Belmont Stakes Makes Horse Racing History with Help from Social Studio

When American Pharaoh won the Triple Crown in June at the 147th running of the Belmont Stakes, more than 240,000 tweets were sent in the 15 minutes following the race, according to Twitter. By Sports Illustrated’s account, tweets were flying in as fast as 48,000 per minute.

While fans were busy on their smartphones, the organization responsible for organizing the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, the New York Racing Association (NYRA), was hard at work, promoting content, monitoring sentiment and managing customer service with the help of Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s Social Studio.

“I think we’ve gotten to a place that no matter what channel you reach out to a company--on social, email, website, etcetera--you expect a response, pretty much in real time. Customers expect a 1-to-1 relationship and they expect to have resolution,” said Jason Brown, digital strategist at the NYRA.

The NYRA marketing team turned to Social Studio after the 2014 Belmont Stakes. That race had another Triple Crown contender, California Chrome, and interest was intense.

More than 110,000 people attended the race, says Brown, and that put a lot of strain on the park and the supporting logistics.

“Our fans felt like they didn’t own a piece of the experience,” he said.

The NYRA team made a series of changes designed to dramatically improve the fan experience that included capping gate attendance at 90,000, increased concessions, greater coordination with mass transit and law enforcement, and a revamped customer service strategy with social at its center.

Social integration began with a ticket sale campaign in the spring and culminated with a social war room on race day. The NYRA marketing team used finely-tuned dashboards and topic profiles to drill down on keywords related to historic pain points.

“We have a pretty small, but nimble staff that served as our community managers on web and social media,” Brown said. “We found it really helpful to use Social Studio for publishing and to monitor engagement and interaction across key social media channels, including Facebook and Twitter.

“It was huge that we were able to have this central hub,” he said.

According to Brown, the reason race day went so smoothly is thanks to the ability to pre-program social content into the platform. That feature meant the staff was able to push pre-scheduled content out while having the bandwidth to address customer concerns in real-time.

“We love things that save us time and allow us to operate more efficiently and effectively,” he said.

Results

The strategy worked. The NYRA gained nearly 40,000 new fans on their Belmont Stakes Facebook page, but more importantly, they were able to offer their customers a real-time race-day experience that resulted in a response time that increased their positive sentiment to over 90 percent.

This year’s Belmont is a benchmark for the organization. They’re currently developing key performance indicators that they’ll use to measure future growth and to adjust strategy where necessary.

On Saturday, August 29th the NYRA hosted Travers Stakes Day at Saratoga Race Course. The event highlights one of the biggest racing weekends of the NYRA’s year and they took the lessons from Belmont and successfully applied them to the event.

Brown credits Social Studio for revolutionizing how they do business. “If we weren’t using Social Studio, we wouldn’t meet our goals,” he said.

For more on how your business can find success with social listening, download the free Salesforce e-book.

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