What Is Expected Of A Series Sponsor?
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”.