Driving technology at NASCAR for ultimate FX
“To be the most innovative and technology advanced organisation across the sports entertainment industry within three years” is the message from Christine Stoffel-Moffett, who is driving the cloud and digital transformation at The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing - known around the world as NASCAR.
Stoffel-Moffett, Vice President of Enterprise Technology at NASCAR, gives us an exclusive glimpse into the glamorous world of stock car racing epitomised by Hollywood actor-turned-driver Tom Cruise, who put the iconic Daytona racetrack on the big screen in Days of Thunder.
Founded by Bill France in 1948 and still owned by the France Family today, each year, NASCAR sanctions more than 1,200 races in more than 30 US states, Canada, Mexico and Europe. It is the sanctioning body for the number one form of motorsports in the US and owner of 16 of the nation’s major motorsports entertainment facilities.
In the first of a three-part special, Stoffel-Moffett focuses on how she is leading NASCAR’s digital technology journey to improve operational efficiencies and enhance the fan experience (FX) as the sport navigates its way through a US$2bn merger with International Speedway Corporation (ISC) and challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When I came to NASCAR, I knew that not only were we merging two organisations, but we really had to reposition our business with a thoughtful and mindful technology mindset and strive to be best-in-class through a deep evaluation of how we're leveraging the right technology, solutions and technology partners for our business,” said Stoffel-Moffett from her office in Daytona.
“Through the merger of two very different businesses, we are now building a new culture of transparency, collaboration, passion, adaptiveness and encouraging a growth mindset across the enterprise technology organisation and stretching into the business,” said Stoffel-Moffett who is recognised across the sports industry from her industry peers as a “transformational leader” and she is clearly bringing this front and centre to NASCAR.
For a sport that can accommodate upwards of 190,000 spectators - far larger than any non-motorsport venue in North America - the FX is the lifeblood of stock car racing - which started with a 250-mile race along Daytona Beach, Florida, US on 8 March 1936.
A total of 27 drivers competed in coupes, convertibles and sports cars, but only 10 navigated their way through the sand and completed the race 10 miles shy of the finishing line. The winner was Milt Marian, and a young Bill France came fifth - the man who went on to be the founder of NASCAR in 1948 as he saw the potential for a unified series of racing competitions on a proper track.
More than 70 years later, the power of NASCAR and ISC looks set to create a new FX following the multi-billion dollar merger. According to Stoffel-Moffett, they are now moving forward as one company to re-invent the experience for fans and shareholders with the use of technology in every corner of the business from HR, accounting, finance, network infrastructure, Internet, cloud, computers, servers, storage, applications, to new website, social media, virtual experiences, digital ticketing and simulated racing.
“In 2020, I launched an external mission statement for enterprise technology to become looked upon as the most inspiring future-forward, innovative and technology advanced organisation across the sports entertainment industry. This is a bold statement, but with the support of the France family, NASCAR Board and senior leadership behind us, this is our driving force and vision every day.
“I put a line in the sand and said, here's our statement,” said Stoffel-Moffett. “In order to achieve this, we have to align with best-in-class technology partners. I believe I have a best-in-class technology organisation and for the last year we have been aligning ourselves with the best-in-class technology solutions, service providers and partners. Everyday we get closer to the realisation of this mission statement. We stay focused on our vision, our deliverables to the business and strive to make the fan experience the best we can, one race at a time.”
Focus on the FX
As NASCAR moves out of the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, it will be focusing on technology even more to give fans the ultimate experience. NASCAR’s purchase of ISC now means it is all privately owned, enabling NASCAR to reinvest money into both tracks and technology, which will improve the experience for the fans even further.
“There are so many advantages to this merger, as we're now one comprehensive company under one brand that can really be dynamic for our customers, corporate partners, consumers and our fans,” said Stoffel-Moffett.
“NASCAR has evolved over the last year and has truly transcended as a global brand and a world-class organisation. When COVID affected the sports industry, we took that opportunity and launched the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series when no other sport was taking place as we wanted to entertain people while they were locked in their homes.
“NASCAR is not just about car, IMSA road races or truck racing, there are so many different facets – with NASCAR’s 73-year-history it's really an experience whether you’re watching it live, on TV or virtually, it’s an incredible experience everyone needs to try. Attending a NASCAR event is an affordable, fun family experience and with our racing electronics headsets, these make it THE ultimate, intimate experience listening to your favourite driver, the pits and becoming fully immersed in the full racing experience,” said Stoffel-Moffett.
