A Look at the Winningest Team in NHRA History

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John: Hey everyone, welcome to Life is Digital. I am your host, John Bianchi. Get ready to learn about digital marketing as we share our knowledge and perspectives on current trends, best practices and actionable tips to help you grow your business in the digital age. Well, I am so excited this morning, because I have Ashley Keller, the Social Media Specialist with Don Schumacher Racing here with me this morning. Ashley, it is just an absolute pleasure to have you on board.

Meet Ashley Keller, Social Media Specialist at Don Schumacher Racing

Ashley: Thank you, thanks for having me today.

John: I’m so excited. I’m a huge racing fan myself… I’ve watched NASCAR over the years. I’m a huge Formula One fan. I will say that drag racing has always been something to me that the sheer power is just fantastic, and it’s something I know I’ve gotta get back into… I’ve never been to a drag race before, but I think I’m going to have to change that based on our pre-show conversation, which you shared… So I thought maybe you could share an industry fact about Don Schumacher Racing. And, you said something really interesting, and I want to give you the opportunity to share that with our audience today.

Ashley: Yeah, it’s exciting to actually be a part of such a great organization. Drag racing in itself is just a phenomenal sport that again, yes, you absolutely do need to come to the track when you can, but it’s great because I’m able to be a part of such a cool organization at the forefront of the sport, and we are the winningest team in drag racing history. Again, I said, it’s pretty neat to be a part of that, to be able to help… A brand has already been built, but to continue that with this team and to even build further with that through digital scapes is a lot of fun.

We currently are getting ready to head to Indianapolis for an event this weekend, which as of our last one, we have 348 wins with competing in two different categories, top fuel and funny car this weekend. We could achieve our 350th win as an organization.

So it’s a pretty substantial milestone for motor sports in general, so it’s very exciting.

Why is it important for a racing team to have a brand? 

John: Well, that is just so cool, and I love that you’re touching on a legacy of greatness, I think a lot of the individuals who follow the podcast and are building businesses, that is what we achieve and what we strive to achieve in this space, so not only congratulations on the success that you guys have had, but we’re all going to be rooting for you this weekend to get that… That’s a huge milestone. You mentioned that a brand has been built, and I think we chatted about this in the pre-show as well, why is it important for a racing team to have a brand, how can they leverage a brand, why should they leverage a brand?

There are the iconic racing teams where in Formula One, You’ve got Ferrari, you’ve got Mercedes, maybe Red Bull Racing, Williams Racing, such a legacy there. In NASCAR, you’ve got the drivers who stand out, you’ve got the Dale Earnhardts, and you’ve got the Jeff Gordons, and obviously in drag racing, you have Don Schumacher. Why is it important for a racing team to have a brand?

Ashley: I think it’s important because you still have objectives that you have to reach, but in that, and especially in the social media landscape of it, you still want to be able to maintain an authentic voice, and that’s critical. With us being here at DSR, we felt the DSR family, if you will, and it’s something, whether you’re an employee, a driver, a partner, a fan, family, you’re part of DSR with us, and so that’s something that we strive to not only continue, but also to build and include our followers, our fans, our partners… as much as we can on the digital scape. Especially now more than ever, where many marketing objectives are moving within social media, so it’s an authentic voice for us, but we try to bring our followers with social media with us when it’s at the track, at the shop, whatever we’re showcasing, when it comes to the content that we’re creating.

Capturing compelling content on race day 

John: I love that, and I think that behind the scenes, that getting involved with the team. Maybe, you could share a little bit about how you capture content, what types of content does your audience want to see? Obviously, race day is on a Saturday or a Sunday. You’ll have the qualifying. You can hop on FOX Sports and you could tune in it, you can see the race, but are you seeing that audiences want to have that up close and personal, that unique experience and how does that impact how you to create and capture content, let’s say on race day?

