IndyCar Should Copy Michael Andretti

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One of the arguments for ending the Verizon IndyCar Series season before Labor Day, thus avoiding the NFL; is that IndyCar and the NFL share the same demographics. It seems that many who read this site consider themselves racing fans way ahead of being a football fan, but that’s what the studies show. I happen to fall into the category that the demographic studies show – a fan of both football and IndyCar racing.

That is why, had I been on the bayou this past weekend – I would have been in absolute heaven.

Andretti Sports Marketing is the promoter for next season’s IndyCar race at NOLA Motorsports Park at Avondale. Louisiana. To promote the upcoming event, Michael Andretti went to Cajun Country this past weekend. On Saturday, his group had an IndyCar on display outside Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge all day, prior to Saturday night’s tilt between Alabama and LSU – which ended in an overtime thriller with the Crimson Tide on top. During the day, they were also giving two-seater rides around Tiger Stadium, along with an autograph session featuring Michael Andretti and Justin Wilson.

NOLA

Then they did the same on Sunday in New Orleans at the Superdome before the 49ers took on the Saints. Prior to the Saints game, there was an autograph session with Michael Andretti and the new IndyCar Champion, Will Power. Andretti and Power both took to the New Orleans airwaves before Sunday’s game. Two-seater rides were available before and after the Saints game.

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This is all in an effort to promote ticket sales for the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana, to take place April 10-12 at NOLA Motorsports Park. Tickets go on sale today and Michael Andretti is making about as big of a local splash as he can this time of year.

I have always thought that the series should take better advantage of the shared demographic. A marriage between football and IndyCar racing is something I could really get behind. I’ve often wondered why Nashville-based Bridgestone-Firestone did not embrace their relationship with the NFL more to promote IndyCar. I would think a Firestone-liveried show-car in the concourse area or outside of each NFL stadium would draw major attention to the series and the Firestone brand. You would think maybe they could at least put one in their local market, but going to a Titans game reveals nothing related to IndyCar.

Verizon is another shared partner. They are the official wireless provider to the NFL and the title sponsor of the Verizon IndyCar Series. They run the mobile apps for both entities. You would think this might open the door for some type of cross-promotion with the sport that the series is doing so much to avoid.

Although IndyCar had some representation by Kate Guerra, Advance Communications Manager for the series; my question is this. Why is all of the legwork done by the promoter? Obviously, the promoter’s job is to promote their own race; but should all the major publicity be up to each track? It’s a good thing the NFL doesn’t rely on the Titans to promote the league. The NFL would have died on the vine years ago.

Maybe this is the way of the world in motorsports, although I seem to recall seeing plenty of NASCAR sponsored print ads, as well as on television. I don’t think they relied on Phoenix International Raceway to be the sole reason whether this weekend’s race was attended or not. Of course, the fact that their sister company, ISC, owns the track may be the difference.

My point is, I think Mark Miles and IndyCar would do themselves a favor by taking a page from the Michael Andretti Playbook. In the past, Michael has had a hand in promoting the races at Baltimore, St. Petersburg and Toronto. Most recently, Andretti Sports Marketing runs the Milwaukee IndyFest and will now take on the race on the bayou.

His efforts to give the Milwaukee Mile a carnival atmosphere have been well-documented. If not every seat is filled at Milwaukee, it’s not because Michael Andretti has been sitting on his hands. It’s now obvious he has gotten creative on how to bring awareness of his event in a non-traditional open-wheel market.

I am not going to sit here and claim that I know all the ins-and-outs that goes into successfully promoting a race. One thing I am sure of is that there is a lot more to it than I can possibly imagine. But I do know that IndyCar has historically struggled to get their excellent product in front of the public. Randy Bernard seemed to be on-track with a different marketing approach, before his legs were cut out from under him after just two-and-a-half years on the job. Now it seems that IndyCar is content with the more traditional methods that never worked in the first place.

It seems that Michael Andretti has a much better sense about how to promote the series than the series does. It’s unrealistic to think that IndyCar would hire him even as a consultant. Michael is too smart for that. But they can do the next best thing and copy his efforts. Michael knows that fans are not going to automatically come to IndyCar. There are way too many entertainment options out there. So instead of sitting around and hoping, Michael is taking IndyCar to the fans. He knows that NFL fans are more likely than others to embrace IndyCar if they are given proper exposure to it.

If IndyCar can’t move the needle with their own stale ideas, they need to watch and observe what Michael Andretti is doing. If imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, IndyCar needs to flatter Michael Andretti.