“We've put a lot of emphases and focus over the last year to digitalise and cloud-enable our work environment and to reimagine the FX, and so it's really exciting to see where NASCAR is headed in the future, said Stoffel-Moffett, who joined NASCAR in March 2020 just before COVID-19 took hold and “the world changed”.
She was immediately asked to focus on the merger between privately-owned NASCAR and publicly-owned ISC but then had to quickly pivot and focus on getting 2,000-plus employees working remotely, working with her IT organisations in implementing network secure protocols, as well as, providing as many tools and applications remotely to the NASCAR employees across the US with impromptu training and educating the workforce of how to work remotely, effectively, efficiently and effortlessly.
“One of the big challenges we had, when I joined the organisation, was assessing all technology because NASCAR and ISC were still merging its culture and technology solutions. We had to look at our enterprise applications, systems, network, core infrastructure across our entire company - not just siloed applications, systems and technologies.
“Last year became a very tactical year and reviewing, assessing and analysing everything we do as a company from a technology perspective, said Stoffel-Moffet, who oversees all technology from desktop engineering, help desk service desk, network engineering and architecture, enterprise applications and systems, servers, storage, cloud architecture, CRM, analytics, data engineering and architecture, ticketing technology and security.
Her role is to now improve business operations and business optimisation through enterprise-wide technology solutions, implement digital transformation through cloud and digital applications, effective collaboration tools, data capture
improve workflow efficiency, improve data capture, data accuracy and rolling out reporting dashboards through implementing a formal data strategy and building efficiencies across the NASCAR enterprise organisation.
Digital data lake
NASCAR is aiming to have created a digital lake by the end of 2022 - pulling together all the historical data from NASCAR and ISC. When Stoffel-Moffett took over she focused on the data warehouse of both companies and saw they did not mesh as each had its own working practices.
“Last year, we re-architected and redesigned our data warehouse and we have now been executing this new architecture - it's been an amazing process and we now have a brand new enterprise-wide consumer data warehouse. Ticketing, sales, corporate partnerships and sponsors are now able to capture data and become empowered with relevant reports that are meaningful to the business KPIs.
“Simultaneously we're implementing bi-directional CRM, partnering with the internal sales organisations to implement new sales workflows and business process for the ticket sales and partnership marketing teams, finishing the build of a new MDM and pivoting NASCAR toward becoming a data-driven organisation by delivering the first version of executive dashboards in the coming weeks. These are exciting and transformational times for NASCAR.
“The media productions team is migrating 73-year history over 100 Pedabytes of video and picture archives to our AWS Cloud Media Archive Warehouse.
“We have a comprehensive plan around our data strategy. One piece is the analytics that we're capturing around our fan engagement, ticket sales and revenue to our corporate partners and how we're partnering with our corporate partners and the analytics that we can provide them as well as our historical data warehouse,” she said.
“Through all of these moving pieces, we have begun to start putting together a framework for our future data lake. This will enable us to connect our historical NASCAR archive to our consumer data warehouse for an incredible opportunity. We are excited to give our marketing teams the opportunity to share the NASCAR story in new and immersive ways to our global fans through every marketing campaign, every email, every social media post.”
NASCAR is looking to improve the fan experience with the following:
- New website (for all the tracks)
- Social media channels
- Digital apps
- Loyalty programs
“Our digital marketing team is working on rolling out a new website and mobile app that will completely change the way that our fans engage with us through a web and digital media platform,” said Stoffel-Moffett. “Previously, we had lots of mobile apps because all the tracks had their own, but now we're consolidating that and having a seamless experience for the fan.
“A more comprehensive loyalty program is in development over the next year that will all intersect between FX at the venue and through the mobile app, website, WiFi, fan engagement experiences and our social media. We're really focused on improving the FX.
“The fan and customer experience is based on how much data we’re gathering from them. To understand our fan and event guests better, we want to be able to hear from them, to listen to them. Surveys, fan feedback, mobile apps, web portals provide us insights to build better relationships with our current fans, new fans, virtual fans and future fans. We are building more engaging methods for our fans to communicate with us so we can ask the questions and gather relevant and insightful information to ensure we can provide them a better experience. How can we learn from our fans? And what mediums do they want to engage with us?
“I'm a big Instagram person, and obviously, I follow NASCAR on Instagram, but the engagement we have had on our social media platforms since leveraging the archive images has been amazing. It’s fun, fascinating and kudos to our NASCAR digital marketing team whom do a remarkable job in taking pictures of a current race event and an archived picture of the same race 20-30 years ago and sharing this story of evolution of our sport through social media”
Next time Stoffel-Moffett will be taking a deep dive into security and reveal how NASCAR has become a ‘best-in-class’ technology partner in security. “Our goal is to become a zero-trust environment, and we are marching towards this mission for NASCAR,” she said.