Ashley: Yeah, it’s not only our driver personalities that we want to showcase, but it’s also obviously our performance on track, and behind the scenes. Our crews are working diligently and very hard to make sure that we are the best on track and so… Part of the social media side of it is that I try to showcase it as best as I can. Our broadcast with FOX, they do a great job of showing things behind the scenes of the guys turning the cars around, but there are moments that we can share from our side and from our teams to help bring fans and followers and partners with us when it comes to behind the scenes action. And, so obviously, you can’t smell the nitro through social media, you can’t feel the hit, unfortunately. You have to come to a race for that, but I definitely recommend it. But at the same time, we do our best to showcase that power and in the moment, I guess, achievements and things like that, as best as we can through our channels and through our content that we develop. We have varying personalities on our team, which is fantastic. It’s awesome, and that some followers of one driver may not be the same followers as another driver, or they may not follow the team, but we’re able as a whole to showcase what we can achieve.

New strategies to drive new fans online 

John: I absolutely love that. And I think in this new landscape of even there being a limitation on some fans being able to attend the races in person, I wonder… is that changing the placement of the content? Are you looking for new ways and new channels to deliver the media to a new fan. I saw over this last weekend at one of the Formula One races, I think it was at the Silverstone Grand Prix, one of the drivers had a helmet design that was all drawings from young Formula One fans that they gave them an opportunity to design his helmet and he wore during the race, and they were able to create a piece of content around that and highlight the driver and highlight the sports initiative to bring new fans into racing, is that something that you guys are seeing as you develop and produce content that the fans want to be more involved with the team overall.

Ashley: Yeah, certainly, and this obviously speaks to any social media professional out there, but we all know that the landscape continually changes every single day. What we place on Facebook in January, it could be completely different. Obviously, 2020 is a completely different story. I don’t want to say the weird year, but the way the pandemic has going has been going certainly on any normal year, what you in place in January would be different than maybe June or July because the algorithm changes so much. It changes continually.

That’s where you have to constantly adapt to change, to stay on trend or be ahead of the trend, and so today we posted our first Instagram reel with the new platform that has been launched, that Instagram has… I have been hesitant to join TikTok because I don’t understand it, and I hate to say that, but when it comes to social media, you definitely want to understand and have objectives of what you’re putting out there regardless of whether you’re in business, in racing, in whatever you’re doing. You want to be able to understand the platform and that you’re able to put out there and measure the objectives that you’re trying to reach, so that’s something that we’re constantly trying to do and to get ahead of the trend, to stay on trend, but then also open up to new fans. We have younger generations that are coming up… The great thing about NHRA is we have fans of all ages, male, female, across a wide variety. We are an extremely diverse sport, and I love working for that and working with it, so we’re trying to reach new fans, new followers, younger generations, while still maintaining our relationships that we have with our older fans and our partners and varying industries and that kind of thing as well, so you’re trying to cater to all of that while evolving, if you will.

2020 aside, obviously… March was when things changed. I had my first full-time year in drag racing last year, and I felt great. Coming out of 2019, I’m like, “Okay, awesome. We can do a lot of cool new things.” I know what NHRA is about now. I know the flow of a race weekend like the back of my hand after you have 24 of them, so you finally get in that groove and now you can adjust your strategy and plan for new fun things, and then obviously the pandemic hit and so you have to adjust, because we weren’t racing at the time. People were home. Parents were now teachers, so we tried to do everything we could not only to continue to provide that value that we do through our social media channels, but also just resonate with our followers and so coloring pages were a hit of our cars. Once kids were done with homework, they could color their favorite driver, and then we had fans of honestly all ages, and even one our drivers did color himself too. So, it was pretty cool that you could see how that resonated with our fan base, and so you’re just constantly evolving and constantly adjusting.

Especially now, more than ever.

Ashley’s greatest memory working with Don Schumacher Racing

John: I absolutely love that, and I think that’s the great thing about racing is that I think racing can transcend all ages, all genders. I think everybody can get excited when they see a fast car, somebody talented doing something really awesome on track. I have to ask you, what is probably your biggest or greatest memory from working with Don Schumacher?

