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Smart Phone Apps Are Changing Motorsports Marketing

New apps for racers combine usefulness and promotion to spread the news about a company's product lines

By Emmanuel Martinez

 

Whether it is an iPhone, Android, Blackberry or any other smartphone, the world is in the palm of your hands. Smartphones, which behave more like portable computers than phones, have the power to make calls, send text messages and access the Internet anywhere at anytime. But with the rapid evolution of technology, a phone that simply has Internet capabilities has become a thing of the past.

Nowadays, smartphones have the power to run mobile applications, Internet-based applications that would normally run on a desktop or laptop. Many applications, or apps as they are known for short, have been developed to make accessing and navigating the Internet on a mobile device easier and quicker. There are apps for restaurant and movie reviews, games, directions and list goes on.

And as far as the racing industry goes, apps are just beginning to pick up steam.

Although mobile applications in the racing industry are few and far between, following are some that would benefit motorsports business owners, race teams and even the average enthusiast involved in the industry.

Honeywell has developed an application—the Garrett Boost Adviser—that helps individuals find the best Garret Turbocharger that meets their goals. In order for the Garrett Boost Adviser to find a suitable turbocharger, users must input the following specifications: the targeted horsepower, valves per cylinder, the fuel type used and the engine rpm at which the intended horsepower is expected to be achieved.

“It allows the users to input things like their engine displacement horsepower goals, valves per cylinder and even takes into account the barometric pressure and temperature of where they are going to be operating the car or truck. It then selects the best turbocharger or turbochargers that match the intended applications,” said Kyle Snyder of Garrett Engine Boosting Systems in Torrance, California.

After inserting the specifications for the desired horsepower it is only a matter of seconds before the app displays the best turbochargers that meet one’s needs. Without the Garrett Boost Adviser, users can either call one of the Honeywell distributors or if they wish to weigh all their options, they can spend hours looking through the last four pages of Honeywell’s catalog, which explains the math involved to find a suitable turbocharger.

“It compacts those four pages of equations into this one app,” Snyder said. “It is a little more user friendly. A lot of people get intimidated by all that math—they start seeing formulas, variables and thing like that and they get turned off by it. It is not a way around our distributors because the app brings up at least three or four turbochargers. We recommend that if you are not comfortable making that decision then you can contact our distributor because they have decades upon decades of experience in matching and will give a more precise and customized view of what you need.”

Selecting a turbocharger can be a daunting task because of all the numbers and the addition and subtractions signs involved. But the Garret Boost Adviser eliminates the math headaches. Snyder added that the applications take “some of the intimidation and black magic voodoo out of turbocharging and make it just math and science. There is nothing you need to be intimidated by.”

The Garrett Boost Adviser can be downloaded to the iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad, and will soon be arriving to the Android and Blackberry platforms.

MSD Ignition, El Paso, Texas, has crammed pages upon pages of wiring diagrams into a single mobile application—the MSD Ignition App. The application offers 25 different sections of instructions and diagrams, which help make MSD products user friendly.

“It is basically all of our wiring. It is a tool for wiring diagrams and schematics for all of our ignitions,” said Todd Ryden. “Once you download it you can search the table of contents. If you have our MSD programmable 7 ignition and you want to know what the dark blue wires are for, you can just go to that ignition and it shows you how to wire it and what it needs to connect to.”

For MSD Ignition, the inspiration behind its mobile app was its customers. “It is another way to help out our customers,” Ryden said. “Electronics and ignition can be tricky and a lot of people are intimidated. We are just trying to extend our customer support a little bit further to people. We are not open 24 hours a day or on weekends, so we are just trying to make it easier for customers to get their ignition hooked up properly and save them from having to make a phone call. If they are at the race track or working in the garage after hours and our customer service line isn’t open they can look at the app and find their wiring diagram and get their stuff hooked up.”

The MSD Ignition app can be downloaded onto any iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch device.

Ferrea, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has introduced its mobile website app. “We have set up a mobile site that comes up with a specific page,” said Zeke Urrutia. “What you can do with that mobile site homepage is save it to your iPhone or Android, as well as Blackberry, and it will generate a specific ‘F’ sign logo on the homepage of your smartphone. The mobile homepage is something basic. It tells you a little history about our company, it gives you contact numbers to order a product and leads you into our Facebook and Twitter pages.”

In a complicated technological world, Ferrea’s mobile website works to make things easier for the customers, while holding their attention at the same time. “It simplifies things where we feel that users can get where they need to get to much quicker,” Urruita added. “If customers are spending five to 10 minutes on a specific site then they are going to get lost.”

For Ferrea, the mobile website is just the first step in making advancements as far as the technological journey goes. According to Urrutia, Ferrea expects to develop another application in the near future.

Comp Performance Group, Memphis, Tennessee, is also adding fuel to the mobile application fire as the company is in the process of developing two apps: TCI Automotive, which has several drivetrain related calculators and technical resources, and Comp Cams, a mobile version of Comp Performance Group’s CamQuest Cam Selection software.

Because of the advances in technology, the team at Comp Performance Group saw it as a necessity to create mobile applications. “It’s simply the world we live in today,” said Chris Douglas. “If businesses don’t adapt to the technology that their customers are utilizing they will soon find themselves struggling to keep the doors open. There is a host of research available about the dramatic increase in mobile browsing and app usage. Our position is that we are going to meet our customers in whatever media channel, device, etc. that they prefer to use whether it be digital or print. Today, the research shows that one of the fastest growing channels is smartphone apps, therefore we feel it’s a place that we need to be.”

