I’m not asking anyone to care about NASCAR — to most of us it’s a bunch of yokels making left turns for hundreds of miles while thousands of hillbillies get drunk on cheap beer and smoke free cigarettes. But if the stagnating sport can devise ways to find more unique stars, the rest of us just might start paying attention. NASCAR is about to smash into a glass ceiling for popularity, and executives must know that it faces an impending crisis. (This was made painfully obvious by the “Muhammad Ali” car gimmick a few years back.) Sure, it has started to expand its base beyond the Confederate states — and the other half of the schedule for its premier “Nextel Cup” series has been picked up by ESPN after NBC’s miserable on-track team finally bailed out. But no matter how you slice it, the sport can’t grow much longer without any notable minority stars. This deficiency alone makes the sport seem racist to black and Hispanic folks around the country, and the Confederate flags in too many infields don’t help their cause much either. A sign of Southern heritage? Get over it. It was a battle flag for a war in which one of the catalysts was the preservation of slavery. If these people want to display a Confederate flag, they might as well wear this sign: I am an ignorant hick. Because that’s all most people see. Banning the Confederate flag from every track would be a welcome gesture for the sake of diversity. So why hasn’t NASCAR been able to attract many minority drivers? Primarily, it’s the culture and logistics of the sport. This isn’t like basketball when any kid with a milk crate and a ball swiped from the school playground can practice enough to learn the basics. Plus, experts don’t recommend racing tiny cars around in the middle of the street. Further, it doesn’t have an extensive network of training grounds — like Little League Baseball — that is embraced by parents from all walks of life. Racing takes a unique culture. Good drivers have to start young, in go-carts and on dirt tracks. Most have a parent or relative pushing hard — making repairs late into the night and studying turn progressions. The minority populations that live in inner cities just don’t have regular access to these facilities. In addition, to get the resources to race competitively over a long period of time, you’ve just got to know somebody. And in a sport dominated by drivers and gatekeepers from rural white America, the odds are slim that even a highly talented black driver would work his way to the top. The talent pool is just that shallow. Even if a superstar minority driver did work his way to the top and gained some media attention, it would still take another generation of homogeneity for those inspired by this breakthrough driver to work through the amateur ranks (See: Tiger Woods’ inner-city golf camps). So what can NASCAR do to increase its market share and gain some much needed anti-fad insurance? How do you get kids in poor inner-city neighborhoods onto the track often enough to seriously compete? A sort of Marshall Plan for NASCAR seems to be the only option. Executives need to set up a network of Little League-like organizations to recruit at schools and use their influence to force local racetracks to host these events. To expand this pilot program, NASCAR should set up state racing championships like high school basketball, so kids can represent their neighborhoods or towns on a bigger stage — with more than personal pride on the line. Plus, parents prefer to sign kids up for team sports, where they can build social networking skills. There is no reason NASCAR can’t be perceived as a team game on a local level. Of course, parents who are unfamiliar with the sport will be worried about the inherent danger of whipping around a track at high speeds. So to get wary parents on board, NASCAR must frame their new racing leagues as a way to give impressionable young people something cool to do after school. Even kids who are less athletically inclined will have a chance to get the rush of competition and will have less exposure to the temptations of inner-city life. There will be no shortage of kids who want to race each other in carts after school everyday, and this enthusiasm will make the talented drivers evident very quickly. Because such a league would cost too much for schools to run, it must be run tightly by NASCAR itself. They should even go as far as securing local sponsors for these kids themselves, to keep the young talent from becoming discouraged by the cutthroat business climate of the racing world. If NASCAR brass makes this sizable investment, they will reap the rewards of a sport with endless opportunities for growth, as becoming a Nextel Cup driver will be an attainable dream for Americans who haven’t grown up near the track. Bassey Etim ([email protected]) is pissed off that he had to play basketball against giants when he was a kid, and would much rather have spun them out, run them into a wall, or needlessly blocked them — just keep ’em off the lead lap. He is also Opinion Editor for The Badger Herald.
