Even without the benefit of sound for this afternoon's Izod IndyCar Series press conference, you could notice the excitement in the press room at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The runway-styled press conference helped reinforce the relationship between Izod and the IndyCar Series moving forward. Seeing IMS President Jeff Belskus for the first time in what seemed like months was a nice touch, as well. Between Belskus, Brian Barnhardt and Mike Kelly, everyone said the right thing.
To me, though, lying just under the surface of the title sponsorship is a major key to the deal: the IndyCar Series is aligning itself with a high-profile, yet middle-class sponsor.
(Well, that and the fact that it appears that Ryan Hunter-Reay will drive for Andretti Racing in 2010; on a day when one young, popular American driver continues her dalliance with NASCAR, it's nice to see another young, talented American driver staying in the Izod IndyCar Series.)
Most of Izod's line of "Izod for Indy" clothes are relatively affordable - making it a key to activating the sponsorship. I am right in Izod's demographic (I think) - a 27-year old young professional. Now, for a minute, let's just say that I didn't know anything about IndyCar racing. With Macy's locations around the country, odds are that I'll run into the Izod for Indy product sooner or later. The biggest thing about the line, to me, as someone living on a limited budget, is that if I liked the vintage Wing-and-Wheel design, I could actually buy the shirt.
As opposed to some other sponsors of the Izod IndyCar Series (i.e. Ritmo Mundo), the average fan can find this product and buy it.
Yes, the other details of the announcement are quite intriguing (my comments in parenthesis):
- Increased and enhanced nationalmedia initiatives with television partners ESPN on ABC and VERSUS (makes sense to me).
- Multi-year, multi-million dollar commitment to participate in the IZOD IndyCar Series Team Enhancement and Allocation Matrix. Introduced in 2008, TEAM provides a guaranteed financial foundation for every team committed to running the entire schedule. (If this helps increase the size of the field, even better.)
- Access to drivers and 100 years' worth of motorsports assets and graphics from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, including current and vintage cars, for both on- and off-track events in and out of race markets. (Something that Izod and the IndyCar Series did masterfully last year were their events, both on and off the track, especially in New York and Macy's stores in IndyCar markets. If this continues to improve, activation will be even better, theoretically.)
- Shared Web initiatives and online promotions. (Sure, makes sense. Driving traffic to each others' web sites will increase the number of hits, and as such, allow for increased ad rates.)
I have been an advocate of the Izod IndyCar Series' need to add more middle-class sponsors, in order to relate to the biggest group of consumers of the Series. In landing Izod in a bigger role, the Izod IndyCar Series has enhanced their relationship with one of their biggest activators, theoretically enabling an already promising relationship to grow further.
Driving home from work today, I listened to Terry Angstadt on local radio today (1260-AM, WNDE) - his comment was to the effect of:
It might not be as important a day as unification, but it's close.If the Izod-IndyCar relationship grows as expected, it may be even more important in terms of securing the future viability of American open-wheel racing.