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Volume 20 No. 42
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IndyCar to sit down with title sponsor Verizon for renewal talks

Verizon struck its deal with IndyCar in 2014. The agreement is set to expire at the end of 2018.
IndyCar CEO Mark Miles said renewal talks with title sponsor Verizon will begin soon, about 18 months from the end of the deal’s term.

Verizon’s deal is worth about $10 million annually and expires at the end of 2018. It’s common for properties to be informed of a title sponsor’s future plans well in advance of a deal’s end date, given the length of time it can take to find a replacement.

Miles acknowledged that talks will get underway in the next few months, and believes it won’t be long before the sanctioning body knows which way negotiations are heading.

“This is a conversation that will start in earnest soon — and that we’ll have some clarity on before long,” Miles said.

Miles, who is in his fifth year with IndyCar and also in the middle of media-rights negotiations with ABC/ESPN and NBC Sports, is hopeful of a renewal. But amid several executive changes at Verizon, multiple sources close to the deal said a renewal could be challenging to secure.

Miles conceded the “very significant change” in Verizon management since the two sides originally struck the multiyear deal in 2014. That includes the departure of former Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead, who helped strike the original partnership and was known to be a fan of racing. A source close to the deal said current executives at Verizon are split on the program. The source said Verizon Communications Chairman and CEO Lowell McAdam is among the current executives who support the sponsorship.

“We have an excellent relationship, the program has delivered what they originally had as their expectations, and we’ve not yet really started to have discussions with them about the future, so I don’t want to jump to any conclusions,” Miles said. He touted the series’ growth prospects; ratings had been up multiple years in a row heading into this season, and the Indianapolis 500 has experienced an attendance resurgence that Miles has called a “really helpful and important achievement.”

Verizon, which works with CSM Sport & Entertainment on motorsports marketing and Momentum Worldwide as its sports marketing agency, did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Whether Verizon’s entire motorsports portfolio is up for renewal at the same time was unclear. Sources said Team Penske’s Verizon deal, which has a robust business-to-business element, appears to be safe. Those sources also said that Verizon could drop the title sponsorship but stay on as the official telecommunications provider of the series.

Miles added that “there’s never been anything in the relationship that was a speed bump; I think we’ve delivered or over-delivered, and they’ve done what they’ve said (they would) as well.”

A source said that in IndyCar, Verizon intends to increasingly focus on its Hum product, which connects cars with the digital world, instead of on the overarching Verizon brand. Hum can provide drivers such services as emergency assistance, maintenance reminders and vehicle diagnostics. Verizon has been activating the Hum product in IndyCar in recent years, but that has been mixed in with a steady amount of pure Verizon brand marketing.