Is There A New Title Sponsor On The Way?

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Ever since IZOD confirmed their long-suspected departure as title sponsor of the IndyCar Series, the general consensus has been that there would be no title sponsor for the series for next season and possibly longer. That’s why I was surprised to hear Mark Miles say that the series may be receiving a “Christmas present” in the way of a title sponsor very soon. Really?

I am at a complete loss as to who it might be. The most obvious guess is Verizon. They have been heavily involved with the series for several years, along with being the primary sponsor for Will Power’s Team Penske entry. It seems logical since one of their competitors, Sprint, is the title sponsor for NASCAR’s top series.

But when we were out in Fontana last month, the scuttlebutt in the media center was that Verizon had been approached by IndyCar and they subsequently turned them down. No one I talked to seemed real sure of the reason, but that was the story.

I wondered if it was the perception with the mainstream public that IndyCar was not near as well-known as NASCAR and therefore it must be an inferior product. Consequently, Verizon may then be viewed as inferior to Sprint. I have no dog in that hunt, since my carrier is AT&T. Verizon may have had other reasons at the time, but whatever the case – rumor has it that they chose to pass.

Now that Mark Miles is referencing a Christmas present, I’m wondering if Verizon changed their mind. Something tells me they did not. If they declined the offer a couple of months ago, I seriously doubt they had a change of heart. Major corporations don’t usually work that way. Either the rumor mill at Fontana was incorrect or the potential series sponsor is someone else.

A cursory glance at IndyCar’s website list the usual sponsors we’ve all seen for years – Verizon, ApexBrasil, Chevy, Honda, Firestone, Sunoco and even IZOD. There are others as well, but none caught my eye as potential series sponsors. Honda and Chevy cancel each other out for obvious reasons. For example; it would be tough to convince Ford to come on board as the third engine manufacturer of the “Chevy IndyCar Series”.

Firestone might make sense, especially since they are no longer title sponsor (or even tire supplier) for the Indy Lights Series. I’m not convinced it is Firestone, but I’d be all in favor of the Nashville-based company becoming the series sponsor. Might that bring back the race at Nashville Superspeedway? Although the track is currently shuddered, it is still a viable option.

Although I see plenty of benefits of Firestone taking over the title sponsorship, I’m now wondering if this mystery company is even on the list of current sponsors. In a lot of ways, I hope it’s not. IndyCar has had relationships with most of these sponsors for several years. Don’t get me wrong – these sponsors have been true friends to the series and we fans should be eternally grateful. I hate to think where the series would be without Firestone, Honda or ApexBrasil and all of the visibility and financial support they have provided over the years.

But there needs to be an infusion of new sponsorship blood for the series. IZOD brought a lot of buzz and excitement when they debuted as title sponsor for the series in 2010. Regardless of how much their enthusiasm waned for various reasons in the ensuing years, there is no denying what they brought at the beginning. The series could certainly benefit from another jump-start a new sponsor could provide.

It’s hard to imagine that a well-known brand has suddenly emerged to commit the kind of money needed for a title sponsorship. Those kinds of things don’t just land in your lap every day. More than likely, if there is a Christmas gift, it is either from a current sponsor like Verizon or Firestone; or the price has dropped considerably from the estimated $10 million a year it takes for a company to put its name on the IndyCar logo. I’m hoping it’s not the latter.

Did IZOD benefit from their title sponsorship? That’s hard to say. I know that in the past four years, I’ve bought more IZOD apparel than I can name as compared to not having ever bought any since the seventies. I now own IZOD swimsuits, sweatshirts, khakis and countless polos with the IZOD IndyCar Series logo that are now obsolete. I went out of my way to invest in IZOD products to thank them for investing in our series. I know many other fans did the same.

Now there may be a new title sponsor headed our way. I am hoping that it is a well-known consumer brand (like Verizon) that will utilize visible sponsor activation in many ways. Who can forget how invisible FedEx was as CART’s title sponsor in the late nineties? Other than a big check and transporting cars and equipment for international races, they did nothing in the eyes of the general public.

But it needs to be a well-known consumer brand. No offense, but the Mi-Jack IndyCar Series does nothing for me. Unless you’re in the market for an industrial crane, it does nothing for you either – even though Mi-Jack has been a steady IndyCar sponsor for the past twenty years.

Public perception is everything. If a major company with credibility with the general public can get behind the series and include it with all of their other promotion, the benefits could be huge.

If Mark Miles can announce a major company as the new series sponsor just a few months after the departure of IZOD, I think he sheds the tag of doing very little in his first year. You may not care for his revised Month of May, but if he pulls off a major title sponsor – you’d be hard-pressed to say he has been sitting on his hands.

