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NASCAR in 1984

I suspect the percentage of people that haven't read, or at least heard of, George Orwell's classic book 1984 is fairly small. Based on my experience it was required reading in most schools and remains popular today and led to the introduction of a whole vocabulary of words concerning totalitarian control such as Newspeak, doublethink and thoughtcrime.

Orwell's world containing a grim city and a terrifying country, where Big Brother is always Watching You and the Thought Police can practically read your mind came to mind reading this piece by Meridith Levinson Senior Writer for CIO.com.

The article notes the explosive growth of NASCAR in the last ten years of it's fan base and also the number of corporations that have become involved. (in 2004, 97 Fortune 500 companies were involved with Nascar; in 2005, that number jumped to 106). One of the corporations it singles out is Nextel:

Nextel pays Nascar $75 million a year to sponsor the Nextel Cup Series of races (Nextel took over the sponsorship from cigarette-maker Winston) and provides the technology that enables fans to listen to conversations between drivers and their crews during races, Nascar hasn't been able to use Nextel's vast customer base to bring new fans into the racing fold mainly because of the privacy concerns that arise around sharing customer data, says VanDerSnick [Roger VanDerSnick, Nascar's vice president of marketing]. Nor has it been able to reach out in any comprehensive fashion to any of its other sponsors' consumers, such as Allstate, The Home Depot and Exxon/Mobil. VanDerSnick says Nascar hasn't yet figured out how to market itself to Nextel customers while respecting Nextel's customer privacy agreements. He admits that database marketing is an area where Nascar is playing catch-up. Until recently, Nascar thought database marketing was up to sponsors or to the tracks as part of their ticket selling efforts.
And thus - entry into NASCAR's world of "catch-up," A/K/A Big Brother is always Watching You, on page 5 of the article.
As the 2006 season gets under way, VanDerSnick says Nascar will begin exploring the possibility of consolidating all the disparate databases in the stock car racing industry that contain fan information so that it and its partners can market to those fans. "All the drivers have their own fan clubs; Nascar.com has its own database; the Nascar members club has a database," says VanDerSnick. "We want to, as best we can because we don't have complete control here, consolidate all those databases so everyone can leverage it and target existing Nascar fans to improve marketing program execution."

The idea behind the database consolidation effort is that if Nascar has a better understanding of its fans--their demographics, behaviors and preferences--it can provide them with compelling offers for, say, opportunities to meet drivers at races, Nascar-branded jackets, or deals on products and services from sponsors. Not only would that bring in revenue, it would increase fan loyalty (one of Nascar's biggest selling points), which will in turn please and attract new sponsors while convincing existing ones to increase their spending.

Ah yes! "Compelling offers," that inundate your Email inbox, spill out of a fans snailmail box and generally become over time a real pain in the ass and fodder for Sunday dinner's charcoal starter.

Before I get to carried away in equating NASCAR and it's corporate sponsors as Orwell's Big Brother I should note privacy concerns are noted in several sections of the article, but we all know how that works don't we?

"Private data," a misnomer if there ever was one, just has a way to get into the wild one way or another. From Government data banks to public and private corporations are all susceptible to either a boneheaded keystroke by an employee or deliberate hacking by Keyloggers putting tens of millions of Internet users' finances, personal data, and account information at risk.

So welcome fans to NASCAR's version of Orwell's 1984, a place where every on and offline NASCAR related thing you do may, I repeat may, end up in the greedy clutches of HE, Who Shall Be Obeyed, A/K/A Brian France. Put another way: "We're From the Government NASCAR, We're Here to Help You!"

As for myself, I'm taking all prudent precautions. I've barricaded my modem, doors, windows and joined a secret revolutionary organization called The Brotherhood, dedicated to the destruction of the Party NASCAR.

Cross Posted @ Full Throttle.

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