For as quickly as it became comfortable to pronounce “the NASCAR XFINITY Series” so too was an impression made on those who represent it.
Six months into their partnership with NASCAR as the entitlement sponsor of the second-tier division, Comcast has not only picked up the ball, but run with it since day one. Quite contrary from the atmosphere felt during the September announcement when it appeared the company’s focus was on finding their footing in the sport while planning for adventures down the road.
But the future came quicker than expected and not without notice.
“They picked up and really exceeded everybody’s expectations for a new sponsor coming into a role like they did,” said current XFINITY Series point leader @Chris_Buescher. “There is a lot of responsibility that goes into it and a lot of work and they’ve really put in 110 percent effort to make it work, and it’s been really impressive to see.”
In building something new, however, Comcast started by keeping a piece of old.
Comcast aims to brand and leave a mark all their own on the series but recognized the ability to continue the growth of ideas previously in place. Notably adopting the “Dash 4 Cash” program implemented by Nationwide Insurance and giving it an XFINITY makeover with new venues hosting the $100,000 bonus races.
The decision immediately struck a cord with drivers, Buescher among the many who praised the decision to keep a program that adds extra exposure to the teams while including the fans. But the racing aspect of the NASCAR / Comcast partnership was never in doubt, and the XFINITY Series strongly rolls on into the summer months.
Through the first 14 races, there have been nine different winners, two of which were first timers. The “Dash 4 Cash” handed out their first bonus check in Dover, the same weekend Roush Fenway Racing teammates collided for the win. Headlines have been plentiful, the talent captivating.
No, Comcast faced a more daunting task than sponsoring a NASCAR series: keeping all stakeholders happy by delivering on the track (for drivers) as well as off it (for fans).
“If you look at some of the stuff NASCAR has been able to give us as teams, we now have live Internet on our pit boxes, where in the past it never worked. [NASCAR] said XFINITY was a big part of that,” @Brendan62 revealed.
“With NASCAR’s new pit road camera system, they are able to send us, if we get an infraction, they’ll send us the pictures right away now. So it’s enabled us to have better communication with our teams during races, between our own guys, and better communication with the shop during races.”
NASCAR’s at-track activation is the modern day word of mouth for a company looking to expose their product to the public. In NASCAR, through different fan zones and midways around the country, thousands of potential customers are reached each weekend through one simple platform.
Welcome to the XFINITY Zone.
Currently at marquis events on the schedule – next stop Daytona – or in areas providing Comcast service, XFINITY is not just a sponsor, it’s a product and Comcast continues to look for ways to deliver it to fans. Most recently the zone appeared at Dover and Charlotte, the latter where Richard Childress Racing driver @bscottracing got a glimpse of it firsthand.
As every NASCAR track has some form of a midway where merchandise can be purchased, games played and products sampled, Comcast as dipped a toe in the water with a display mixed of racing and entertainment. Not the most flashy or largest area, the XFINITY Zone does have the most expensive features, and that’s aside from displaying the new championship trophy.
In the XFINITY Zone fans are given the chance to
- Register a personal ID card, which can be used throughout the zone for a variety of activities
- That includes registering to participate in the “Dash 4 Cash” program
- Or taking computer-generated picture either in a NASCAR firesuit or next to a driver
Don’t forget about spinning the prize wheel and check out the Driver Dens. The space, one designed by Carl Edwards and the other @ChaseElliott, features items the drivers donated. It’s an area designed to show off their personalities. Edwards’ area featured a mountain bike and guitar; Elliott’s a snowboard and gaming system.
Some of these items could also possibly head home with fans. And speaking of the fans, those with Comcast service, or needing a reason to explore switching their services, are given a demonstration of the latest and greatest technology, for instance, the talking remote.
Relatively new, the remote is essentially a smartphone with voice commands to navigate around the television. Through the X1 Entertainment Operating System, apps for the weather and traffic can be checked on a sidebar while the selected television program is still playing on screen.
Interested in what’s trending on TV? There’s an option for that to help decide what show you should be watching. Or, perhaps you’d like to share video (perhaps while sitting in the grandstands of a race) from your phone to a friend sitting at home? There’s an option for it to be sent directly to their television.
“I think they’ve done a great job with the changes and to be able to step up and do what they’ve done, and this is just a couple months into their first year, and they’ve come on board for many, many more, so we’re excited,” Buescher said. “It’s been a great sponsor.”
While far from perfect as the service still does not provide channels hosting NASCAR races, Comcast expressed hope and plans, at the beginning of the year to branch out in the future. Including providing the service in many more parts of the country, as well as adding additional channels.
Don’t worry though; it’s not all work and no play.
There’s an app for everything or at least it seems nowadays, and when XFINITY launched into NASCAR, they quickly introduced the sport to theirs.
The XFINITY TV GO app is available to any Comcast customer, not just the drivers who can’t seem to get enough of it. Younger drivers like @CaleConley and Ryan @Blaney won’t hesitate to pull out their phones or tablet to catch up on a TV show they might have missed, while even the veterans in the garage have taken to it
“They have the coolest app in the world. The XFINITY TV GO app is like the best thing in the world,” exclaimed @Elliott_Sadler. “They’re not telling me to tell you this, but we have it on all our devices at home, so now when my wife wants to go out to eat, like she wanted to go out to each during March Madness, so I took her out to eat at her favorite restaurant and I got to watch basketball games on my iPad while we ate, so it works out great.”
The app provides users with the chance to watch live television or movies, in addition to catching up on recent episodes of a favorite television series. There’s also an option for kids programming.
“My kids can watch it,” Sadler said. “The XFINITY TV GO app, if you don’t have that, you need to try that out. It is bad to the bone, so I think they’ve a really good job interacting with us drivers.”
In a sport where reaching every generation matters, technology, as NASCAR continues to explore, is a huge part of connecting with the fan base. Comcast / XFINITY is in the same boat, and as they continue to grow on the track, the marketing and activation off it should also improve.
After all, there is plenty of time for fans to be made.
“It’s hard for any new title series sponsor to come right in and be as comfortable as they are and do such a great job, and meet all the drivers and the owners, and that’s something they did in the beginning of the season,” Blaney said. “That’s been really cool to see grow and develop.
“That’s been neat, to meet all of them. They’re really interested in this sport and it’s great to have them in NASCAR. Hopefully we can keep them around for more than 10 years.”
EMAIL KELLY AT email@example.com
FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KellyCrandall