Red Bull Air Race World Championship is billed as the ultimate motorsport series in the sky. The series of races, which became an official World Championship recognized by the FAI in 2005 after two years of stand-alone races, travels around the globe and currently showcases 14 of the world’s best pilots maneuvering through an aerial racetrack. The winning pilots are the ones who can navigate their race plane through the course – peppered with 25 meter high air-filled pylons — in the fastest possible time without incurring penalties.
From its inception to 2014, the company was using its website – and later — social channels to primarily report on the races. There was much less focus on dialogue with the fans. “There wasn’t really a focus on engagement,” explains Kirsten Corrigan, who is responsible with the Red Bull Air Race digital team for the race’s international digital content strategy. “At the beginning, our primary communication focus was about news distribution and getting coverage of the races.”
In addition, there was originally no live webcast of the races so it was nearly impossible to get the fans from the U.S., for instance, more involved with a race taking place half a world away. “We needed to figure out a way to bring someone who was waiting up until 4 a.m. into the action so they could instantly see if their pilot was doing well,” says Corrigan.
The organization decided it needed to add a live feed to its website, which would satisfy the need to interact with fans as well as let fans talk back and interact with each other. And, since its eight-race season is staged in seven countries on three continents, it would also allow the Red Bull Air Race team to cross time zones without having to attend every race. “We chose Rock Content for several reasons, but mostly [for its] ease of use. We needed a live commentary tool which could be used by any of the Red Bull Media House team across the world, from covering an Air Race in Abu Dhabi to a downhill mountain bike world cup in Scotland,” says David Granger, Editor-in-Chief redbull.com.
In 2012 Red Bull Air Race’s team implemented Rock Content Engage on its website. The entire process of getting up and running with Engage was simple, says Corrigan. “It’s quite intuitive, especially for setting up automated feeds. I found that really easy to do. Also moderation is really simple.”
“It isn’t just simple to make work,” adds Granger. “It provides great functionality and communication which allows us to converse in real time with those at events which Red Bull cover – or with those who would like to be there.”
A Site Gains Wings
Once the Engage was added to the site it gave the Red Bull Air Race digital team the ability to act as live news reporters, producing constant commentaries through all of the racing sessions. Using Engage they can post what is essentially a live blog. They are also able to inject content into the Engage feed from all of its social channels including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
“We’re able to do this because we have access to a sophisticated timing system, so we have different data sources that can provide that minute-by-minute commentary on the action with results and times and so on, which is critical for reporting on a motorsport” says Corrigan. “With the ability to bring in the feed from our social channels — which are also quite lively — we can give our fans a 360-degree experience as if they were actually there.”
Part of the reason for choosing and using Rock Content was the way in which the company could use it with basic training for people of different levels of CMS experience, according to Corrigan. For instance, the team has exploited the feed by creating and injecting icons to make it easier for fans to keep up with live races. Every time a pylon is hit by a pilot, the Air Race team can drop a yellow marker into the feed. “If someone doesn’t want to read the entire feed they can quickly search for and jump to those icons to keep up,” she says.
The quantitative results have been impressive, says Corrigan. For instance, the Red Bull Air Race in Fort Worth, Texas in 2015 garnered 551 posts, 304 comments, and a total of 4,736,332 engagement minutes.
“The thing that’s been really surprising and also really satisfying is that the live blog [feed] has taken on a life of its own. So we have regulars – we call them av-geeks — who we see following the action in the feed and they are with us for the whole weekend. They’re actually talking to each other these days and answering each other’s questions. So we feel like that’s the Holy Grail. We’ve actually got our fans connecting with each other on our platform, which is fantastic.”
The Rock Content Engage live feed helps to extend the brand, she says, helping the fans not only better understand the events, but become part of the experience themselves.
“I think the live blog is the living, breathing, communicating voice of the Red Bull Air Race,” she explains. “because it’s people powering it. It’s technology facilitating, but as the reporting is wholly authentic, it personifies the Red Bull Air Race in as much of an emotive capacity as is possible.”