R/GA strategist, Kevin Miner, discusses one of the most popular culturally relevant in-game attractions in sports
RaceTrac’s 'The Freeze' is one of the most popular in-game attractions in sports. Racing Atlanta Braves fans since 2017 with his blazing speed and signature blue-lycra onesie, The Freeze’s antics have caught the attention of outlets ranging from Atlanta Magazine to Wired. Each home game fans clamour at a shot to race him, but only one (un)lucky opponent gets chosen from the stands. Despite the generous head start, 'The Freeze' leaves most competitors in a pile of dust.
Coming into the year, the R/GA Austin team was gearing up for a campaign that leveraged 'The Freeze'’s cultural cache and brought him to life in the growing C-Store’s locations throughout the Southeast. We’re talking months of planning, multiple shoots, and one-of-a-kind Freeze merchandise that was meant to be launched at the beginning of the season.
Despite the postponement of the MLB in April, 'The Freeze' remained culturally relevant throughout the spring and early summer. Fans reached out daily, popular accounts posted Freeze throwbacks, and even quarantined athletes toyed with the idea of racing him. There was a clear opportunity for us to pivot and bring the excitement of baseball and 'The Freeze' to our fans via a mobile race experience.
The marriage of 'The Freeze' and an Instagram filter was an easy decision. People in search of connection during the quarantine were using and sharing filters at historically high rates, which paired well with an ever-growing second screen culture in sports entertainment. Whether you’re live-tweeting play-by-play analysis, indulging in fantasy games, or commenting on a celebrity appearance, real-time interaction and conversation is an integral part of modern fandom. Not to mention, the return of professional sports represented a semblance of normalcy for people across the country with 67% of U.S. fans seeing it as a way to engage in something familiar. So, it’s no surprise that baseball had a historic relaunch, with the MLB opener setting an ESPN TV rating record with four million viewers.
But it wasn’t enough to just create a filter, we needed to gamify the race in an engaging manner and hero RaceTrac at the forefront of that experience. Thanks to RaceTrac and our partners MBI, Brandware, Vert, Fox Sports South, and the Braves, we were able to pique interest and maximise reach for the filter through a five-pronged campaign rollout that spanned across broadcast, social, influencers, sweepstakes, and in-stadium activations.
From onscreen billboards to pre-game features from Paul Byrd, we leveraged Braves FSS broadcasts throughout the campaign and even gamified them by placing a cardboard Freeze cutout in the stands and inviting viewers to #FindTheFreeze in a Where’s Waldo-like Twitter activation.
'The Freeze' also challenged a slew of high-profile social accounts to race, earning engagement from the likes of NFL wide receiver Calvin Ridley to sports business analyst Darren Rovell. He then directed his attention to everyday fans, sending hundreds of individually tailored tweets with the filter link to folks who challenged him in the past.
If invitations to race the Freeze wasn’t enough, we conducted a Freeze Filter Sweepstakes, which will reward 15 fans who share their filter videos or photos on social with RaceTrac’s special edition Freeze merch. Additionally, we collaborated with influencers to stir up excitement and incentivise fans to participate, like Chelsea Freeman who gave away a Freddie Freeman signed baseball!
The fact is, no one will ever be able to replicate what it’s truly like to beat 'The Freeze' in front of a packed crowd at Truist park. But we were able to bring together hundreds of thousands of sports fans, connect athletes with consumers, reimagine in-game sports entertainment, and strengthen RaceTrac’s association with a sports culture icon.
- Kevin Miner, strategist, R/GA Austin office