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Baylor University Employs RFID to Study NASCAR Fans' Engagement With Sponsors

Researchers used the technology to entice attendees at Homestead-Miami Speedway to stop at promotional displays set up by the event's sponsors, as well as verify those visits.
By Claire Swedberg
Nov 30, 2012To what extent does fans' passion at a sporting or entertainment event affect their engagement with sponsors? And how can the attention of those fans be further directed toward the sponsors? Those are the questions that Kirk Wakefield, a professor at Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business, intends to answer using radio frequency identification technology. To that end, at a NASCAR event held earlier this month at Homestead-Miami Speedway, in Homestead, Fla., Fish Technologies deployed a dozen RFID-enabled kiosks, and distributed RFID cards on lanyards to fans.

A group of Baylor researchers have begun sending questionnaires to the system's users, in order to gauge their interest in the sponsors. The team also sought to determine whether that interest was increased by their participation in something like an RFID-enabled sweepstakes that brought them within a few feet of promotional displays set up by those sponsors. Fish Technologies provided the RFID-enabled cards and the kiosks, which employed the company's own software and RFID readers. International Speedway Corp., which operates Homestead-Miami Speedway, provided an Internet connection, as well as the furnishings necessary for the registration stations.

Baylor University professor Kirk Wakefield, shown here having his photo taken for the Championship Challenge that he carried out for his study

Wakefield selected a three-day NASCAR race as the site for the study, which was funded by a grant from the Wharton School's Customer Analytics Initiative, but he seeks not only to measure NASCAR fans' interest in particular sponsors, but also to compare that interest level with those of fans of other sports or events. To accomplish this goal, Wakefield hopes to work with Fish Technologies in the future to install RFID systems at other sites.

During the three-day NASCAR event, attendees were offered RFID-enabled cards, and the opportunity to have their names entered in a drawing for VIP status at future races by visiting each of 12 RFID-enabled kiosks, known as "Tap Towers." Following the event, Wakefield then sent a questionnaire to each participant, asking about the promotional information or activity, such as games and music provided by the race's sponsors, which included Ford Motor Co. and the U.S. Army.

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