SBJ/March 24-30, 2014/Marketing and Sponsorship

New sponsors, race to push IndyCar revenue

Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles expects last year’s work to restructure the IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway to pay dividends with double-digit revenue increases this year.

Internal projections show Hulman Motorsports, which includes the IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, should see a 20 percent to 25 percent increase in ticket sales and sponsorship this year.

IndyCar opens its season this Sunday in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Miles said the revenue increase is being driven by the combination of a new title sponsorship with Verizon, another sponsorship that is being finalized, and ticket sales around a new race and a concert at IMS this May.

May is the biggest month on the calendar for IMS. It will begin this year with an inaugural road race, continue through Indianapolis 500 qualifying, include a Jason Aldean concert Memorial Day weekend, and culminate with the Indy 500.

“Last year was a transitional year for us where we tried to reshape our organization and re-establish relationships in the marketplace and articulate a clear strategy for our racing businesses,” Miles said. “This year we expect to begin to see the benefits of that repositioning with significant top-line sales growth. The changes we made in the May program are significant.”

The May events will be the primary driver of ticket sales increases. IndyCar races average more than 35,000 spectators, and the new road race at IMS is expected to draw more than that. Aldean typically plays to more than 20,000 spectators, which would take total new ticket sales that month to more than 50,000.

The Verizon title sponsorship, which was announced earlier this month, helped the series avoid going without a sponsor for the 2014 season after Izod exited its deal early. Verizon agreed to pay more than $10 million annually in rights fees, media and marketing. The company is shooting IndyCar-themed commercials that it plans to run nationally.

Miles said Hulman Motorsports also expects to sign a title sponsor for its inaugural road race at IMS as well as a new timing and scoring sponsor for the IndyCar Series.

In addition to improving sponsorship and ticket sales revenue, Hulman Motorsports plans to put more marketing resources behind the IndyCar Series. Miles hired longtime Ford marketer C.J. O’Donnell last year as the series’ marketing chief. He has developed a campaign, “Rivals,” that highlights drivers and competition on the track.

The marketing materials include full-length advertisements that can run during race broadcasts on ABC and NBC Sports Network, and 25-second ads that promoters can use locally after filling in the remaining five seconds with ticket sales information.

O’Donnell estimates that between the eight promoters who plan to use the commercials along with IndyCar’s advertising during races, digital ads and print ads, the series will have $10 million in media value behind it this year. The series also plans to buy advertising in race markets during the weeks after it visits.

“When we come to town, we make quite a splash, and in past years, we wouldn’t continue that dialogue after the weekend,” O’Donnell said. “Our intent now is to stay present through advertising and make sure we have a continual dialogue with fans there [in race markets] and encourage them to continue to follow us in races after the race they attend.”

Miles said he is finishing the 2015 IndyCar schedule. In the coming months, he hopes to secure two to three international races for the start of the year. His goal is to take the series back to Brazil, where it raced 2010-13, and one other market such as the Middle East. “Getting back to Brazil is important,” Miles said. “There’s demand there. We just have to figure out how to line it up.”

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