SBD/March 28, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Verizon Title Sponsorship Seen As Big Opportunity For IndyCar As Season Begins

The Verizon IndyCar Series has a "golden opportunity for growth" this season, as Verizon's 10-year title sponsorship is the "biggest and best news" the series has gotten in years, according to John Oreovicz of Verizon is a "much more mainstream brand than recent Indy car sponsors, including apparel maker Izod, which just ended a four-year association." It is "hoped that Verizon's considerable market share, brand awareness and aggressive marketing give the IndyCar Series a boost." Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles said, "I think of this day as a game-changer for IndyCar -- for the series, for our fans, the teams and our drivers. ... This is the beginning of the next phase of IndyCar's growth." But Oreovicz noted IndyCar's product in recent years "hasn't been the problem." The racing is "close and competitive week in and week out, and the championship consistently comes down to the wire without any kind of contrived playoff system." The problem is that "nobody is paying any attention." IndyCar has "struggled to produce the kind of media attention and television numbers that attract blue-chip sponsors." ABC's five races "should help the series build more respectable first-half numbers that will help sell sponsorships" for '15 and beyond (, 3/27). 

CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? In Milwaukee, Dave Kallmann writes, "Verizon will help. A lot. It has to." Izod had "long been transparent, which is the last thing a series treading water needs from its marketing partner." Verizon is a company "already familiar with the product through time as a team sponsor and oh, by the way, one of its key competitors just happens to back NASCAR's biggest series." There is a "purpose to Verizon's fight." This deal "has a new car smell," and there is "every reason to believe that when that wears off, IndyCar still will be thrilled with what it has." But a cellphone company "can't make anyone love a sport." While Verizon "may bring it to more people's attention, it's IndyCar's responsibility to keep their interest" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 3/28). In L.A., Louis Brewster wrote IndyCar "already scored a pair of major victories in securing Verizon" as well as hiring President of Operations & Competition Derrick Walker, who has created a "number of safety improvements" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 3/27).

DRAWING THE SHORT STICK: The GLOBE & MAIL's Jeff Pappone notes the IndyCar season begins Sunday with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and "ends five months later" with the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway on Aug. 30. Fans "have to go back to 1957 to find a full schedule as short as the one IndyCar put together" for '14. The series has "called this a transition year as it implements a new strategy to get the fans back, which should see an expanded schedule" in '15. IndyCar "contends that shrinking the season will entice fans to pay more attention to the series for a shorter period of time." It also is "thought that fewer gaps between races will keep IndyCar top of mind throughout the summer." Additionally, the "condensed calendar means the series avoids going head-to-head" with the NFL. But the "huge problem with the five-month schedule is the other side of the equation: IndyCar will be dark for more than half of 2014." It also creates a "challenge to teams trying to attract sponsors, since they can only promise five months exposure from a full-season commitment this year" (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/25).
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