Ashley: I think with the organization, it’s definitely my first race. In 2018, I was transitioning positions at the time, I was wrapping up my season in NASCAR to eventually come back to Indy, which Indianapolis is home for me, I was close to my family and to take this opportunity because it’s Don Schumacher. It was an awesome opportunity, something a little bit outside of my comfort zone to where I can evolve my skills as well as hopefully evolving the team and building what they’ve already established, so it was definitely my first race. I flew in from Phoenix because we had just had a race the night before, I was on an hour and a half of sleep, and I was meeting my boss in person for the first time at the airport. So obviously, you can imagine that’s all nerve-wracking and then I’m going into a sport that… Yeah, I’ve been to a couple of US Nationals when we were here, just as a casual fan, I didn’t really know too much in depth about drag racing, but it had to have been that first hit from the start line. And again, like I said previously, it’s hard for us to be able to showcase the power through social media. We can and we can slow-mo and show tire wrinkle and the power that is coming out of the pipes and everything as best as you can, but to actually feel those G’s that somebody is feeling on the line, because they put so much power out, it’s hard. You can’t replicate your eyes crying from Nitro, it hurts, and it’s great, and it’s fun, so it’s something that will stick in my memory for a very long time. That whole weekend was a blur just because it was a new position, I was learning a lot of names a lot of people who are now my teammates and I work very closely with, but at the same time, it’s definitely a weekend that we’ll always stick out because it was the start of it, and honestly, I was hooked from the first hit.

Key takeaways 

John: That’s absolutely fascinating… Like I said, I’ve been to races before, but I’m definitely going to have to come out now because it just sounds like something totally different and I love it. I must be junky. It’s just awesome to be around. I always say anyone can get out to any racing event, it’s just an absolutely spectacular thing.

This has been such a fantastic conversation today, I wonder if you could leave the audience, obviously, business owners and people who are involved in marketing and advertising, listening to the podcast… I wonder if you could leave them with a couple of key takeaways, something that maybe you could help them understand the importance of leveraging a brand, creating great content, making sure you have the right communications and strategy, finding the right channel, We’ve talked about a number of different things today. I’m sure you can leave us with a few things…

Ashley: Yeah, certainly. I think if for somebody that’s completely starting out and implementing social media into their business strategy, start with Twitter or Facebook or Instagram, or just Facebook and Instagram. You have to make sure that you understand the channel that you’re posting to and what objectives you’re trying to reach, and we all have to start somewhere. So it’s having that authentic voice with the channel that you understand and putting out great content, whether that’s a professional photo, whether that’s showcasing the family atmosphere behind your business. You want to make sure that you understand your channel, but just make sure you understand what you’re trying to portray as far as the voice that you’re trying to promote. That’s probably one of the biggest as well as, be ready to work on the fly.

A lot of social media is in the moment, and so you have to be able to capture that and to be able to share it appropriately and show it… I mean, part of my job I feel like with the video and the digital is I try to evoke emotion, I want people to feel it, to have goosebumps or something that we share, and you see that a lot with professional sports, collegiate sports. I’m not honestly a huge football fan, I will say that, and specifically college football, and I’m embarrass to say that, but it’s Indiana and we love basketball, that’s kind of my thing, plus hockey. But, I love following different sports organizations and learning from them, LSU, Clemson, Alabama, they have phenomenal content that they put out that resonates so well across so many different ages on social media, young and old, and that content to create that content that resonates and to stick… you want to make sure it’s going to stop somebody from scrolling. That’s probably the biggest because there’s so much information and so much content out there that you want to create something that’s going to make somebody stop, pause and ponder what you put out.

John: I think those are excellent words of wisdom, and I really like what you said about encouraging someone to just start producing content, learn a channel, make sure your audience is there, that’s the right place to be, but I really love that… That you’re encouraging even someone who maybe hasn’t taken that step forward to be able to go ahead and actually dive in and start producing their story because everyone’s stories unique, every business is unique. And, Ashley, I really appreciate you joining me today for our podcast. This has been just an absolutely fantastic conversation.

Ashley: Great, yeah, it’s been great to join you. Thank you so much for inviting me and I certainly appreciate it.

John: Absolutely. Well, I appreciate you, Ashley, and I also appreciate you, the listeners, for joining us for this episode of Life is Digital. Remember, I’m your host, John Bianchi. Please remember to rate, review and subscribe to the show, there’ll be some information in the comment section and links below. Until next time. Don’t stop marketing.

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