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SBD/Issue 56/Events & Attractions
Motorsports Marketing Forum: Bernard Talks State Of IndyCar
Published December 1, 2010
|Bernard Notes IndyCar Will Not Make Money
This Year, But Did Exceed Goals By 30%
IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard yesterday discussed his first year on the job and the future of his racing league at SportsBusiness Journal/Daily’s 11th annual Izod IndyCar Series Motorsports Marketing Forum.
Q: Summarize your first year at IndyCar.
Bernard: I assess great momentum for us. It started way before I got there when Izod signed as title sponsor. We’ve signed 14 new sponsors in the past 12 months, and (gross income) went from $34 million in 2009 to $81 million in 2010. We’ve made great progress.
Q: How was the transition from the Professional Bull Riders to IndyCar?
Bernard: It’s a lot different. Motorsports are such a bigger universe. There’s so much passion for open-wheel racing. In Indy, with every challenge I’ve wanted to learn the culture and tradition, and not offend traditionalists and purists.
Q: How difficult has it been working with traditionalists?
Bernard: There’s always someone who is a lot smarter about motor sports. My job has been to come in and listen, to understand the sport and the marketability of it, and to build it. My saving grace, besides Izod, was a great staff. I give them a lot of credit. When I came in we sat around, brainstormed together and made decisions. We redefined IndyCar in 75 days. That’s fascinating. I learned more in those meetings … that’s probably the best way to get educated.
Q: How does the day-to-day running of IndyCar compare to PBR?
Bernard: Many thought PBR was an acronym for Pabst Blue Ribbon when I started there. It didn’t have a brand. You call someone in New York and say you’re from the PBR, most of the time they wouldn’t take your call. The IndyCar Series has such a tradition and culture. It’s known everywhere … it’s pretty easy to get through the door. My day-to-day is not that much different. I like to think I work hard. I start early in the morning and finish late at night. I try to learn the business. I meet with everybody and anybody.
Q: Will you make money this year?
Bernard: No. We won’t make money this year. That wasn’t a realistic goal. We have certain parameters to hit, and we exceeded it by 30 percent. The physical number in 2011 looks promising. It’s a privately held company that has spent millions upon millions of dollars. The (Hulman/George) family won’t take shortcuts. There are expectations for the bottom line. The family is in this for the long haul.
Q: You’ve been outspoken that Versus is not in enough homes for greater distribution.
Bernard: I have said that many times. I think Versus does a great job. Of course, we want to be in more homes. But we have to do a better job delivering what we can do. Versus got a 3.9 rating for an NHL playoff game. If you have good content, people will find it. We have to create those story lines.
Q: What will the proposed Comcast-NBC merger do for your sport?
Bernard: I’ve had several conversations with Versus folks and Comcast folks. Hopefully by Dec. 31 the Department of Justice approves the acquisition. I’m optimistic it’ll come to NBC Sports. We’re a big fish in a small pond on Versus. If we can grow on Versus it’ll grow our long-term vision.
Q: What has the racing experience been like?
Bernard: In Brazil, in the first lap of the race there was a huge wreck. Marco Andretti ended up (under) Mario Moraes. I thought, 'My God. I had no idea how dangerous it was,' and in the first three minutes. I was like …
Bernard: I was sold before I took the job. Look where the sport was in 1995 and where it was in 2009. This sport is poised for success. There’s no reason why it can’t grow beyond our expectations. Very quickly I was sold on this sport, way before Brazil.