As the peak body and promoter of a diverse and complicated motorsport industry in Australia the CAMS communications team has its hands full. The key to its social media success in 2017 has been understanding its different audiences and what they relate to.
Shunt Creative spoke to CAMS Australia’s Digital Media Manager Rob James to discuss how the peak body manages a diverse array of assets under their umbrella.
The governing body for motorsport in Australia, CAMS has now evolved to oversee and promote a variety of racing series across the country giving CAMS an additional dimension to their communications strategy.
Notably, for an Australian peak sporting body, CAMS have over 1,100 LinkedIn followers reflecting the wide range of professionals within the motorsport industry.
Shunt: From a peak body point of view, how is CAMS different from similar organisations?
Rob James: “It’s very different. I don’t think there’s a sport anywhere near as diverse or complicated. There’s circuit racing, off-road racing, rally, social car clubs and meet up’s. There’s also a pool of motorsport enthusiasts who may not necessarily be CAMS members.
“In terms of CAMS itself we’ve got roughly 80,000 members across competition licence holders, car clubs and volunteer officials but I can tell you there’s not 80,000 motorsport fans in Australia, it would be in the millions in terms of people who attend Supercar rounds, the F1 Grand Prix or Rally Australia. Then there are those who just enjoy watching it on television.
“Beyond CAMS, there’s carting, motorcycling, motocross, that all add to the mix of what is a really complicated sport.”
S: Who does your marketing and communications team consist of?
RJ: “The media team is a part of the marketing team. We’ve got Paul Riordan as the CAMS media and communications manager and he oversees CAMS itself and the other assets that we manage including rally, off-road, the Shannons Nationals and Formula 4. All up we manage five accounts between us, Paul oversees it all but then each class is subdivided between three other people.
“I look after the digital side of everything, but I’m also the media manager for Formula 4. We’ve got a media coordinator for CAMS (Lauren Hazelwood) and she’s also the Shannons Nationals media manager. We also have Jenny Hay who’s our Australian Rally and off-road category media manager.
“The CAMS business model is quite interesting. When I started, CAMS was just a governing body. While Supercars, the Australian Grand Prix, Rally Australia are all separate entities looking after their own championships or events. Over time, CAMS acquired a couple of commercial entities in Formula 4, the Nationals, rally and off-road championships.”
S: How does it work as it relates to the championships in your portfolio of commercial entities?
RJ: “To me our structure is no different to the Australian Football League being the governing body and the promoter of the sport at the same time.
“Our first commercial rights acquisition was Formula 4 which is an important step in our high-performance plan and in our development pathway for promoting professional, junior drivers. The oldest driver we have on the grid is 19 years of age and we already have a few graduates who are doing quite well in Australia and internationally.
“Through other circumstances we now manage the Shannons Nationals which led to another person being added to the media team.
“At the start of this year we also took on the Australian Rally Championship and the Off-road Championship from an event operations, championship and media perspective. The events are still by and large run by car clubs or event promoters, we just oversee pretty much everything else.”
S: How does your team balance being a promoter and peak body? Are the communications different and if so how different is it?
RJ: “In terms of the properties that we own, we use them to promote the categories within them. The Shannons Nationals for example, is a platform for categories to participate at an affordable national level, it’s almost a second tier to Supercars.
“CAMS itself is about the promotion of the sport in Australia. Giving people a platform to access safe, affordable grassroots motorsport. Equally, we have an avenue in which you can progress through a pathway to professional levels with Australia or internationally.
“We’re very much focused on a message that the grassroots is just as important as the top tier of motorsport. As much as we celebrate the likes of Supercars, the Australian Grand Prix or Rally Australia, if we don’t have the grassroots there’s no motorsport in this country.
“It’s really important that not only do we have projects integral to our business but we are also promoting car clubs and club events as they’re vitally important to the future of the sport.”
S: How do you approach communications around top tier events such as the Australian Grand Prix or Rally Australia?
RJ: “The major events are an interesting challenge as it’s easy to focus on what’s happening in and around Formula One but to be honest every other mainstream media and specialist motorsports outlet is already all over it. For us there’s no value gained doing a qualifying report as there’s a whole bunch of other journalists doing that for us.
“If we are backers of the grassroots and participation aspects of the sport, we have to promote that. While this is a core objective our approach is already defined for us at events like the Grand Prix as you can’t film because of rights issues with television broadcasters.
“A Grand Prix weekend is about promoting the volunteer officials that we have. All the flag marshals, scrutineers and various people who help make the event actually happen. There’s a small army of people we will do profiles on and the engagement we get is incredible. For us as much as the Australian Grand Prix generates massive publicity it’s the ideal opportunity to really promote the grassroots side of the sport.”
S: What are you hoping to achieve heading into 2018? Where do you see things going in the digital communications space?
RJ: “I’m very big on pushing a structured calendar for us to focus on based on big events to piggyback off to further promote the sport.
“With our relatively small team we’re very good at being reactive but there’s probably room for us to plan ahead. I would like to see more progress in having a bit more of a planned structure and spending more time digging beneath the surface. I think every few months we’ll get a really unique story but I’d like it to get to a stage where it happens once a month.”
S: Leading on from that, have you worked out the secret to viral content?
RL: “Yes and no as it depends on what hat we’re wearing because of the five different brands that we have. They all have vastly different audiences and different challenges. The type of messaging we put out on CAMS is completely different to the Formula 4 Championship, which is different to the Off-road Championship. That’s due to the personalities and politics within their respective disciplines and categories.
“For us it’s about understanding our different audiences and what they are receptive to.”
S: Has there been any posts that stand out as being special?
RJ: “The ones that get me are the ones that I never expect to go crazy. It’s funny, sometimes you’ll have a fantastic feel-good story and you get a bit disappointed if it only has a handful of likes and comments. Then you post something completely silly and banal, one example, was piggybacking the ‘shooting stars’ meme, it went nuts!
“We have to balance between what I call the serious content that we put out day-to-day that promote the sport and then there’s the silly stuff that adds some personality to what we do because I think at times motorsport can take itself a little bit too seriously.
“CAMS are a governing body at the end of the day but we need to remember that the sport is inherently fun, it’s inherently exciting and there’s lots of personalities within the sport that I think we need to tap into a bit more.
“A good example is Formula 4. The young guys there are 15 and 16 years old, a lot of them don’t have a filter which is both a good and a bad thing. There’s a couple of really unique and special personalities who I find absolutely amazing. If they were in Supercars for example they would be household names and they would be adored by the Australian public so long as they can just keep being who they are. Long live youthful exuberance!”