Smartphones and smartphone applications have become commonplace for many people, which is another reason why companies like COMP Performance Group have developed mobile apps. “Research suggests that all consumers (including racers) are making app usage a part of their daily lives so it’s going to be important that each company look at their own business and figure out how an app could help them solve a problem,” Douglas added.

COMP Performance Group’s mobile applications will be launching soon onto the Apple and Android platforms.

Tracking Directions

Trying to locate that race track or finding directions to it can at times cause some unwanted stress. But the “National Speedway Directory” has come up with a solution to such a problem—it’s called Track Guide.

“Track Guide allows users to locate any race track in the United States and Canada,” said Tim Frost of National Speedway Directory in Wilmette, Illinois. “The application is currently available on the Apple platform, with Android and Blackberry to come. The smartphone application allows the user to search by type of track, which would be oval track, drag strip or road course. It has search functionalities based upon state, type of racing surfaces—dirt or paved—or by track name.”

The “National Speedway Directory” is an annual publication that lists information about over 1300 race tracks in the United States and Canada and it was only a matter of time before its print underwent a technological transformation. “It was a natural extension,” Frost said. “It was also a request from some of the users, especially the racers who wanted to be able to use their smartphones along with the GPS technology to know where the next track was. They wanted to have the Directory in the palms of their hands. The information is updated constantly. So as a user boots up or accesses the app, new information will appear.”

It is only matter of time before Android and Blackberry users can benefit from Track Guide, too.

Lugging around a fan guide at the race track can get tedious—one might get tired of holding it or it may fail to provide the latest information about the race. However, GRand Solutions in Indianapolis, Indiana, and Texas Motor Speedway have partnered up to create a solution.

“What we have created for Texas Motor Speedway is something that is going to replace the fan guide and the app will primarily focus more on the user experience,” said Gene Cottingham of GRand Solutions. “It gives fans the ability to carry the latest content. If you have ever gone to a race or any other event you are primarily relying on printed material and if you wanted the latest information you would have to go to the Internet and download it. This app gives you all the content in the palm of your hand and the promoter is able to keep it up to date at all times.”

The Texas Motor Speedway application offers more than just the convenience of having a fan guide in your phone. “The things we are developing for the Texas Motor Speedway application will include links to ticket upgrades, which you can do onsite. Sometimes you get to your seat and say, ‘Man, I wish I would have bought that VIP club suite.’ So you could go ahead and use the app to get an upgrade and you can also buy merchandise,” Cottingham added.

GRand Solutions has developed the app in a way where it benefits both small and large race tracks. “It is something that a small circle track in Iowa could buy, not spend a lot of money on and do simple things on it or someone as big as Texas Motor Speedway could really max out,” Cottingham explained.

The mobile app can be downloaded from the Android Market Place by searching Texas Motor Speedway. Currently, Android users are the only ones who can benefit from this app but it will soon be available on the Apple platform.

PRI On the Go

Even here at Performance Racing Industry, a mobile app has been created to help readers. “We are using something that is replicating our current magazine. We take the pages that we print and convert them into a magazine app,” said Rob Hiner of Performance Racing Industry, Laguna Beach, California.

PRI’s mobile application adds a different dimension, offering the probability of a print magazine combined with a computer feel. “When tablet computers came out that changed things for the publishing industry so there has been a big movement the publishing industry has embraced,” Hiner said. “Before you would have to sit in front of a computer or have a laptop, but now you can just have it in your hands and you can read it at the beach or read it on the couch.

“With the mobile app, you can view it in a vertical format,” he continued. “You can switch the format so you can see the spreads. You can zoom in on the text so you can either read the text in page layout format or there is also the option to read in just text format. You can change the text size for readability.”

Individuals who download PRI’s mobile app have the luxury to create a digital library, as the application allows users to archive every issue that has been previously downloaded. However, the mobile app also benefits advertisers.

“As an advertiser you cannot only have your web address on the mobile application but you can also instantly link to your site,” Hiner said. “The other thing is that you can also embed videos, which for a manufacturer, imagine you are a machinery shop and you have a new machine that does a new process. You can show step-by-step pictures and try to describe the process, but how cool is it if you are reading through the magazine and you can go directly to the video?”

PRI’s mobile application is currently available on the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch and it will also be released on the Android platform in the near future.

Get Your Own App

For companies that are struggling to decide on developing a mobile application, the best advice comes from Sam Gaddis of Mutual Mobile, Austin, Texas, a company that works with other companies to help create mobile applications. “If you are talking about creating applications, the approach is going to be significantly different based on the company that is trying to create the application” said Gaddis. “If you are a small shop or a practice track, they don’t have a budget to do a huge product and they shouldn’t be directed to attempt that. If they try to do a large product that has tons of features and they don’t have the budget for it, then whatever they end up coming out with will be lackluster and won’t work. Instead what they should do is leverage some type of existing platform that lets them publish information about the business, track times, those kinds of things.”

For those companies that are about to embark on a mobile application journey, the process can at times be a long one, depending on the app. “It can take anywhere from two weeks to a year,” Gaddis explained. “It depends on the goals of the app. A simple marketing application can be executed quickly but the lifecycle of that product expires quickly, too. When you are talking about more robust applications that integrate some operational aspects of a company that can be a significantly large undertaking.”

Although these mobile applications present the latest technology in the motorsports industry, one can expect significant improvement over the next couple of years. “I think what you are going to see as the tablets improve and as the smartphones improve, the performance and the capabilities of mobile applications are going to get better in terms of what they can do and how fast they can process,” said Hiner, of Performance Racing Industry

“Our industry is very lackluster on the electronic side but in the next five to seven years that will change drastically,” added Urrutia of Ferrea. “It just takes time in our industry.”

 

 




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