CASE STUDY: Building an identity on YouTube
By Krystin Wiggs, GRand Solutions
In 2012, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing’s (SFHR) rookie driver Josef Newgarden entered the IZOD IndyCar Series as a relatively unknown commodity. The 21-year-old Firestone Indy Lights Champion from Nashville, Tenn. was a fresh face in a series that has featured familiar faces like Dario Franchitti and Helio Castroneves for the better part of a decade.
Generating media coverage and attention for a rookie driver can be a challenge, but it also provides the unique opportunity of a blank slate.
Early on in the season the team was approached by media company Piranha Productions about creating an “Incognito” video with Newgarden. The relatively unknown driver ditched his firesuit to venture into the swarming crowds at the Long Beach Grand Prix and spoof his anonymous status.
With natural on-air talent, Newgarden interviewed race fans about himself and his team. Thanks to creative editing from John Brill at Piranha Productions, the result was funny and memorable:
The video now has more than 10,000 views and has been a fan favorite. Race fans frequently mentioned the Incognito video to Newgarden at the track and wanted more videos like the first one. The rookie driver proved to be quick on-track, but the Incognito videos gave fans a taste of his off-track personality.
Fans respect and admire what race car drivers do in their cars, but what they crave is a glimpse at what their idols are like without their helmets on. Thanks to the Incognito video, Newgarden has created a reputation for himself as a normal 21-year-old kid who can be silly and simultaneously excel in his No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing car.
Piranha went on to create two more Incognito videos with Newgarden:
One of the most essential functions a Public Relations professional provides is to bridge the gap between a client and its publics, i.e. media, fans. The Incognito videos are a crystal clear example of how a YouTube video is on par with traditional ways of disseminating information like press releases.
With a myriad of new ways to attract attention via Social Media outlets, combined with the fact that these outlets are now becoming credible and validated media sources, the opportunities are vast, which can pose a problem in finding ways to cut through the clutter.
The Incognito Videos were a light-hearted attempt to showcase a notable sports figure as just another person in the crowd, and carried by its irreverence and high production value, it rapidly became a hit within the industry. What started as a whim, became a solid marketing and PR platform, so the moral of the story is, don’t discount any ideas, you never know where they will lead. (Hey, it worked for some guy named Justin Bieber, right?)