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Demo: The Ups and Downs of the Williams Formula One Racing Team's NFT Fan Engagement Program

The Williams Formula One Racing Team has launched an NFT-based Grand Prix fan engagement program known as "Grid Pass." One of the big ideas is to offer exclusive virtual and physical fan experiences as well as discounts on team merchandise to certain Grid Pass NFT holders.

In this video, Blockchain Journal editor-in-chief David Berlind offers a review of one small part of the fan NFT journey as offered by the Williams F1 Racing team and highlights some of the cooler interactive elements while at the same time pointing out some areas where the user experience misfires. Of course, it is very early days when it comes to NFT programs like this one and there will be plenty of time to get it right – especially since the Williams F1 Racing team is well ahead of all the other teams (at least off the track) when it comes to adopting blockchain.

Customer Engagement



By David Berlind

Published: November 28, 2023

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17 min read

In this Story
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Audio-Only Podcast

Hello everybody! Today is Sunday, November 5th 2023. I'm David Berlind with Blockchain Journal, and I'm here to talk about another cool customer journey that one major global brand is hoping to take its fans on.

That brand is the Williams F1 Racing Team. They race in all the Grand Prix races all around the world. One of those races that's taking place today is the Grand Prix in Brazil.

So first, what I want to do is, I want to talk a little bit about this envelope, just to get us a little warmed up for my discussion of the customer journey. So this envelope contains in it a hat that I purchased from the Williams F1 e-commerce online store and I did it when I got my first NFT from the Williams F1 Racing team called the "Grid Pass". When I got that Grid Pass – and I now have the NTF – it entitles me to a 15% discount on anything from their store, any kind of merchandise so I decided to experiment with that discount and see how it worked.

Well, I bought a hat – [a] little beanie hat – and it's here now and I want to open it up. One reason I'm going to do that is just to see if there's anything in the bag here that is related to the NFT program, or if it was just delivered to me from the e-commerce store and their fulfillment organization as though it was any other item. Because, it would be kind of cool if there was something in here related to the NFT program. But, I don't know that the Williams F1 Racing team is that evolved when it comes to that program. We've seen evidence of other issues where they're just still kind of getting their sea legs under them.

I'm going to pull this out here, and there's the Hat. You can see... boy came close to cutting the hat. There is the hat in the bag. Let's take it out of the bag so you can see that [and] get a closer look. That's a cool hat, love it! And, maybe I should put it on my head.

There's nothing here indicating that this hat was acquired as a result of me being a member of the NFT program, holding their Grid Pass. Here's the back of the hat, by the way, and I'll kind of even expose the side of the hat. Tt's kind of cool. I'll put the hat on as a matter of fact. Let's – let's just kind of throw it on. Okay, there we go.

Now, what part of the fan engagement program do I want to show you? In advance of the race today, I got an email and it said, "David, you're going to want to pay attention to this, because we are going to allow Grid Pass holders (the holders of those NFTs) to engage with the race in ways that typically their other fans may not be able to engage with."

So, let's go take a look at get the email and let's follow the workflow that they put us through to see just exactly what that experience is like.

So, here's the email, and as you can see it came in at 7:03 in the morning, just before the race started at 12 noon. And, this speaks to some of the challenges that people will have trying to keep track of multiple NFT programs.

You really have to pay close attention, because you never know when some sort of deadline is going to suddenly come up and you need to act in order to take advantage of the program. And, that's okay if you're paying attention to one or two or maybe three NFT programs. But for big brands – global brands – to expect customers and fans to pay attention to like five six or even 10 programs and stay abreast of everything that's going on so that they get to take full advantage of that program is asking quite a bit.

It's kind of like gamers if you think about it. Gamers – they only play like, one or two games – the people who are really into it, because they really can't divide their attention across more than that. They're spending a lot of time in the community of those games, they're trying to earn their way up the rankings in those games, they're trying to get better. So, they're focused on just one or two games and that's it. And, those are the gamers who are spending 24-hours a day doing it.

