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Friday, February 08, 2008

Another season begins, and so does another gimmick?

Like clockwork, the “Southern Gentleman” announces the launch of his ‘newest’ idea. I put ‘newest’ in quotes because on the surface this new idea just seems to be another regurgitation of other ‘new’ ideas from the past.

Just a few years ago, Elliott Sadler made to brilliant conclusion that he and his brother’s Fan Club Site would go to a ‘members only’ format and a ‘pay to’ site where exclusive and special Elliott Sadler content and news would be presented via personal messages from the “Southern Gentleman” on an private message board.

Then just a few short months after that revelation and little follow thorough, the personal message given was that ‘fans should go check out my new MySpace account, its going to be real cool and special way for you fans to interact with me’. Well, we all know how that venture turned out, and yet the paying fans on his fan club were still left out in the cold.

About this time last season, the announcement was made to ‘check out Infield Parking and my new site there, its going to be great and special’. Still the paying fans of SFC are still waiting for some exclusive content other than the random ‘go check out’ posts from the ‘Southern gentleman’.

Yesterday, the announcement was made to check out ElliottSadler.com, a site that ‘will feature more information than ever before’. Now I am not saying that this is or is not a true statement, I am simply skeptical based on similar previous announcements of this type.

Even before this announcement, it seems that other SFC fans have had similar questions and even some well thought out solutions. Here is one example posed to the SFC Webmaster and the Goatfish’s response:

Sean,

It's that time of year again ... you loved seeing this topic pop up, I'm sure.

Actually, this post has nothing to do with the design of the board (shocked, ain'tcha!). I've given up on that. But I just had an idea that may be heretical, so here goes...

What if access to the board was free this season. Don't get me wrong, paying that minimal fee to be a part of the fan club and part of this board is just fine with me. I'm not hatin' over no measly $20. But let's be real...traffic on this once-fun board dwindled down last year to a fraction of what it had been previously. Elliott's press and racing coverage is spotty at best and this board is often the best and only source for Elliott driver/race information. Why not do a push to encourage more fan interface and particiaption on it? Frankly, folks may hold off joining us waiting to see if Elliott's performance is worth the $20.

This is the marketing in me...how about this? Free access to the Sadler MB for the 2008 season. Fan Club members and non-members would be welcomed to join. E-notice would be sent out to current and perhaps lapsed fan club members with a kind of "all are welcome" message from Elliott. It would be a show of good will and partnership from Elliott and if positioned correctly from a sponsor standpoint, could be an image enhancer for Best Buy... a charter year gift to the fans. We'd of course promote it (listen to me..."we") on this board and announce it on the GEMs and Best Buy racing boards as well. Other routes to Sadler fandom could be via the "unofficial" Sadler boards (pass-along info from this site), notice placed at merchandise haulers, same at appearances. We'd keep it to lower impact messaging vehicles (limited-to-no mention on broadcast or print) ... use grassroots tactics ... and target Elliott's current (if quiet) fanbase. Use his MySpace, Facebook (he should set up one if he hasn't already), Infield Parking space, and if appropriate, the VLP Poker site. This would not be a broadbased invitation to the racing public in order to grow the number of Elliott fans. That will come when his performance improves. This is simply an intimate reconnection between Elliott and his current fans.

Making even grassroots announcements about a change in the access to this board begs more activity from Elliott on it. Even if it's a quarterly message and a one-time-this-season chat; he really needs to step up his e-connection to those who support him. It's the easiest and least time consuming "reach out" he can give us.

So what then would be a benefit of paid membership? Closed chats with Elliott, private poker games, invitations to two members-only fan events...one on the east cost and one on the west (what? I'm in LA! That barn's a fer piece for me to travel!). And of course, our annual envelope of goodies. A "win time with Elliott" sweepstakes that you enter to win online. (BB could consider a broader outreach via a sweepstakes where you enter to win at store or on their site, but that's a program that targets the public). There are plenty of events and offers that could be put together for fan club members. I'm not saying do all of these; our boy's gonna be concentrating on Top 10s, but it's a new day with the whole GEMs thing and a whole new sponsor. Let's have some of this "newness" flow down to us fan club members.

I'm sure there are some maintenance and management issues to be considered in the running of an MB and I don't know what they are, but our boy can use all the support he can get and while his fans have gotten quiet, I don't think they've disappeared. If done well, this would look like what it is -- a heartfelt, earnest and stepped-up reach-out by Elliott to his fans and paying fan club members. It won't look desperate -- just welcoming. This is a pivotal year. What do you think?

*****
PS: I make my living on my ideation and execution...anyone want my resume?

And the official response (wow, soooooo much thought put into this)

moved the post over to the Fan Club news section. The message board will continue to be for Sadler Fan Club members only this year.

We should have some information to announce for the Barn Party soon along with other Fan Club news for 2008.

Sean

Just one short month later, the ‘new’ site is launched with quotes like; “The timing is just right for us to launch ElliottSadler.com and make it into something special”. There is that word again. Sadler goes on to say; “Entering this season I have a lot of new things in my career including new team owners with the Gillett’s new sponsors Best Buy, Stanley and McDonald’s and a new team director with Rodney Childers. I thought about it over the winter and decided I wanted a new, fresh look for my Internet site.”

I guess it is a ‘fresh new look’, but is it really anything different than from years past? Thumbing through the site and all it’s promises, frankly, at this point there is nothing ‘new’ to it. Most of the ‘fresh new look’ and information was already available on the Sadler Fan club main page or the GEM web pages. In Sadler’s defense he does ‘cover’ this with this statement; “Obviously we’re launching the site before the 2008 season kicks off and we’ve included as much as we can but we want fans to come back often as we’ll have frequent updates and new sections coming soon.”

And come back they will, just as they did with the other ‘newest and greatest Elliott Sadler web sites’, at least they did until the ‘newness’ wore off, and the sites stopped being maintained. At least now the Goatfish has another website to maintain for a few months!

4 comments:

Vroom said...

Let's face it, Elliott failed typing in high school!

Anonymous said...

He is so "doomed" to be small time. For some reason, he just doesn't seem to be able to grasp the fact that you get more if you give more and you reap what you sow.
Elliott seems content to revel in "little boyhood" and act like a spoiled child who has everything given to him and is used to having things his way.
His pretty behind had better do some serious racing this year or there won't be any fans who want to read about him or be in his unprofessionally presented fan club.
Last chance.....SGent.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that the Paying Fans can also PAY even more with the Poker site! Now that is really, really 'special.'

I am betting that the paying fans won't have a message board after this year.

Anonymous said...

That fan put a tremendous amount of thought and passion into that post. I am sorry to see that the response to his/her excellent ideas did not have the same level of thought, and consideration.

Sadler may be resting on his past popularity, and the fact that he currently has a fan following. But, he is getting older, getting to be less of a hunk, and is going out of his way to avoid fan interaction. He might want to remember that fans can be very fickle, and many will take these slights and bad attitudes seriously, and they will be remembered in the future, when the talent doesn't keep pace with the rest of the pack.

And BTW, that fan was very smart. Too bad he/she is not employed within the NASCAR universe, as there are some young drivers out there who could use her expertise.