SBJ/August 28 - September 3, 2006/This Weeks News

IRL aims to boost mobile content

The Indy Racing League is partnering with wireless content developer Digital Orchid Inc. to create and distribute IRL-themed mobile content.

Consumers will have access on their cell phones to everything from screensavers and wallpaper to unique premium offerings, such as in-car video and audio exchanges between the drivers and their pit crews during a race.

A launch date has not been established, but mobile content will be available in the coming months from the IRL’s Web site, indycar.com, which will lead the distribution initially. Once the 2007 season begins, in March, the IRL will use its TV, radio and print advertising to promote the mobile offerings.

Digital Orchid and the IRL, with vice president of marketing Mike Ringham at the point, began discussions about a year ago, according to Bobby Betros, Digital Orchid’s co-founder and chief technology officer. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but this type of deal typically involves a revenue-sharing agreement.

“We’re giving our fans access to the sport 24/7 and that was the most important thing,” said John Griffin, IRL vice president of public relations.

Digital Orchid, a San Diego-based company that has emerged as a leader in wireless applications, also has deals with NASCAR, Champ Car, Major League Baseball, the NHL, NHRA, ESPN and others.

“We’re going to have unique content from the IRL, the value of which really can’t be overestimated,” Betros said. “There are certain things you look for: unique content, and the other big piece is the marketing of the brand and the brand awareness. … And we’re very strong in Latin America, Europe and Asia, so we can help expand the reach of the IRL’s brand.”

Pricing for the IRL’s mobile content hasn’t been set, but screensavers and wallpaper typically start at about $2, while the premium offering will likely cost about $10 per month, Betros said. The IRL also intends to design promotional campaigns and sweepstakes as part of the mobile offerings, for which consumers would send a text message to register or vote.

Additionally, the social-networking space of indycar.com, where fans go to design their own cars, exchange comments, blog and submit photos, could extend to the mobile market.

“It’s a groundbreaking opportunity with social networking,” Betros said. “Myspace.com is social networking with no real focus, whereas this is social networking with IRL as the focus.”

In other news, the IRL is taking its series championship to the people: The presentation to the IRL’s overall champion after its season finale Sept. 10 at Chicagoland Speedway will be held on a stage in the grandstand. A car representing the series champion will be lifted to the stage.

The IRL is considering this method of trophy presentation for each of its races next season. Before and during the race the stage will be used as an entertainment center, and stage-related sponsorships could be sold.

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