What Is Expected Of A Series Sponsor?

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For the past year and a half, I’ve lost track of the different companies that we have heard rumored to be the title sponsor for the IndyCar Series. With varying degrees of credibility, we have heard companies such as Citicorp, AT&T, Budweiser, Coca-Cola, DirecTV, Subway, Menard’s and Gillette mentioned as possible suitors for naming rights to the IndyCar series. Now the latest name being mentioned to partner with the league is Izod. In fact, the rumors regarding Izod are so persistent, it appears there will be an official confirmation later this week. I hate to admit it, but of all the companies I’ve heard mentioned – Izod is the one that excites me the least.

We’ve already been witness to the fact that their ad department is limited at best, as we have been absolutely bombarded this season with the one ad that they have in their arsenal. It would be a little easier to take if the ad were good. But after seeing it what seems to be about ten thousand times this season – even if it was good I wouldn’t like it.

Izod is one of those invisible brands that if you weren’t an IndyCar fan this season, you wouldn’t even know if they were still around. It was a brand best known for the frat-wear shirts they produced in the mid-seventies with the little alligator on the chest. After Polo re-invented that shirt to the point that everyone now calls it a “polo shirt”, Izod seemed to go the way of the 8-track and the powdered wig. Today, Izod is about as much of a household name as Versus.

The ad in question that features cute blonds, an old Dallara and a bad song is only part of my concern about the company. If you went to the Speedway this past May, you saw some of their IndyCar merchandise. It was horrendous. Their polo’s have taken the term ugly to an entirely new level. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t really care for big obnoxious pictures on the back of my polo shirts. I had found one that I considered buying, but when I showed it to my significant other – she spotted this giant design on the back. I put it back on the rack. I buy polo’s with the idea of wearing them to work on casual Friday – not for something that I would wear to a rock concert.

Now I fear that Izod’s attempt at sponsor activation will be to produce more ugly and over the top apparel designs further squeezing out the tasteful clothes for us old folks. There is a fine line between hip and hideous. Izod crossed it this year. If they become the series sponsor, I shudder to think what they might produce for next year.

The title sponsors for open-wheel racing have not fared well lately. The two previous title sponsors for the IRL – Pep Boys and Northern Light were unsuccessful at best. They were in no financial position to justify the commitments they made. Of course, one of the worst examples of a title sponsor was when FedEx sponsored CART. Other than writing a check and putting a specially designed and very unattractive logo on each car and drivers suit – FedEx did absolutely and positively NOTHING to promote their alliance with the series. In those days, the company that did more to promote open-wheel racing was Target. The Vasser-Zanardi ads followed by the Vasser-Montoya commercials were witty and very well done. Target was as much of a case study in how to get the most out of your sponsorship as FedEx was in how to get the least.

Had some of the other rumored companies come to fruition as a series sponsor, I could see some distinct marketing possibilities. Although some made jokes about it, I really thought Subway would have been a nice fit if they followed through with activation programs. I also thought that AT&T, Gillette and Coca-Cola would have been excellent partners. Most of the companies we heard about for the past year and a half are household names representing products that most Americans use. Izod doesn’t fit that profile.

I suppose that I shouldn’t be too critical of Terry Angstadt. Izod was probably the best that he could do. I don’t think there was a long line of companies stretching outside of his office wanting to plunk down ten million dollars or so to be associated with a property that has averaged a .39 rating with its cable partner. I just wish I could be more excited about having Izod being the title sponsor.

Maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps they will roll out a slew of catchy commercials that will also run during other sports programming. Hopefully, they will team with a marketing firm to convince them of the value of sponsor participation rather than simply writing a check to have their name plastered everywhere. Otherwise, we are going to be inundated with bad commercials and tacky clothes for the foreseeable future. If that happens, I’ll no longer believe that song that constantly reminds us that “…everything’s gonna be alright”.

George Phillips

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11 Responses to “What Is Expected Of A Series Sponsor?”

