Track meets at the intersection of physical and digital
When New Balance acquired the sponsorship rights to the US Indoor and Outdoor Nationals - two of the premier high school track and field championship events - in 2010, they did so with an eye towards evolving the way in which competing athletes and their families were engaged around the two events. With up to 3,000 competitors on-site at each event, New Balance approached Almighty to collaborate on activation programs that would energize both competitors and their extended network of friends, fans, and enthusiasts. Rather than create a new destination for thousands of kids, we decided to build out an entire experience in a place where our audience was already fluent. The New Balance Nationals would be the first track meet — and arguably the first national championship — to play out live on Facebook.
Wiring a Track Meet
Building a real-time, pop-up digital track meet at both The Armory in New York City and on the campus of North Carolina A&T University — the sites of the two events — presented some logistical challenges. Notably, several different timing systems are used within the competitive track world, each with distinct models for recording results. Start lists, while well-organized by the NSSF (the sport’s governing body) are fluid, as entrants frequently scratch or arrive (somewhat) unannounced. Tying these disparate pieces of data together, without an existing API, required that we effectively build our own from scratch for each meet.
To this we added a third element: our partners at Smilebooth — a mobile photo studio that’s wildly-popular with the athletes, and our best means of getting kids to opt-in to the experience we created. Using an app that we developed specifically for Nationals, athletes were able to connect their bib numbers to their Facebook ID’s. With this information at our disposal, we were able to tie together on-track results with off-track activities in a way that supports a truly-integrated physical/digital experience in service of the competitors.
Real-Time Information and Updates
With athlete data in-hand, Almighty was able to deliver wall and timeline posts for each athlete, notifying their friends and family of impending races (with a link to watch them live online), and automatically-post results chosen by the athlete: each competitor was allowed to set parameters for posting (i.e. ‘only post if I win’ or ‘post if I finish top-6’).
The integration with the meets’ timing systems allowed us to aggregate real-time data for every competition, making our Facebook experience the go-to source for tens of thousands of friends and family monitoring the events from home. This generated some remarkable results for New Balance, as well: more than 35,000 new 'likes' dot the New Balance Nationals page, more than 1,000,000 post views on Facebook, in excess of 100,000 views of our event videos, and nearly 15,000 Smilebooth photos posted to competitors' walls since our Nationals coverage began at the 2011 Indoor event.
- More Results (and Learnings) from the Track
Complementing our automated coverage and live stream has been a consistent editorial focus for each meet, focused on delivering a constant stream of photos, interviews and event updates to the thousands of followers watching each meet from home. An Almighty team has been dedicated to engagement at each meet since 2010, responding to more than 98% of all wall posts within two hours at each event, and collaborating with partners like RunnerSpace to provide video highlights and updates directly to the New Balance Nationals timeline.