With the 2014 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix just around the corner, Team TMN catch up with Nick McElwee, Director of Sales and Marketing at Yas Marina Circuit to discuss its move into the digital arena with the newly launched YasHUB app…
Tell us a bit about the YasHUB app…
YasHUB solidifies an already strong push for Yas Marina Circuit into digital. We have shifted our focus from traditional media into digital publishing, and as such, the YasHUB is another pillar in our digital media offering. The app provides the latest news and information through an exclusive content deal during the build up to the 2014 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, as well as offering a seamless user experience for visitors to the circuit on race weekend.
Where did the concept for the app originate?
Given our push into publishing digital content this year, we were always looking at new channels to explore and with smartphone penetration rates in the region being some of the highest in the world, we felt that extending our offering into a mobile app made sense.
Why did this particular marketing plan win out against other strategies?
As part of our strategy to provide digital solutions that improve fan engagement experiences, we felt that a mobile app was the best route. The ability to provide real-time news and updates around F1 directly to your mobile through the YasHUB helps to extend the YMC F1 offering beyond the race weekend. It’s also not necessarily an either/or decision, as we can integrate our other digital and offline assets to create an overall marketing effect.
How long did it take to fine tune and develop the idea for YasHUB?
The app was originally conceived in March and took around four months to go live in the app stores. We wanted to get the strategy right and spent a great deal of time ensuring the architecture served the overall objectives before we moved into development. We worked very closely with Starcom MediaVest Group as well as Flip Media to manage the overall process so that we were as efficient and focused as possible.
What made you decide to collaborate with SMG Mobility and Flip Media over other agencies in the region?
Starcom MediaVest, our media agency, handle all our mobile media so we had the initial discussion with them and their mobile division, SMG Mobility. We fine-tuned the idea together and Starcom issued an RFP to various digital agencies in the UAE. Flip’s response built on the initial idea by suggesting new ways to make the app even more relevant and engaging for F1 fans as well as ticket holders. As such, we felt comfortable working with them, and together with Starcom, they have developed a world-class app that we are very proud of.
How important is the mobile app for Yas Marina Circuit’s development as a media brand?
Very important. It’s a must-have for our expanding publishing activity, providing a real-time and highly relevant outlet for our improving content and social media activity. It compliments and sits within our growing digital ecosystem; for example – the news and content delivered onto YasHUB is also surfaced onto the home page of our website in real-time. Mobile products like this add an ‘always on’ and ‘on the move’ solution for our fans.
The YasHUB app focuses on a digital customer experience. From a marketing perspective, how necessary do you think this is becoming for businesses in the Middle East?
While I think we are slightly ahead of the curve in terms of what we surface and how we integrate a digital customer experience into everything we do, the mainstream is not far away. Developments in user behaviour and digital progress are rapid. We are learning all the time, just as the consumer is, and as long as we stay just ahead of the curve we are making wise investments. E-commerce in a meaningful way is becoming more prevalent and it’s important that we are in this space, building trust in advance. Importantly, our app carries a ticket purchasing platform. Our business doesn’t rely on huge numbers through these platforms now, but it soon will.
Which brand do you think has been most successful in using an app as part of their marketing strategy?
I think health related apps are jumping on available technologies really well. Nike+ is a great example, as it’s a really useful tool and a perfect extension of their brand as well as their business. We are actively looking into this space to support the many health related community events we have at Yas Marina Circuit.
As a content publisher, will YasHUB look to freelance journalists for contribution, or is it all conducted in-house?
Most important is the quality and value of our content. I don’t think we could ever deliver the best and most relevant content with just in-house solutions, so partnerships and content deals are key. We will however compliment this by having specialists and journalists in-house, working closely with us to tailor and curate content. As ever, it’s a symphony of many elements that works best.
Are there any advertising opportunities with the app? If so, how can businesses get involved?
Not at this point, as the business model for the app was not designed in this way. Certainly, we didn’t want to disrupt the user experience in any way nor did we see it as a revenue source other than through ticket purchases. We will however add it as an extension of our existing partners and sponsors and, in that sense, it adds value.
The YasHUB app will be hugely beneficial in the run up to, and during this year’s Abu Dhabi Formula 1 race weekend. What can we expect to see from the app beyond this?
The app will continue to live on after the race weekend and deliver F1 news and updates all year round. We will also look at how the app performed over the race weekend and use the learnings to improve it for next year’s Grand Prix. On top of this, we are looking into developing an app to support our community health and fitness programmes with a wider objective of promoting healthy living.