Looking to the future, NASCAR is developing the Next-Gen car — expected to hit the track in 2021. The new car is going to feature a redesigned body and under-the-hood enhancements to make NASCAR stock cars even more like the cars in showrooms across America.
As NASCAR embarks on its digital journey, it has reached out to a number of partners, which include; CDW, AWS cloud, Microsoft, Tickets.com and Konica Minolta.
“We have more than 91 projects and initiatives for 2021 to get accomplished, and there are so many of these that we can't do without our technology partners at our side”, said Stoffel-Moffett
“CDW really came to our rescue last year, when we needed to move our staff to work remotely,” said Stoffel-Moffett. “Like every business in the world, we needed additional monitors, computers, printers and additional licensing for a video conferencing solution. CDW was there with us the whole way to ensure we had the inventory we needed as any superior partner would!
CDW helped us to quickly pivot our software solutions, enabled us to implement hardware, backup, storage needs and kept us nimble and dynamic through 2020 as we were required to deliver at a moment’s notice. Without CDW by our sides, we would not have been able to be agile for our business leaders, our employees and our fans. CDW has been an incredible partner to NASCAR for years, and they supported us through the pandemic helping our remote staff work seamlessly and successfully,” she said.
AWS is one of NASCAR’s key digital transformation partners. “Our AWS team, led by John Dwyer, is closely aligned with NASCAR tech teams on multiple initiatives. AWS cloud hosting helped NASCAR bridge the historical gap between the legacy architecture and new technology.
“This has led to a new digital library with 73 years of NASCAR history media assets. AWS offers the cloud platform supporting the re-architecture of our consumer data warehouse. AWS’ platforms are critical to NASCAR’s journey to becoming more cloud-centric with innovative solutions,” she said. “NASCAR is utilising AWS AI/ML as we seek to deliver new engaging experiences to fans, such as presenting a race where Dale Sr. races Dale Jr. at Talladega.”
“Our cloud strategy is expansive - we are collaborating with AWS on building a Cloud Centre of Excellence, data centre and services and moving NASCAR to a data driven business decision model.”
“Microsoft is one of NASCAR’s key partners when it comes to the cornerstone of our business applications, collaboration tools, solution deployment and desktop security. NASCAR acquired E5 Microsoft licenses providing additional support to move them on their digital transformation journey.
Our Microsoft partnership team, led by David Olivares, has been instrumental in helping the NASCAR enterprise technology team re-architect our Microsoft systems to ensure an advanced level of security across our environment
“Our Microsoft team has been with us every step of the way. We have weekly collaboration meetings discussing our KPI’s, goals and future forward strategies, implementing best practices across our entire suite of Microsoft solutions. Through this collaboration, we are enabling our employees to work seamlessly and effortlessly with improved communication and collaboration, secure cloud storage through OneDrive and helping us with our business continuity strategy. We believe in Microsoft and trust our Microsoft partnership.
Tickets.com has been with NASCAR “every step of the way” according to Stoffel-Moffett.
“When the pandemic hit, TDC helped us work with our clients, customers and our fans on everything from ticket renewals to credits.
“When we looked at digital ticketing, Tickets.com were with us again. In 2020, we tested their new Alfred ticketing scanners. We decided it was so good - our customers and our fans just loved the experience. We were able to get our fans into the gates faster and for the first time in more than 10 years, we had a 100 per cent accuracy enabling us to scan every single ticket and hold that information into our data warehouse for real-time reporting. We were able to produce better analytics and report the event information to senior management because we had an amazing ticket scanning solution,” said Stoffel-Moffett.
“This enabled us to quickly implement digital ticketing across all of our venues. Our relationship with Tickets.com is incredible. Their support for NASCAR has been just amazing - we couldn't have been as successful as we have been with digital ticketing without them,” she said.
“Konica Minolta is a new partner to NASCAR. We started working together on a variety of solutions to continue our efforts of digital transformation driving efficiencies.
“KM has brought us innovative partners in the video and conference room solution space, helping us through our pilot evaluations to ensure we are selecting best in class for our new business optimization vision.
“Our KM partners are also assisting us in an evaluation of our enterprise-wide copier and printing strategy. At NASCAR we drive toward green initiatives, less paper consumption and enabling our workforce to be as digital, progressive and nimble as possible. KM is known to be a market leader in managed print services, but they are so much more than this to NASCAR. Konica Minolta is a technology partner with insightful vision, innovation and a true goal to help us become a digital workplace.