So, you can imagine that the different global brands that get a leg up and get their fans and customers into their programs may be closing out other companies that are waiting too long to start their NFT programs.

So here, we have the email that came in from Williams Racing this morning. It's Sunday November 5th, the race: Grand Prix race – Formula 1 race – taking place in Sao Paulo is happening, down there in Brazil, at 12:00 noon. And, this [email] is encouraging me to not only unlock a new badge, but also as I scroll down here, it says to make my "Pit Wall Predictions."

So, this is where I'm supposed to predict who's going to win the race, I guess. And, it looks to me if I'm not mistaken, like – in order to make those predictions I will need a mobile app or maybe I can do it through a website. it's hard to know at this point. So, if I pick the "Claim Now" button, it's going to take me to a website where I get to start the process off. Here is sort of a dashboard – and I'll have you know that I already claimed the badge.

Now, For Williams Racing, these badges are are not NFTs so I'm in the NFT program but the badge itself as best as we can tell is not an NFT it's just some kind of software asset that gets assigned to me – and that's kind of surprising because when you think about it. Like compare it to the Starbucks program, for example – they have what's called stamps and the stamps themselves are NFTs, but to show you that I've claimed the badge already. I can go to my dashboard and I think I go here and I can look at my profile and if we come here you can see...

Let's see... Here are my badges. If I click on my badges... There you go. I've earned the "Brazil Pass" or a badge. I also earn this "Thank You" badge. There's my Grid Pass. Now, in this case, the Grid Pass is an NFT but these other things are not. So, they're kind of combining them – or... these may be NFTs, I just don't know whether they are or not. It's very hard to tell. Basically, Williams Racing is using a custodial wallet, so everything's kind of in ... the customer – or the fan, is insulated from the complexities of whether you're using a wallet or not using a wallet, whether these are NFTs or not NFTs.

So, let's go back here. And, as you can see, one of the things that it's allowing me to do is customize something that I've already customized - which is my race card my driver card. This has my initials and a number that I picked. I['ve] picked these colors because these colors are the colors of the Blockchain Journal palette but, let's go ahead and pick customize, and as you can see one of the things that shows up in this screen is a new helmet.

Now, I can pick from these other helmets here. As you can see, there's all sorts of designs I can pick from and I've already picked my design from before – I picked the Grid Pass design. This is the default design if I was a Grid Pass holder – and again, the Grid Pass is an NFT – and then here are some paid designs.

I just want to show you what happens – and something that the Williams F1 team has to work on. If you click here – if I want to do this – this is where they're getting me to actually pay more money. They're getting some money from me in order to customize my Grid Pass driver card. If I click the "Buy Now" button and I go through this workflow here, it says $1.99 to get that, and if I proceed to the checkout here's the workflow for checking out.

I have to put in my first name and last name – and why I have to do that, I don't know. This seems to me to me like – like a – a break in the process. They already know who I am, but, I'm going to enter my information anyway. They also know where my address is because prior to this day – when I originally signed up for the program – I did go ahead and go into their store and take advantage of the 15% discount that all Grid Pass holders get. So, all NFT holders get a 15% discount in the merchandise store for the team and I bought a – a hat – but they somehow, for some reason, are not remembering my personal information – my name, my address. I have to put this back in and in this case, they're not even shipping anything to me it's simply the helmet design that I'm getting – it's a software asset – so I'm surprised that I even have to go through this.

If I click "Next", it comes up with this error. We've reported this to the organization and, so far, there's been no correction to this. So this is a break in how things work – and so this part of the user experience is broken. Hopefully, they'll fix it soon. So, we'll back out of this we'll come back to this step.

I'm going to go ahead, and you can see that because of the Brazil race they've added a new helmet. So, I'm going to pick the new design here, and now I get the Brazil design, which is really cool. And, another thing to check out is, I can customize the number if I want for this particular race, and I can also pick a new background. As you can see for the Brazil race they've got a couple [of] backgrounds so I'm going to pick this one, and now I've essentially customized my driver card for this particular race.