SBC Magazine Issue 10: Kaizen Gaming rebrand and focus for William Hill CEO August 25, 2020 StumbleUpon BtoBet grows Nigerian presence with Booster99 deal August 26, 2020 Related Articles BtoBet refines African SMS payment options with Tola Mobile August 20, 2020 Share Share Submit BtoBet CEO Alessandro Fried believes that operators risk becoming merely a franchise of their platform provider if they take an off-the-shelf product with a prescribed user experience.Fried said that it does not make sense from a business point of view for an operator to opt to deliver the exact same user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) to many of its market competitors. “In the betting market, you have on one side tier 1 operators such as bet365 or William Hill that have their own tech and develop their own UX,” he explained. “On the other side, many of the platform providers deliver not only the platform with their technology, but also the UX as they envision it. This creates a scenario where platform providers are delivering and transferring the same experience to their customers, with nothing that distinguishes one brand from the other in terms of UX.“Each of their customers then get the same betting experience, so the operator is not delivering its own experience. Ultimately it is the wrong approach to be undertaken because operators are becoming franchises of the same UX that comes part and parcel with the technology that is delivered from the service providers.”By contrast, Fried stated that BtoBet has dealt with this problem by disconnecting the whole UX aspect from the core platform technology, thus “unlocking the potential for each bookmaker to create their own individual player experience”.Individual operators working with BtoBet now have the freedom to differentiate totally the UI and UX for each channel through key elements – especially from a mobile perspective – such as front-end visualizations, side menus, and the way that the players access and interact with their betting slips.“Yes, the core technology and the core platform that BtoBet provides its partners to manage their operations is still the same,” said Fried. “A bet is always a bet, the risk is always the same, just as the odds are always odds. However, the way you present this makes all the difference. The way you deliver the UX and the way you engage your target players is totally unique, distinct, and reflects the operator’s own vision.“We have already undertaken this approach with multiple partners operating in the same region and the same market, yet employing different strategies to acquire and retain players, with distinct betting experiences and interfaces.“One has to also keep in mind that not all operators are ready, mature, and have the required infrastructure to undertake such an approach. This is why BtoBet has launched the White Label Partnership Program which caters highly customizable off-the-shelf solutions that can represent the first step to undertake their own brand UX.“Through this two-tiered approach we are able to cater for a wider set of customers with BtoBet positioning itself as the ideal technical partner to provide the necessary support, providing our experts to help them develop their brand identity and experience.” Despite its experience across gaming jurisdictions worldwide, BtoBet does not impose its own interpretation of the right experience upon its partners.Fried said: “For the bigger operators prepared to exploit the full flexibility of our sportsbook platform, there are two options. Either they have the knowledge and people to build it themselves, or we send a UX analyst and assign a team of developers to carry out the changes they want. The more a market matures, the more such an approach will reap its benefits.”BtoBet might have made its name in the industry through servicing emerging markets, particularly across Africa and LatAm, but this was more a case of taking the right opportunities as they came, rather than anything from a technical standpoint. “The technology gives us the option to be present in any market,” said Fried. “Africa presented us with the ideal scenario. Mobile was strongly emerging, diverse payment methods as well. It was the perfect moment to acquire a leading position.“Similarly with LatAm, we are present in almost all the countries because it is also in a phase where the region is transitioning from grey to regulated markets. It is the perfect moment to acquire a position and be ready for regulation in the likes of Brazil and Peru.”Fried added: “Many industry players deem us as being the door to the iGaming industry in Africa. Why? Because we have adapted our technology for this market.“Yet this need for efficiency should never dictate delivery of just a standardized offer. When you take an off-the-shelf product, the process is already defined. You log in, deposit, select a bet, and subsequently place a bet. But if you want to innovate, there are various things one could do. “Let’s take the registration process as an example. In some countries the regulations in place allow you to obtain the data from the players through the payment method itself. One has to keep in mind that the freedom involved in building the UX is not restricted to just the front-end design, but the holistic approach of player acquisition and retention, even for things such as registration, the log-in process, the deposits, and cash-out.“Africa is a market in its infancy and requires a certain approach. Europe is totally different. It is a mature market, requiring its own strategy, with operators approaching us in order to depart from the legacy path to undertake a more flexible and scalable approach from a compliance point of view.“You have these established tier one operators who own their own tech and put resources into building the right UX. But they can get a little stuck when they want to move into other countries because they have a problem in adapting their technology. Expansion into new markets is therefore quite a challenge.“What they can do is migrate from one technology to something better. It is something we do, but we acknowledge that it is a difficult decision to make. However, we can achieve compliance for any given country very quickly because of the flexibility of our platform.”Finally, Fried revealed that BtoBet is waiting for the buzz to subside in the US, where the PASPA repeal brought about a frenzied fight for first mover advantage in May of last year.“There is a rush, but there’s no product at the moment,” he explained. “We are waiting for the market to mature a little bit so operators fully appreciate what we can give to them. “I think a lot of the earliest adopters will either fail or take just a small part of the business because they will adopt the European experience in the US. “When this buzz dies down, operators will be more knowledgeable about what tools they need to be successful in this market which is more advanced than its European counterparts in terms of UX, and the way technology transfer this UX. It is completely different from other jurisdictions in terms of entertainment and the betting experience itself.”