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Exclusive: Supercars Team On Evolving Digital Engagement And Brand Partnerships

W
ith the 2021 Supercars season gaining speed, head of digital transformation at Supercars, Dijana Barbarich and head of client services, Micheál Murphy, spoke exclusively with Ministry of Sport on the goals for the season after a whirlwind 2020.

Overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic

Like most leagues worldwide, Supercars had to grow and adapt to the changing landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Supercars launched their own e-series in April 2020, with drivers participating via gaming rigs at home, an initiative Barbarich said was crucial.

“When COVID hit, we obviously as a sport reacted quite quickly and were one of the few sports that didn’t actually go quiet and implemented the e-series,” Barbarich told Ministry of Sport.

“[The e-series attracted] half a million new eyeballs on the sport.

“[Supercars] recognised just how important digital is for Supercars and there is definitely a renewed appetite to invest in digital,” she said.

Murphy attributed the series to a rise in content creation and viewer participation over the past year for Supercars.

“One of the key insights that we got was with so much content going out there last year by drivers while they were at home was people started getting to see them outside the helmet a lot more,” Murphy said.

“[A study by Gemba] were saying that that increase is very rare.

“They haven’t seen that kind of increase in many other sports over time,” he said.

Attracting A Newer Digital Audience

On the growth of their fans over the past year, Barbarich said Supercars’ audiences were a lot savvier now, whilst identifying the three core audiences they are targeting: hardcore fans, broader sports fans and entertainment fans.

“When you are essentially forcing something down their throat [such as] a brand or a product, they’re pretty clued in and switched on,” Barbarich said.

“It all comes down to content for us now.

“What we do on the track is near impeccable and what we need to do is expand on that with what we’re calling colour content.

“We want to humanise our brand through storytelling.

“We’re forming a strategic partnership with TikTok because we understand that the younger demographic is there and we’re forming partnerships with YouTube because we know that there’s a lot of eyeballs on that platform.

But it’s one thing to target fans digitally, it’s another to bring fans back to the race track.

On the returning of fans to the track, Murphy said that Supercars were initiating various experiences to better fan enjoyment at races, including live music and showcasing younger talent, whilst also admitting they want to capitalise on night time events, gaining influence from cricket’s Big Bash League (BBL).

“The key thing was that kids were doing sports during the daytime,” Murphy told Ministry of Sport.

“How can you compete with that because mom and dad are driving their kids all over the place?

“So, what we looked at is how do we engage families?

[We then] created these night events,” he said.

A New Partner in Repco

The 2021 season has seen a change in championship partners for Supercars, aligning with automotive retailer, Repco, which saw the creation of the “Garage”, both an on-site and digital fan engagement area for Supercars’ events.

On the new partnership, Murphy said: “[Repco] love motorsport.”

“Everyone that works there are ambassadors for Motorsports,” Murphy said.

“[Repco asked] how can they give back to fans and make their experience better?

“It’s [the “Garage”] basically a one stop shop for fun,” Murphy said.

“You’ve got the big screens and a view index of the track because one thing that Supercars tracks don’t have a lot of the time are grandstands,” he said.

Working with Brands

The 2021 season has seen brands enthusiastic to work with Supercars, with many looking towards digital engagement.

New partners, such as Boost Mobile’s audience, lean towards a younger age cohort, whilst brands such as BP are campaigning with Supercars to create new and engaging content to capture the audience, something Murphy said was not happening before.

“Brands before weren’t taking advantage and just sticking their logo onto something,” Murphy told Ministry of Sport.

“Brands are [now] saying to us please, we don’t want to do that, can we get intertwined in your stories?” he said.

Barbarich said sponsors are a key area where they can expand:“[Supercars are] working with each of our sponsors [to create] more immersive and authentic ways to engage with audiences in the digital sphere.”

Pushing Content with Drivers

One of the main advantages for Supercars is their branding with younger drivers, according to Murphy, with currently one-third of their grid under the age of 23, making it easier to market naturally.

“[The younger drivers’] social media is a lot more fun,” Murphy said.

“It’s showing the kind of behind the scenes values of what people kind of want to see versus purely that wheel, motor sports, focused content.

“We’re starting to see the drivers’ personalities a lot more as we just never would have seen them before,” he said.

Barbarich said Supercars are working hard on drivers becoming more interactive online.

“We are going to start incentivising our drivers to generate more content and to be more active on social media,” Barbarich said.

“We’re also working really closely with them to up-skill them in the content creation space.

“[Audiences] want to hear from the talent, not always the brand,” she told Ministry of Sport.