It's kind of like a way to be engaged and like, "All right! This is the Brazil race! Let's get excited for the Brazil race!"" and "I'm going to change my driver card for this and maybe next week when there's another race I'll customize my card for that!" And, it just kind of keeps the the fan engaged in the whole process and tied into what's going on.

So, I'm going to go ahead and save this and now my driver card has been updated and if we close this it should be reflected here. So, there we go.

Now, I'm not sure how to actually make a prediction about the race today. Remember it gave me that call to action? And here I am – and there isn't really anything here that's leading me to that next step so this is also a little bit of a break and the user workflow. They're not getting you to stay engaged and continue. Here you can see there's a reminder of what I get with my Grid Pass – and again the Grid Pass is an NFT – so you see the 15% discount here [for] early access to some merchandise, Fan Zone stuff – I haven't really had a chance to check all of that out and I don't think some of those things have been fully activated yet because they just started the program less than two weeks ago, but here you are with my driver card.

So, let's go back to the email and let's scroll down here. Let's go ahead and click on this to make a prediction and see if I can make a prediction. They call it "Pit Wall Prediction." Here's my card, here's my rank. I haven't made any predictions yet. I don't have any prediction badges, because I haven't made any predictions yet. I believe that these predictions are available to anybody – not necessarily just Grid Pass holders – and maybe that's why people may have already been doing well, or engaged in this part of the process – making predictions. This could be just available to standard user IDs that have been registered with the Williams Racing website. [It's] hard to know, but let's go ahead and click "Start Predicting" and let's see when we will make a prediction on when one of the members of the team – Alex will make the first stop.

I'm going to say that that will be between lap 21 and 30, Logan. Let's do the same thing. We'll say that "He'll do it between 21 and 30. Who's going to pit first? I'm going to say Logan's going to pit first and here again, you can see that there are some imperfections in the user experience it says, "when the first Williams Racing driver pits, what position will they pit from," and, I'm going to say they're going to pit from P6 to P10. Then, when Alex makes his first stop, what will the gap between him and the car ahead be? I'm going to say it's going to be 5.1 to 7.5 seconds, and for Logan, I'll say it's 7.6 seconds.

I'm just taking some wild guesses here. I think part of this is – it's kind of educating me on some of the things to be thinking about when you're watching a race – and I'm not necessarily a big F1 fan – so this is sort of educating me on things to think about if I'm going to watch the race and maybe bringing me into the F1 experience and making me a fan not only of Williams Racing but of F1 overall.

"How many virtual safety car periods will there be?" There was, and then... here's a little tip. There was one virtual safety car period at this race last year. I'm going to say "two". "How many full safety car periods will there be?"" I'm going to say "two." Maybe I should be checking the weather down there, but I haven't bothered to do that because maybe there'll be more safety car periods if the weather's kind of – you know – terrible or rainy or whatever if there're inclement conditions.

But now, it looks like I can just save this. So, I'll make a save and that's it. Now, surprisingly I've saved it and I'm just sort of sitting here I'm surprised it's not taking me to some next level of engagement or something else I can do – it's just stuck here again. This is probably not the best way to leave fans – just hanging here – but I'm going to go ahead and "X" out of this. So now, I've made my predictions, it looks like I can edit them here. You can see the countdown to the race, [it] starts in 49 minutes, and if I want I can even download the app.

So, I was able to actually make my predictions – and, there you go – [it] looks like I earned a "Prediction Badge" for doing that. Let's go ahead and go back to my profile to see what I can see in the way of my badges and see if it shows that – and looks like here it is. There's that, here are my latest badges that I've earned. You know, the last three here are my "Achievement" badges. Here are my "Pit Wall Predictions," and so I guess we'll see what happens by the end of the race and whether or not I get some pit wall perfection, or not.

Here are the different badges that I collected for the various races. So far I've only gotten the Brazil badge because I joined the program as a part of their beginning – or their launch of the NFT program – which I believe came after the Abu Dhabi and Las Vegas races. I do think that this program is available, again, to just not necessarily NFT holders but [to] other fans that are registered with [the] Williams Racing team – but maybe not. So [it] looks like there's some points that I can get here. [I] don't know what that's going to be, but I'll pay close attention.