George Phillips

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15 Responses to “Is There A New Title Sponsor On The Way?”

  1. How would the series be able to operate without a title sponsor? Is it more of a fringe benefit or is it vital? Honestly I didn’t think not having a title sponsor was even an option to function. I guess I’m wrong. My guess is the new title sponsor is one that is not as well known and wants to expand its awareness which is synonymous with IndyCars goals. No companies come to mind at the moment but I think it will not be a traditional Firestone, or Verizon. They are well aware of how unknown the IndyCar series is and would not benefit from its growth. Someone like GoDaddy would have been suitable since the are on a growth curve, but as we all know, they bailed. We will find out soon enough.

    • billytheskink Says:

      Not sure about how it would go in the present environment, but the series operated without title sponsorship for most of the previous decade (2002-2009, not counting DirecTV’s “presenting” sponsorship in 2008). CART/Champ Car essentially did the same after the loss of FedEx, despite the presenting sponsorship of suppliers Ford and Bridgestone.

  2. dzgroundedeffects Says:

    Since the Houdini-like disappearing act by PVH/Izod after 2011, I’ve seen only two scenarios for companies who might show an interest in being the Indycar title sponsor.

    I would surmise it is either;

    A. a company with tremendous capitalization (fat wallet), that can easily afford to risk the (relatively meager compared to other major sports) price that Indycar can legitimately ask and also spend more to advertise to Indycar’s liking,

    OR

    B. or one who is smaller but outpacing average market growth, not-risk averse, forward-thinking, and sees a big upside with the big risk of joining Indycar at its current point.

    FWIW, I never thought PVH was a bad fit for Indycar and in 2010-2011, it sure looked like a great partner. I, like George, bought a bunch of PVH/IZOD gear because of it, but as we know after 2011, PVH turned 180 degrees on its view of Indycar as did my view of PVH.

    Here’s to hoping Indycar gets a major partner (not a wanna-be) with dedicated interest and real staying power. It can ill-afford another IZOD, Pep-Boys, or Northern Lights, but it may also have no other choice.

  3. billytheskink Says:

    A title sponsor, any title sponsor, would be a feather in Miles cap at this point. Major kudos to him if he’s being entirely truthful and a paying title sponsor has been landed. Like most Indycar fans, I also hope this rumored title sponsor is a company not presently involved in the series, or least one that has not been involved heavily.

    A major consumer brand would be preferable, sure, but I do not think a sponsor must come from those ranks to be good for Indycar. The best title sponsor Indycar ever had was PPG. Their money and consistent presence were significant factors in the growth of the sport in the 1980s and early 90s. The only company across the history of American motorsports title sponsorship who would rival PPG’s longevity and investment is probably RJ Reynolds. Maybe Sprint/Nextel.

  4. Eli Lilly is a 24 billion dollar company located in Indianapolis, plus they manufacture Prozac, so they’re perfect for us Indycar fans.

  5. Like everything else in Indy car, I think this is backward. The title sponsor is there to get something from the product (indycar). If the thinking is the sponsor will help the popularity of Indycar, the league is in even worse trouble than we thought. Its all about the product, not the sponsor.

    Some infusion of money is good, but with the decisions that have been made of late by IMS and the league, it almost becomes irrelevant in the long run.

    I have a list of Christmas presents I’d like from/for Indycar. A title sponsor is pretty far down on the list. In fact, if they got their act together, a title sponsor would be easy to get.

  6. I think that Verizon could make a title sponsorship work for them and that their activation would be a huge boost. As an IndyCar fan I would also like a deal on my phone bill. ;)

  7. Dzgroundeffects, billytheskink, and Bob F., all make some good points.
    I don’t want to say anything that might mess up the possibility that there might be a title sponsor coming, other than I know a CEO who has great interest in at least the Indy 500, and the connections and influence, and marketing reasons, to push for this to happen. We will see.

  8. Mike Silver Says:

    A title sponsor lends credibility to the series. I agree it needs to be a consumer brand. I also bought lots of Izod clothing in 2010-11. The infusion of cash can help Indycar solve some of its other problems like updating equipment and possibly lowering sanctioning fees.

  9. GoPro

  10. PS If/when there is a title sponsor, I wish that they consider bringing back Cameron Haven as a sign of goodwill toward the fans who appreciate such things.

  11. Something tells me that it’s Sonax. Not only did they step up bigtime this season with their “Perfect Finish Award”, but they were referred to as “Indycar Sponsor” at Sema, and I noticed a while back that Sonax has taken over the signage along Crawfordsville Rd in Speedway.

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