“We’re so thankful that we have NASCAR and the senior leadership and the board and the family behind us to be looking at best-in-class technologies and continuing to evaluate how we're going to leverage technology to take our business to a new level of success.”
QUICK FIRE QUESTIONS:
In the driving seat with Christine Stoffel-Moffett, VP of Enterprise Technology at NASCAR
SEAT is recognised as a platform for leaders across the globe to embrace sharing of ideas to further the world’s industry of sports and entertainment. What top tips will you be putting forward to overcome the challenges posed by the pandemic?
“I will be having panel sessions at SEAT with CIO leaders across the sports entertainment industry for the next couple of months. Sometimes getting people back to the venues is not all about technology; it's more about the process, and it's about making your fans feel safe and putting protocols and processes in place so that they know that when they enter the building, they're safe and they're secure.”
What technology trends (from Virtual Reality to AI) do you predict taking off in the next five years and how will this benefit the fan experience for NASCAR?
“I believe that sports and entertainment was given a “reset button” opportunity in 2020 to re-imagine the FX; to take 2020 as a growth opportunity to alter business models, to become more creative in how we leverage technology platforms to give unique, immersive experiences to our fans, consumers and business partners.
“The sports and entertainment industry can no longer think that their fans will always be loyal no matter what - the disruption of 2020, politics and the “noise” taught us this.
We, as an industry, need to earn their loyalty, build better relationships with our fans, learn from them and be the best version of our brands, for our fans, consumers and customers around the world.”
As we enter a new era in sports and entertainment for the fans what are you personally excited about in a tech-driven future?
“I see AI and Virtual Reality becoming centre-focused for our industry in a new way to encourage our customers to share with us, to become advocates for our brands in new and interesting ways. But, we have to listen to them, really listen and bring our customers into our re-imaging process. We have an opportunity to build global fans and audiences with a new appreciation of virtual reality, virtual ticketing in a way that never would have taken place before 2020.”
What message would you give to women thinking about choosing a career in technology?
“I believe we need to champion more women into sports technology as it is an amazing industry and ever-changing. I try to share my experiences with women when I speak at colleges and gear them towards technology through marketing or analytics because though not directly in technology, marketing, analytics and data are tied to technology solutions, systems and innovative thinking.
There are so few women in this industry that can be mentors and that are really making a difference, but three come to mind:
“Neda Tabatabaie is the VP of technology for the San Jose Sharks. She's amazing, a real mover and shaker who is constantly bringing brilliant ideas to our sports tech forum.
“Denise Taylor is president of global technology solutions at Legends and has been around the technology industry for a long time and is a real steadfast leader.
“Finally, Katie LaPoff, who was the prior SVP of technology for Madison Square Garden, is a woman trailblazer in the sports technology industry.”
NASCAR In focus
The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, LLC (NASCAR), based in Daytona Beach, Florida, is the sanctioning body for the Number one form of motorsports in the United States and owner of 16 of the nation’s major motorsports entertainment facilities.
The privately-owned company was founded by Bill France Sr. in 1948, and his son, Jim France, has been Chairman and CEO since August 6, 2018. The company is headquartered in Daytona Beach, Florida. Each year, NASCAR sanctions over 1,200 races in more than 30 US states as well as in Canada, Mexico, and Europe.
While originally not officially connected to NASCAR, ISC was also founded by Bill France Sr. in 1953 to construct and manage tracks at which NASCAR could hold competitions. In May 2019, it was announced that NASCAR would purchase ISC and inherit 13 tracks.
- Three national series (NASCAR Cup Series™, NASCAR Xfinity Series™, and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series™)
- Three regional series (ARCA Menards Series, ARCA Menards Series East & West and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour), one local grassroots series and three international series.
- The International Motor Sports Association™ (IMSA®) governs the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship™, the premier US sports car series.
- NASCAR also owns Motor Racing Network, Racing Electronics, Americrown Service and ONE DAYTONA.
NASCAR internal mission statement
Christine Stoffel-Moffett, VP of Enterprise Technology at NASCAR, said this statement is vital to the successful merger of the two cultures within NASCAR and ISC.
“To deliver to our internal customers of our business is to be accepted across NASCAR as strategic technology thought leaders, ready to graciously serve and support our internal business communities, enabling everyone to work together effortlessly.”
“We’re merging cultures, ideologies and methodologies, but as long as an organisation continues to be open and have a collaborative viewpoint with this mission statement, we're accomplishing those goals,” she said.