by Roger Pynn
You can’t live in Central Florida and not be aware of the presence and power of the motorsports industry. It has an enormous impact on our economy and it is a part of the regional culture. And while I doubt we would have been any less interested had Danica Patrick broken through NASCAR barriers on any other track, for a lot of folks there was a sense of pride that she made her biggest statement yet at Daytona International Speedway.
And when terrible things happened at Daytona on Saturday just a day before the Great American Race, it hit home for folks here who know that we are home each year to our own version of the Super Bowl every February. Folks all over the world saw the horrific crash and television network stations nationwide were quick to show video taken by fans in the stand as debris flew into the stands. It was all over YouTube in minutes.
All-in-all, I thought the folks at the track did a good job of PR basics … responding to and updating media, expressing their concern first and foremost for the injured fans and their families and making it crystal clear that they were focused on fan safety. The overnight repair of the “catch nets” that are supposed to keep cars on the track and out of the stands was pretty amazing … demonstrating not only the commitment to safety, but the agility of the company that draws so much tourism and profit to Daytona Beach. (Full disclosure here … our firm represents the Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau and we know how important those visitors are.)
One question that looms over NASCAR PR’s head this week, however, as the racing body pursues answers to what caused the accident to go beyond the track and into the stands where so many were injured: what really prompted a decision by NASCAR to block a YouTube video of the wreck posted by a fan?
The decision and initial claims that copyright interests drove the move beg questions about NASCAR social media policy, and where and how decisions like this are made.
NASCAR needs its fans … whether they are visiting the World’s Most Famous Beach or any of the tracks around the country. The sport is evolving on many fronts (safety, auto technology, marketing and fan experience among them) and the organization needs to be sensitive to the nature of social media. Fan video is a fact of life.