SBJ/March 7-13, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

It takes a village, and IndyCar is planning one

Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

After years of watching sponsors design their own at-track pavilions with similar racing simulators, IndyCar is coordinating sponsor activation in 2011 to create a single fan village with diverse interactive elements.

The Izod IndyCar Fan Village, which will debut at the March 27 Streets of St. Petersburg race, will feature pavilions from Izod, Verizon, National Guard, Honda and Mattel Hot Wheels.

The fan village, with coordinated sponsor activation, will be set up at all 17 IndyCar tracks this year.
The village was developed as a way to provide a better and more uniform fan experience at all 17 of the tracks IndyCar is scheduled to visit in 2011. In the past, some races, such as the annual Streets of Long Beach, featured a host of sponsor pavilions where fans could spend time before the race, but others — like last year’s Kentucky Speedway race — offered next to nothing, said Kasey Coler, IndyCar business affairs manager.

“We knew we had to step it up,” Coler added. “Instead of having six partners at a track with a racing simulator, the idea was to plan a unique experience for each partner to provide and fans to enjoy.”

IndyCar worked with Chicago-based Marketing Werks, an experiential marketing agency that works with Verizon, to design the fan village.

The cost of the village is not baked into IndyCar’s sanctioning fees with tracks. Instead, IndyCar is paying $10,000 to $50,000 to secure a footprint at each venue. Sponsors are then covering the design and management of their own respective pavilion, which is a low, six-figure expense for each participating sponsor this season.

In order to enter the Izod IndyCar Fan Village, fans must become a member of IndyCar Nation, the series’ fan community. Membership is free. The series hopes that the requirement gives it more data about fans attending races, which it plans to share with tracks for ticket sales purposes.

Izod plans to set up one of the largest displays in the pavilion. Its participation represents a change in the brand’s approach to activation around IndyCar. Last year, the brand activated in a limited fashion at the track.

Izod plans to create a social media lounge, known as the Izod Social Cloud, with nine large screens that feature IndyCar Twitter feeds, the Izod Facebook page, motorsports news and branded video content.

Verizon plans to erect a technology center to showcase its phones and the exclusive IndyCar content they can provide. Honda plans to feature its 2011 Civic and host driver autograph sessions, and the National Guard plans to offer a pit-stop challenge for kids.

“We like the idea of IndyCar and IndyCar fans all gathering at one place,” said Brian Gordon, Phillips-Van Heusen’s vice president of marketing, brand content and distribution. “IndyCar gave us this opportunity and we decided there really isn’t a social aggregator at the racetrack. The hope is to use this to engage people away from the racetrack so they see what’s happening in the IndyCar world and Izod world.”

Though IndyCar has 40 official partners, Coler said it reached out to only a handful of key partners because it’s a new concept that it wanted to start small.

“In a perfect world, we grow this network and have other partners who want to play in this area,” Coler said.

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