Helping Sponsors Helps IndyCar
On Saturday, I went grocery shopping and loaded up my basket with cokes. If you’ll notice, I didn’t capitalize the “c” in cokes. You see, in the south – the word coke is a generic term to mean soft drinks. We use the term coke, like other parts of the country will use “pop” or “soda”. I’ll never forget in the eighties, I was at a weeklong corporate training session in Chicago, when a few of us made a run to the store. A co-worker from New Jersey gave me some money to get her a six-pack of soda. Imagine her shock when I showed up with a six-pack of Schweppes Soda Water. In the south, when someone asks if they can have a coke, you ask them what kind of coke they want – Coke, Seven-Up or Pepsi? It’s all a coke.
Well Saturday, the type of coke I loaded my basket with was RC and Sun Drop. Why? First of all, Kroger had them on sale; four twelve-packs for twelve dollars. You can’t beat that. But Coca-Cola, my brand that I am steadfastly loyal to, was also on sale for the same price. So why did I deviate? Because those two brands – RC and Sun Drop – show up on sidepods in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
Most that know me, know that I despise change. I live by the mantra that change is bad. I enjoy nothing like a good rut. It takes an act of congress for me to change my routine. This has nothing to do with my advancing age, mind you. I was this way when I was eighteen. Just ask Susan Scruggs, who dated me in college. That trait of mine irritated her then, just as it does now.
A result of this trait is that I am very brand loyal. No recession or hard times will ever make me buy anything other than Charmin toilet paper. The same goes for Campbell Soups, French’s mustard, Hellmann’s mayonnaise and Tropicana orange juice – just to name a few of my brands.
But my loyalties can be bought. Step up and support an IndyCar team and my loyalties change in a heartbeat. I won’t say that I’ll completely leave my established brands. I’ll confess that I bought some Coca-Cola on Saturday, as well. They are, in fact, an associate sponsor for Team Penske. But I never would have even considered buying RC or Sun Drop without their commitment to the IZOD IndyCar Series.
I actually grew up liking RC – or Royal Crown Cola, as it was known in the sixties. My family all drank Coca-Cola, but being a semi-rebellious ten year-old, I always bought RC out of a coke machine whenever possible. Somewhere along the way, as I morphed into an adult – I sort of forgot about RC, as it fell into obscurity. When I popped one open this weekend, the distinct taste took me back to my childhood days. I think RC will now become a regular in my fridge.
This is why companies sponsor teams and drivers – to get the name of their product out there. It’s all about brand-awareness. I guess RC has been under my nose all along, but I never paid them any mind until they joined the IZOD IndyCar Series as a primary sponsor. I went through the same ordeal last year when Sun Drop became a sponsor.
One thing about IndyCar fans is that we are all very loyal. We may gripe and grumble about a new rule or a perceived slight towards a driver, but most of us are united in wanting to see the series grow. What better way to grow the series than to give undying support to the companies that invest their money into the teams that run in it?
I can’t support every sponsor. It’s unlikely that I’ll ever need a giant crane, but if I do – I will make sure it comes from Mi-Jack, whose name appears on Takuma Sato’s sidepod. Likewise – if I were ever in Brazil and needed to rent some heavy construction equipment, it would be through BMC, who happens to sponsor driver Rubens Barrichello.
The newest PC in my house, along with my printer, is an HP. Why? Because they have sponsored Davey Hamilton for the past several years and now sponsor the team he co-owns with Sam Schmidt. I always choose Target because of their more than twenty-year association with Chip Ganassi. GEICO now handles my auto insurance. Although it rankles my politics, I use Citgo gas – plus it helps my wallet. Whenever my current iPhone dies, I’ll make the jump from AT&T to Verizon. I can’t now, because it’s the first generation iPhone and it’s not compatible with Verizon – and I’m not getting a new phone until I have to. Remember how I feel about change? Oh, and by the way – I bought a new Honda last month.
Of course, my sponsorship loyalties usually end when a sponsor leaves the series. McDonald’s has never been my favorite choice for fast food, but I begrudgingly ate there when they were a Newman/Haas sponsor. When they left, I quickly gave up any inclination to eat there. After Valvoline gave notice that they would no longer sponsor Derrick Walker’s CART team, I made sure they never got my business when I needed an oil change. I never liked shopping in a Nashville-based Dollar General store, but I went there strictly out of support for Sarah Fisher. Since they left the series last fall, I have not darkened their doors. Consequently, if Walgreen’s ever signs the deal to sponsor Josef Newgarden in the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing entry – they will become my pharmacy of choice.
I’ve never hidden the fact that I’m a big fan of driver Pippa Mann. She is a fan-favorite and I consider her to be one of IndyCar’s best ambassadors. Her search for sponsorship for the Indianapolis 500 and beyond has been well-chronicled on Twitter. I can assure any sponsor that would be considering her efforts; they would be paid back in droves by fans clamoring to support any company that supported her.
A longtime friend to this site and to IndyCar, Megan Bickel (aka Bickelmom) has gone to the trouble to create a website dedicated to current IndyCar sponsors. Megan gets it. She knows that the sponsors are the lifeblood of this sport. She has done the sponsors and fans a great service by creating an easy to find, comprehensive list so that we can all thank as many sponsors as we can by using their products. By thanking them and helping them, you are ultimately helping IndyCar.
So, pop open a cold RC or Sun Drop. Sit down at your HP, while eating a sandwich from Sonny’s Barbeque. Or maybe find a deal at Target through your Verizon phone. Then that evening, make yourself an adult beverage (or two) using Fuzzy’s Vodka. You’ll enjoy it more knowing you’re helping out the series.
Do any of these sponsors feel a ripple when I give or withhold my patronage? Hardly. But if enough of us hard-core fans of the IZOD IndyCar Series make a concerted effort to shift our buying habits to support the sponsors whenever we can – maybe, just maybe, it might create enough of a surge to convince other sponsors to take the plunge. That’s how the series will grow. That, and TV ratings – but that’s another post for another day.