Advancements in mobile technology have seen race fans get closer to the action than ever before, whether it be standalone devices such as FanVision or cutting-edge software on existing platforms that are made available to a larger audience.
IMSA has followed the latter trend by having launched an enhanced second-screen mobile app of its own last month as part of the sanctioning body’s considerable investment towards an expanded multimedia presence.
According to David Pettit, IMSA Vice President of Marketing, the vision to offer a multi-platform interactive app had been in the pipeline for a number of years, even prior to the start of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
“We’ve always envisioned what a really good second screen app would be but we didn’t really have a lot of the backup house things in place,” Pettit told Sportscar365. “Brian [Beierwaltes, Director, IMSA Brand and Consumer Marketing] and I had the conversation back then and we always had an eye towards it, building enough content to have an app.”
While having offered a basic app that primarily featured live timing and scoring, Pettit and Beierwaltes spent the better part of last year putting the infrastructure in place to support a fully optimized app, including live video streaming, on board cameras, live radio and text updates.
IMSA partnered with Microsoft to create the app from the ground-up, utilizing software to make it cross-platform between iOS, Android and Windows mobile and tablet operating systems. Remarkably, about 80 percent of the code is shared between the three platforms.
“Having it be multi-platform and having Microsoft come on board as a partner was great,” Pettit said. “We looked at a number of different vendors and the reason we picked them, one because of who they are and what their brand represents.
“We wanted to have a strategic alliance to make sure we were having the most cutting-edge tools available to us and really try to get ahead of it and not just be reactionary.”
Unlike other motorsports second-screen apps, such as the FIA WEC app which offers premium content for a fee, all features of the IMSA app are made available to users for free, thanks to a manufacturer-based financial model.
Once registered (for free), users are able to customize the app by selecting between five different participating manufacturers: Ford, Mazda, BMW, Chevrolet and Porsche, with elements such as live on-boards and timing and scoring focused on that selected manufacturer.
“IMSA’s always had a strong focus on our automotive partners,” Pettit said. “From the beginning, I’ve always had a vision that I wanted to make the manufacturers embedded as deep as we possibly could within this. I think the digital social platform is extremely important from a marketing side.”
Pettit pitched the concept to manufacturers last year, with the app initially launching last month at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca carrying investments from three automakers.
However, two additional manufacturers jumped on board soon after once they saw the finished product in action.
“That’s exactly what we wanted to do for the OEMs,” Pettit said. “We want it to be so compelling that they have to be there and we made the price point the same way.
“This isn’t where we’re trying to make money. This is about growing the sport, by engaging our automotive partners deeper and providing fans with a service that they can’t get anywhere else with really rich, robust and great content.”
In addition to the live on-boards and qualifying streams, the app also features IMSA Radio, as well as on-demand videos and series news. A live video stream of the race broadcast is also available, but only in select markets where there are no conflicting TV agreements.
And the app is not only available for TUDOR Championship races, but for four other IMSA-sanctioned series as well, including the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America, which also sees streaming video and IMSA Radio content.
Pettit said there’s been a positive initial response from the app’s launch.
“There’s probably two things we’ve done in the last several months that we received a lot of positive feedback and very little negative feedback from,” he said.
“One was IMSA Radio, with John [Hindhaugh], Jeremy [Shaw] and Greg Creamer. And I would say the [app] is the second.
“From a marketing standpoint, we’re very pleased with it and I think the input has been great.”
Work hasn’t stopped, though, as the app, which features a built-in mechanism for fan feedback, has helped Pettit, Beierwaltes and the Microsoft team make further enhancements in the weeks and months ahead.
“I think we’ve over-delivered on this one,” Pettit said. “The nice part about using Microsoft Team and everything we have on that side of it, they will continue to look for ways to improve it.
“There’s much more we want to do with it yet. I’d love to add some kind of [real-time car] telemetry to it and things like that. So expect it to continue to grow.”