Sponsorship push starting to pay off for Indy
Indianapolis Motor Speedway executives say they are beginning to see the results of two years of work developing new categories and pitching new sponsors.
|The track added more than 20 new sponsors and upsold seven existing sponsors in the first quarter of this year.
“We’re reaping the fruit from what we planted the last 18 months to two years,” said Mike Redlick, IMS’s chief sales and marketing officer. “We’re getting out of the garage and going after more traditional sports marketing partners.”
The sales success has been driven in large part by landing sponsors in categories that went unsold in years past. The track signed Hardee’s to become its first quick-service restaurant sponsor in at least five years. It also closed deals with Great Clips, Caterpillar and the National Guard.
All of the track’s new sponsors will receive a mix of assets such as tickets, hospitality, display space, signage and rights to the speedway’s logo. Some will receive TV-visible signage during the Indy 500, including Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka, which renewed its sponsorship this year, and Sunoco, which is a new track sponsor.
Sunoco’s deal with IMS represents a significant opportunity for the Philadelphia-based company. The gas retailer has been the official fuel provider of the IndyCar Series since 2011, but its competitor Shell held the sponsorship rights at IMS and limited what Sunoco could do during the Indy 500. But Shell this year opted to shift its marketing commitment from IMS to sponsor a new IndyCar race in Houston, and that allowed Sunoco to scoop up the sponsorship rights.
The company plans to put a tent in Indy’s Gasoline Alley, the speedway’s legendary garage area. It will use the tent for hospitality and set up a Sunoco-branded Indy car that will be featured in this summer’s DreamWorks animated film “Turbo.”
“We’re always looking for a way to activate in the sport, and with the movie ‘Turbo’ coming out July 19, this was a very good position for us at IMS,” said Drew Kabakoff, Sunoco’s director of brand marketing. “It was both having some exposure on television [with signage during the race] and an event-marketing plan in Gasoline Alley that made this work.”
IMS also had success in the emerging “green” sponsorship categories. The track is building a 25-acre solar farm and signed a sponsorship with SunWize, a solar panel manufacturer, to be its first official solar sponsor. It also signed Growth Energy, the ethanol lobbying group that also sponsors NASCAR; Ray’s Trash Service, which will run a recycling program; and Citizens Energy Group, an area water supplier that will promote water conservation.
Redlick said the track lost only two sponsors from last year, Shell and NTB.