each week, they will be having a meetup in Charlotte during the October race weekend. Follow them for details as the event is planned in detail.

7 comments :

  1. @TMSfan12 Holly SJune 13, 2012 at 10:20 AM

    Love this article! We are a growing movement for sure! We do work together and have become a family! And we will be gathering in October in Charlotte, hope by then we are 1000 strong!--Holly @TMSFan12

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great article! Happy to be a part of such a wonderful group of people!!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. First, I'd like to thank you for doing this article! You have no idea the immense emotion and pride reading this brings to me, as I have been one of the core members who launched this phenomenon two months ago with Ted. Watching us grow organically has been life changing... Head over anytime and check out the Crew News Site, (which although it's running, the format is under construction!) tmsfancrewpitpass.tumblr.com
    Thanks again for writing about us!
    ~Selena Luci~
    TMSFan#01
    @General_Luci01

    ReplyDelete
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