And, there you go. That's an example of how the Williams Racing team is keeping me as somebody who's not even a real big fan of F1 engaged with what's about to happen in the race which is taking place just in under an hour from now. And again, the email to take action and do something came in barely 5 hours before the race started, which speaks to why it is that fans [and] customers have to pay very close attention to this particular program, because you never know when something's going to come up.

And, the same sort of thing is happening across other NFT programs – whether it's the adidas alt program or the Starbucks Odyssey program – there's stuff happening all the time and you have to pay pretty close attention to it.

Now one thing to point out with those different programs is that they also use their Discord servers to keep their communities abreast of what's going on.

So, let's go over there real quick to look at the Discord server. Here's the Starbucks Odyssey Discord server. You can see that I've clicked it over here on the left. One of the things they've done recently is they've added the Christmas colors, because they just started all of their Christmas celebrations across the brand – in the NFT program as well as in the stores and stuff – you should by now start seeing the stores getting the red and green Christmas colors rolled out for their decorations.

But anyway, here you can see that the "NFT bark" – who is one of the members of the Starbucks Odyssey team – Steve is letting people know that something's coming up. This was on November 2nd – just a few days ago – and they're telling people that something is going to happen on 11/15 and in order to be able to participate in it you have to have completed three "Journeys." This is where the Starbucks Odyssey program is informing a community of what's about to happen, [and] how to participate here they're giving you the actual dates 11/15 at 7:00 a.m. to November 18th at 2:59 a.m. – that's my time zone, which is the East Coast time zone of the United States – and so, they're they're letting people know. But, you have to pay close attention to the Discord channel. And fortunately, the way Starbucks does it is [that] they email you and they put it in their Discord channel to maximize the chance that you'll pick up on whatever it is the action items are that you have to take part in before the time runs out. But, this is one way that the various programs out there keep their communities abreast of whatever it is they have to do.

The Williams F1 Racing Team does not have one of these Discord servers. Hyundai has one, here. Here's their general chat in their Discord server where you can keep track of what's going on. Here's the alts program and you can kind of follow along with all of their announcements to figure out what's going on in their program. So, a lot of different NFT programs are using Discord as the channel through which they communicate all the activities and the "calls to action." They also use Twitter, but so far, [the] Williams F1 racing team is pretty much sticking – it seems like – to email.

So there you have it, folks. A small part of the Williams F1 Racing customer engagement and loyalty program.

I realize that when you're talking about a Grand Prix racing team you're really talking about fan engagement. But, in the bigger picture, we put these under the umbrella of customer engagement and loyalty. And, of course, a lot of big brands and enterprises out there are using NFTs to drive more loyalty, [and] more engagement from their fans. And, as you can see, this was all about driving engagement. it was about getting me in – involved in the race itself – making predictions that was kind of cool.

I am not a big F1 racing fan, but this got me a little more interested in the idea of F1 racing, and of course, the fact that Williams is the team that got me into it. I might be forming a little bit of an affinity for the Williams Racing team and the two drivers.

So, we'll see how it goes. We'll bring you more of these experiences. I realize that when we do this sort of coverage there are people who are interested in NFTs and collecting them – and so they will be watching this for that. But really, these videos are for all the other global brands and enterprises out there that have not yet made their move on NFT-based customer loyalty and engagement programs and they want to learn from both the successes and the mistakes that existing programs are making. And, of course, the Williams F1 racing NFT-based customer loyalty and engagement program has both successes and some mistakes in it – as I just kind of mentioned as we walk[ed] through that last little bit of their customer journey.

So stay tuned to Blockchain Journal and our YouTube channel for more coverage like this. Of course, we'll be taking little bits and pieces of the journeys from other programs like the adidas alts program, the dotSWOOSH program from Nike, [and the Starbucks Odyssey program. We'll be bringing them to you here so that you can learn lessons from what it is they're doing well – and what it is they're not doing so well. For Blockchain Journal, I'm David Berlind.

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