SBJ/March 19 - 25, 2007/This Weeks News

Car club a rolling billboard for IndyCar Series

The IndyCar Series discovered a unique ally when it went searching for ways to promote its races in market.

The series has partnered with the Honda S2000 car club, a national group of 56,000 members, to help spread the word about upcoming IndyCar races.

Honda S2000 car club members
will sport decals that promote
upcoming IndyCar races.

A number of the car enthusiasts, at least 50 in each market, will dress their sports cars in an IndyCar decal, which will include race information and a phone number to call for tickets. The season begins this Saturday in Homestead, Fla.

By attaching oversized IndyCar decals to their S2000s, the car-club members are turning their vehicles into roving billboards in the race market. They’re being asked to display the decals for three weeks leading up to the race.

In exchange, they’re getting free tickets. The IndyCar Series is handling the cost of producing the decals, while the tracks are donating the tickets.

“We just started out by contacting a local chapter and it has ballooned from there,” said Mike Ringham, IndyCar’s vice president of marketing. “We’re now targeting at least 50 vehicles in the event market for three weeks, and we’ll have many more in some markets. It’s very good brand and event exposure.”

The car club, a nonprofit social group of enthusiasts for the handmade S2000 roadster, has no affiliation with Honda, which is one of IndyCar’s manufacturers.

“We’ve seen significant viral growth already among members and their friends,” Ringham said. “We’ve heard of decal parties in the Homestead market, and we’re looking into ways to reward them further with online contests.”

Ringham hopes the car-club members will submit their videos from car-dressing parties or other related events to the IndyCar Web site, where fans can select winning entries.

That could tie in with indycar.com’s new video capabilities, which will allow fans to create a video-sharing community, much like YouTube.com. With video features that will launch this week, indycar.com will give fans the ability to post and play videos, as well as rate and review them.

It’s all part of IndyCar’s goal to create the largest racing community on the Internet, Ringham said.

With the start of the IndyCar season this Saturday, indycar.com also will launch “IndyCast,” which will offer viewers coverage of practice, qualifying and an in-car camera view during the race. The full race broadcast will be shown on a delayed basis because of the television rights owned by ABC and ESPN.

As the IndyCar season progresses into June beyond the Indianapolis 500, the series will debut commercials on ABC and ESPN. Two-thirds of each spot will focus on branding, while the other third will promote an upcoming race.

IndyCar also has bought time on the MRN and PRN radio networks during NASCAR-sanctioned events to promote its own races.

In all, the series is spending into the seven figures for these ad buys, well above what it has spent in the past. The radio buy is comparable to previous seasons, but the TV buy is new in 2007.

Ringham said he expects IndyCar to benefit from all of the other motorsports programming on ESPN this year, which provides more platforms for IndyCar in-race promotions.

“We still need to drive the brand as much as possible,” Ringham said. “We’re working with ESPN marketing to maximize our mutual efforts.”

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