  1. Izod is completely unknown outside the US, so I can’t really comment. I remember the Ganassi/Target adverts of the late-90’s and, yes, they were classy

  2. I was excited about Izod sponsoring a car this year. I needed some clothes with more style than the bluejean/t-shirt look I have been sporting since forever. The shirt I had in mind had the Izod logo and the Indycar logo or something. Before the ballon races, I was informed that combination would only be availible to employees of the series. Bummer.

  3. Mike Silver Says:

    It’s better than nothing. I hope they have better commercials and more than one also. I just hope that Terry Angstadt was firm in negotiating that there must be serious activiation with broad appeal.

  4. Oilpressure: I haven’t seen the IZOD/ ICS line but perhaps I will need to review it for myself. I enjoy your blog, but have learned NOT to trust your opinion of DESIGN. The FedEx /CART branding was hardly UGLY or controversial (it eas the FedEx logo in a circle with a subtle speedo gpx).

    FedEx also co produced commercials with Honda… the Gil deFerran “FedEx driver” one was funny & in the TARGET league of quality IMO. When Honda & FedEx pulled out of CART they had ZERO national ads with any impact

  5. Here’s a little history. When I was employed by Phillips Van Heusen, (the parent company of this incarnation of IZOD,) IZOD was split into two entities: IZOD Apparel (which PVH bought) and IZOD LaCoste, the more tasteful type polo shirts with the “alligator” logo, which PVH DID NOT buy.

    The IZOD goods were supposed to be the “mid-level” goods at retail, above the Van Heusen label, and below the Geoffrey Beene label in the PVH hierarchy of sportswear. A lot of goods that used to be sold under the “Cape Isle Knitters” label, became IZOD, and tended to appeal more to the younger clientele than either Van Heusen or Beene.

    As time has gone by, (and I still wander into their stores periodically) the IZOD label has gotten rather “out there” in terms of styling, or maybe I’ve just gotten older and a little more conservative.

    I know that their marketing department thoroughly screwed the pooch by not running more (and better) commercials, something which I have not been afraid to tell some corporate friends of mine who are still around at PVH. If this is going to be your “title sponsor,” they had better do a whole lot more and a whole lot better.

    • Skip,
      Thanks for the history on the brand. I wondered what had happened to the little alligators that used to be their logo, and I wondered why they now distinguished between LaCoste and Izod. Now I know!

      As for why their clothing designs are targeting the Metrosexual crowd, and they think this somehow ties into IndyCar… I have no idea.
      Tom

      • Tennis player Andy Rodderick (sp) was sponsored by LaCoste & I swear I saw some of his tennis gear sporting the alligator….

  6. tim nothhelfer Says:

    The start of the IZOD activation in NYC times square was brilliant because
    it worked with RHR winning the next event……….
    The ad campaign has been a disappointment since.
    As much as I hate being bombarded by them, :
    I’d almost welcome some sort of male\ female :
    enhancement title sponsorship. :
    At least it would hit the demographic. !

  7. It should be easy for AT&T or Coca-Cola to sponsor the series for ten million dollars then spend 50 million dollars in a season to ‘activate’ its sponsorship. If I were the marketing czar at either of these…

  8. I wonder if IZOD is aware of how annoying their one commercial has become to the IndyCar fans? I see it referenced in a negative way all the time on the blogs by both bloggers and those of us who comment on said blogs. I had a very neutral feeling about them at the beginning of the season, but I am totally annoyed with them now. When a company doesn’t bother to make a good ad in the first place, and then repeats incessantly, I find it insulting. I’d welcome them if they put forth some effort, but PLEASE don’t give people an excuse to change the channel at commercial time…they may not flip back…

  9. Izod is definately going for the young crowd with their design and marketing. I wonder how successful they were?

    I’m willing to give any company a chance at sponsorship. Who knows how helpful they’ll be, but it’s way better than nothing. So I’ll choose to be optimistic about the deal.

    I also think it’s strange that some big company didn’t pick up the sponsorship for what is pocket change to them. But maybe they didn’t feel that Versus exposure is worth pocket change right now?

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