As rain delays dampened the mood during the first race in Nascar’s Sprint Cup series on September 15, Toyota Racing was busy promoting the launch of a virtual Tweet Race that will run through the final 10 races of the season.
The racing arm of Toyota is encouraging fans to vote for their favorite driver on Twitter and push them to an online victory as they speed toward the final lap on race day. It’s not as exciting as spraying champagne following a victory lap, but the driver with the most tweets from fans using the hashtag #TRTR will win the virtual Tweet Race.
The campaign, which has been in development for almost a year now, aims to leverage the strong fan followings that Toyota drivers and the world of NASCAR has in social. “We thought it would be great to activate those existing audiences and give them a way to actually participate with the drivers and the race experience through a social channel like Twitter,” says Kejal Macdonald, senior account manager at iCrossing, Toyota’s digital agency of record. “It was a very new and exciting endeavor,” she adds.
“Our main intent is just to try to engage fans, get a dialogue going hopefully to where they’re curious to learn more about Toyota and to dig into more of the assets we have online,” says Paul Doleshal, motorsport marketing manager at Toyota.
"It’s just a non-confrontational way for them to start to explore the brand, explore what we’re all about and then move in and start to maybe put us on their consideration set when they go for their next car purchase.”
The campaign gathered a couple thousand tweets from green flag to checkered flag at last weekend’s Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. The Tweet Race generated about 4,500 page views and over 1,900 visits on race day with an average of just under seven minutes per visit, says Doleshal.
“We don’t necessarily have a goal right now. This is kind of just an experiment to see how we can develop that engagement process and that interaction between our fans and us. If we can see growth and increases in that engagement over the next few weeks then I think it’ll be a success,” he says.
Social media is a “work in progress for everybody,” he says, adding that Toyota Racing is increasing spending to explore new opportunities in the rapidly evolving channel. "We’re not unlike any other company out there that’s trying to wade through all of the social media landscape and find out what is the best way for your company to communicate and engage people,” Doleshal adds.
As expected, the majority of the conversation last week on Twitter was between fans who could watch their favorite drivers move along the virtual track with each tweet. Toyota Racing is also drumming up new ways to get the drivers engaged and vested in their standings in the Tweet Race.
“Obviously it was the first weekend out, and we’ll try to play upon the competitive juices that we know flow through all of our teams and our drivers, so we will definitely share the results with them and make sure that they understand that they have the opportunity to speed their car up in the race and all that takes is a little promotion via Twitter,” says Doleshal.
Although Kyle Busch lost the first of the 10-race playoff series, he cruised to victory on Twitter where he promoted the Tweet Race to more than 350,000 followers.