NBC, IndyCar to make joint sales pitch
Ever since NBC Sports Group’s Dan Lovinger watched the Indianapolis 500 as a kid, he’s had the venerable event pegged on his bucket list.
The executive vice president of advertising sales is about to get his chance to attend, as his advertising group and IndyCar’s business development group have started building an integrated relationship that will involve selling NBC’s advertising inventory alongside IndyCar’s sponsorship inventory, including the series’ title sponsorship.
NBC becomes IndyCar’s sole media rights holder starting next year, taking over the part of the season currently aired by ABC, including the Indianapolis 500.
Lovinger’s group flew to Indianapolis in late April to have their first meeting with IndyCar’s business group and brainstorm over new offers to take to the market. Lovinger and Rod Davis, chief revenue officer of Hulman Motorsports, which owns IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, expressed confidence that the partnership will lead to more revenue and benefits for partners.
“IndyCar is this wonderful asset that, with a little bit of work on our end, we think we can restore some serious luster to,” said Lovinger. “When you think about the cross-portfolio promotional potential that NBCU brings ... we think there’s a lot we can do for IndyCar to increase consumer interest and certainly drive tune-in to some of these important races.”
IndyCar will share internal data and fan insights to help target companies to approach. The sides will review IndyCar’s inventory of assets, and NBC will become more familiar with how things work at the track with hospitality and experiential marketing.
IndyCar is this wonderful asset that, with a little bit of work on our end, we think we can restore some serious luster to.
“It’s an alignment on the key messaging, attributes and story that we’re going to tell,” Davis said. “It’s also [them] sharing, ‘Here’s who’s in the family’ — they obviously have tremendous relationships across the industry … so it’s kind of pooling their resources, from creative resources to their analytics and insights, and best practices they learned from properties like the Premier League.”
IndyCar has a relatively small sales group of three people, so having the aid of a group as large as NBC’s ad team could be a significant boon to the open-wheel series.
Lovinger said his team is starting with IndyCar’s title sponsorship opportunity, as Verizon will end its title deal after 2018. However, Lovinger said NBC plans to give Verizon a new joint offer with IndyCar for renewing. Verizon advertises with NBC Sports during programming including NFL games, so NBC could put together an alluring cross-property ad package.
“We’re going to start with the incumbent, because we believe that they deserve that opportunity and that there’s a way to show that there’s an improved opportunity for them, and then we’ll go from there,” Lovinger said.
If the new pitch to Verizon isn’t successful, Lovinger cited wireless, technology, quick-service restaurants and soft drinks as categories whose brands could fit well with the title deal.
“It’s really just a matter of turning up the heat on IndyCar in a way that it just hasn’t had in quite some time,” Lovinger said.
The 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 is this month, and NBC likely will have several executives on hand to start preparing for taking over the event in 2019. Lovinger said it’s to be determined whether he can attend this year’s running, but he’s set on checking the event off his list at least by next year.
“We all have our bucket list of things we want to do, and on mine was selling a Super Bowl, which I was recently able to cross off the list this past February — and another was the Indianapolis 500,” he said. “I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get there this year, but I’ll certainly be there in 2019.”