Let me be blunt to start (as if I'm never blunt). I am not a huge fan of NASCAR but if nothing else is on and I need something on the TV, I'll leave a race on or two. Compared with Yankees, Giants, heck even golf or tennis, NASCAR isn't even close and I have a feeling that I'm not that different from other metro New York sports fans. However, I did find commentary from ESPN Radio's Colin Cowherd very interesting when he spoke at length about a few fans throwing bottles and cans at Jeff Gordon after he won Talladega. Here's my key takeaways from Colin's piece this morning and why I think wannabe Second Life marketers should pay attention to Jeff Gordon's fan reaction.....
- NASCAR wants to embrace the big northern markets to get after the advertising and sponsorship opportunities
- At the same time, their base of fans who helped drive up NASCAR's popularity have a different demographic than NASCAR's expansion markets
- Drivers like Gordon don't want to hang out at Walmart or the Piggly Wiggly meeting the current fan base and like other famous athletes have a different ideas how to spend their time and which sponsors they want to invest in.
So what you have is a great fan base that is powering NASCAR to greater popularity. These fans want to keep NASCAR the way it was(is) and don't want to embrace that changes that NASCAR needs to capitalize on an expanded audience and therefore more advertising opportunities. This struck me as a metaphor for the tug of war that Second Life is having with the core citizens and advertisers. It also didn't hurt that GigaOM had a nice write up on an analysis by Global Market Insite called Does Virtual World Advertising Work?
So what's a marketer supposed to do in Second Life and how can they make sure that SLers don't pelt their islands with virtual beer cans? Well this is what I tell any potential client or advertiser when they ask me about advertising in Second Life. And, by they way, this is after I shock them by telling them I'm on Second Life multiple times per week.
- Spend months interacting with SL. Hold conferences and meet other people. Try on different avatars and build out your base body so you don't look and act like someone who just left Help Island
- Putting up a Second Life storefront will disappoint unless you are selling skins, clothing, or porn
- Find a way to embrace the SL builders by contributing to the world with something more than just a road sign. People have put their time and energy into building out Second Life so to ignore the roots and what went into it is a virtual slap in the face. So, instead of recycling the same old tired offline ad campaigns, try building a product or service that avatars can use. How about create a virtual destination that avatars want to visit.
- Besides creating a destination that gives Avatar's something to do, how about figuring out a way to pay avatars for working at your location? SLers love to make linden dollars
- Finally, how about renting out space to SLers or hosting parties at your location. Basically, figure out a way to use Second Life to be your virtual location or event where you can meet potential customers.
I know you must think that comparing NASCAR's growing pains with Second Life might be a stretch, but when you look a little closer, they really are similar tugs of war between scaling their products to grow the audience, getting more advertising dollars, all without upsetting the fans that made the product what it is today.