The new enhancements make the platform easier-to-use for even novice social media users while adding a more sophisticated point and tracking system to better support new and current fans, participating tracks and industry sponsors.
"After testing the initial program with key industry Ambassadors and collecting valuable feedback and insight, we're excited to now take the program to the next level and open it up to a wider range of potential participants," said Rob Key, CEO of Converseon, which is helping to spearhead the initiative in partnership with the USTA. "While it was always the plan to eventually evolve the program into a broader consumer rewards initiative, we decided to accelerate it so that we could leverage and scale it more effectively this year, including to better support the industry's TV initiative.
"The first phase was designed to bring in our most important advocates and we thank them for their participation; while this next phase is about opening the program up to all of our current and potential fans."
He notes that the platform is also being utilized by select other major league sports and clubs, like the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Currently, there are more than 70 Ambassadors in the program whose efforts have reached more than 200,000 current and potential fans through harness racing related conversations across social media. The new features are designed to accommodate tens of thousands of current and new fans and provide enhanced tracking capabilities that allow consumers to be rewarded not only for spreading the word through social media, but also for a wide range of other desired actions, such as watching the sport on television, checking in at a racetrack, purchasing items from a store, participating in contests and even supporting industry sponsors.
The platform also presents an opportunity for harness racetracks, venues and industry events to integrate "point-of-purchase" systems as an added benefit to better provide support for attendance and participation. It creates the possibility that participating tracks could allow consumers to earn or redeem points and receive rewards at their locations.
These rewards can range from free drinks or dinner, to magazine subscriptions, industry "swag" and more personal behind-the-scenes, "VIP-type" experiences.
Converseon says that while initial rewards are limited, it is beginning outreach to key constituents to provide them an opportunity to participate and drive greater visibility, awareness, engagement and attendance.
Tracks and other related industry groups are all invited to participate and participation is completely voluntary.
"The program is a powerful way to achieve several key objectives," said Mike Tanner, Executive Vice President and CEO of the USTA. "It inspires consumers to help spread the word through social media about our sport; incentivizes them to tune into key events (whether on television, online or in person); and provides us a mechanism to reward them in a highly-compelling way for their support and loyalty while enhancing the overall consumer experience of the sport. With the enhanced tracking, we will also now be able to even better support tracks that want to participate as well as potential sponsors, which will become increasingly important as harness racing scales out its marketing efforts."
The Ambassador program is fully integrated with the www.harnessracingfanzone.com which is designed to be a central content hub for current and new fans to show them the "best of" the sport of harness racing. To sign up for the program, please visit www.harnessracingfanzone.com or www.harnessracingambassadors.com. Interested tracks and other industry constituents can contact Rob Key directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Harness Racing Social Media Initiative
Launched in September 2013, the Harness Racing Social Media Initiative is a partnership between the United States Trotting Association, the social media consultancy, Converseon, and key industry groups to help drive marketing innovation and engagement with current and new fans for the sport. The initiative's mission is to help support key racetracks, industry groups and help provide foundational support and a common, "best practice" framework by leveraging social technologies and platforms and strategies to help positively brand the sport of harness racing and generate greater awareness, visibility and engagement with a new generation of fans.
From the USTA Communications Department