Changing My Opinion On Izod
It’s no secret that I have not been overly impressed with the persistent rumors that Izod would become the title sponsor. Well yesterday, the rumors became reality. From what I have read and heard since the official announcement was made at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I’ll have to say I’m more impressed than I was expecting to be.
I had based my earlier opinion on just what I had seen – ugly clothes and a bad commercial. But going back to an article that I wrote on Wednesday, it really isn’t about what I think. They’ve already got me. Chances are – if you’re reading this article, they’ve got you too. No, this goes beyond the one single commercial we were inundated with this past season.
Apparently, Izod has a loyal following among hip dudes that are fairly affluent but have no previous experience with the IndyCar series. Not really being up on the latest fashion – in fact, not being up on ANY fashion – I was not aware of the fact that Izod is owned by Phillips-Van Huesen Corporation (PVH); a large clothing conglomerate whose portfolio includes Izod, Arrow, Bass, Calvin Klein and Van Huesen. They also hold licenses to several brands in the apparel industry with companies such as Tommy Hilfiger, Timberland, Kenneth Cole and DKNY just to name a few. Quite honestly, I know nothing about clothing. I’ve heard of these brands, but that’s about as far as my knowledge goes.
But I know there are very many people that follow this industry almost like it is a sport. They chase whatever someone tells them is chic, even if it defies logic. I know – I was once married to someone like this, but I digress.
There was a time when being seen at the Indianapolis 500 was important in Hollywood. It was a tremendous honor in the 1940’s for a major star to be chosen to greet the winning driver at Victory Lane at Indy, before the honor went to the 500 Festival Queen. In 1992, I remember going for a hotdog behind the scoring tower, which is now the Pagoda. Within about fifty feet, I saw George Steinbrenner, Regis Philbin and Amy Grant – all huge stars of the day. Now I feel honored if I can see Rueben from Survivor.
The goal of Izod is to tap into this group of trendsetters (chasers?) and make it chic to be seen at IndyCar races again. Usually, when you tell people that you are going to a race, it is assumed that you are going to a NASCAR race to spend your time holding your ears and dodging chicken bones. When you explain that it’s an IndyCar race, they generally look at you like you have two heads.
The thinking is that Izod can change that image. If so, more power to them. Apparently, the horrible commercial is a poor representation of their marketing power. Realizing the marketing expertise of their parent company, I’m willing to re-think my original stance and allow myself to be cautiously excited over the events of yesterday. They appear to have the ability to deliver exactly what the IRL needs – a new set of fans. Bringing fresh eyeballs to the sport has the potential to not only save the sport, but to take in a fresh new direction.
They seem to be sold on the sport and the 100-year history that goes along with it. They plan to utilize images from the past hundred years to promote their brand and our series. The deal is for six years with a two-year option and for a “multi-million dollar" commitment. Understandably, they have changed the name of the series to the Izod IndyCar Series and have freshened up the traditional IRL logo.
They have promised an aggressive approach to marketing, unseen before in the IRL. One touch that I’m surprisingly in favor of is their use of the two-seater IndyCar. They will have a two-seater in Izod livery that will be driven by a professional driver, but carrying either a lucky contest winner or some local executives to help build brand awareness for Izod and the series. The car will be driven in front of the field on the two parade laps before each race including the Indianapolis 500.
They have promised more driver involvement other than Ryan Hunter-Reay, who was understandably smiling. It looks like he has been pulled from the abyss and may have landed the fourth seat at Andretti-Green Racing (or whatever it’s going to be called) with the help of Izod funding. Getting a competitive American driver with a good team should benefit every facet of the series.
The team owners are happy with the long-term deal with a top name sponsor. PHV carries a lot of clout in corporate boardrooms. The fact that a company like that has committed to such a long-term deal lends an air of stability to a league that has previously been anything but. It should make sponsor hunting a little easier for all of the teams.
I know I have flip-flopped from my original stance. But after digging a little deeper and realizing the clout that PVH holds, it made a lot more sense to me that they should go this route instead of the predictable cell phone/beer/oil company sponsorship. I’ve given Terry Angstadt a lot of well-deserved grief in the past, but I’ll sing his praises on this one. The jury is still out obviously, but one day removed from their announced alignment with Izod – it appears that Angstadt may have hit one out of the park on this one.
The enthusiasm from all parties seems genuine. Now, it’s important to make sure that PVH, the IRL and the drivers all live up to their expectations. Although Terry Angstadt should breath a huge congratulatory sigh of relief today, his work has just started. It is up to him and all other parties to follow through on the enthusiasm from yesterday to make sure that Izod doesn’t go the way of Pep Boys and Northern Light.