George Phillips

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19 Responses to “IndyCar Should Copy Michael Andretti”

  1. Unfortunately the IC paradigm is we are the IMS, we are the Indianapolis 500 and when we come to your town everyone knows and will automatically show up for the race just because …
    Thank goodness there are those like Michael Andretti and Roger Penske out there willing to invest not only their own cash, but their personal time as well, otherwise this series would be circling the bowl even closer to the water than it already is…

    • You are right. There are probably younger fans that do not even know what the Indy 500 is. Human and Co. bank on tradition and history and assuming everyone and their mother intrinsically knowing about the Indy 500 and the series that spawned from it. As the IRL existed in spec racing obscurity for what seems like an eternity, people moved on. Resting on their past laurels obviously is not working. The problem is time. Mark Miles- if you haven’t noticed, time has been moving on lately since 1996 and the Indy 500 has not made the impression on younger fans or even effectively presented itself to the younger disappearing fanbase. The fan pool is thinning and there is a hell of a lot more going on in the world than the Indy 500 and that will complete the future if there is no recognition of that fact.

      • Hulman and Co. banking on tradition and history? I would argue they are doing just the opposite. As a long time Indianapolis and Indycar fan, I have been outraged at the trashing of tradition in the month of May. Not to mention the ignoring of the tradition of American oval racing.

        There definitely is a problem, but tradition and history are not it.

        • So you don’t think they are relying on the fact that they own the Indy 500 and that , the 500 alone, self promotes and assumes established permanence, immune to the changing age demographics?

          • Not really. If they did they would not be messing with the month of May like they have been. Could be they are getting bad advice.

            I don’t think changing demographics are their problem.

  2. If IndyCar was smart they would just hire Michael Andretti and his marketing department. Or at least take some pointers from them or advice or guidance or something. I’m sure Andretti has plenty to do owning and running a race team but when a retired IndyCar driver can do a better marketing job making more of a splash than the series itself that gives you the answer.

  3. With 20 votes tallied, there’s zero confidence in the 16th & G crew.

  4. Michael Andretti is a smart promoter and all track managers should take note. Also, I am in the Football/IndyCar demo big time. Frankly, I was wishing there was a race to turn to when the Bears were getting drummed last night.

  5. I was pleased to read here of Michael Andretti’s marketing efforts in Loooosiana, though not surprised having witnessed his excellent promotion of the Milwaukee race. Certainly he and other track promoters should be getting more help from IndyCar. During these times with all the other entertainment options available to the public, Michael has recognized that the same ol’ , same ol’ will not get the job done.

    Is there any significance to Justin Wilson being there with Andretti? Did I miss some good news?

    • billytheskink Says:

      I gar-on-tee that Justin Wilson was there because many Louisianans are familiar with his name.

      • Well, you sure got me there Skinkster. I had forgotten about Justin Wilson the cook. I gar-on-tee that I will not get them mixed up again.

  6. “Good work, champ!” was the first thought that popped into my mind when reading this, referring of course to Michael Andretti. Ever since returning to IndyCar as a fan upon reunification, I’ve come to realize that Michael Andretti is even better as a team owner than as a driver. And in that category, he was a champion. The NOLA Indy is going to underline once more he is also a champion as a promoter. Kudos! I’m sure the Series is somewhat involved in these appearances as well. Otherwise, drivers from other teams such as Will Power wouldn’t be there. It would be interesting to find out who actually drove the 2-seater.

  7. billytheskink Says:

    Kudos to Michael Andretti’s group, which continues its hard and exemplary work promoting their races and drivers. Indycar should take a lesson. Cross promotion such as this is a winning idea, though what you suggest, George, may require the permission from the NFL, something that is not a given. Certainly does not hurt to ask.

    However, I really don’t think Phoenix leaned on NASCAR to promote their race any more than Indycar promoters do. Indycar, NASCAR, pro sports leagues, or even major music an entertainment acts tend to leave direct local promotion to the folks with that in their job title, event promoters. What the series/league/act provides is a form of entertainment broadly popular enough to sell and, typically, a broad platform for accessing and promoting that entertainment in a broad, not-in person setting (national broadcasts, record albums, etc.) Indycar does not really do anything out of the ordinary, or at least, doesn’t semantically do anything any less than NASCAR or the NFL does to sell tickets to their live events. I won’t chastise them for that, but given the results, event promoters may well require more form them.

  8. I am reminded of Broadway Bob Metzler, the famous promoter of the Great Lakes Drag Strip in Wisconsin. Bob would go the the auto show in Chicago each year and hand out flyers advertising his track to every person who walked in the door. His radio spots were hilarious. (Picture a loud, screaming voice……..SUNDAY, SUNDAY, see George Phillips on his supercharged, turbocharged, and Visa charged rear-engine skateboard…….SUNDAY, SUNDAY………….and so on.)

  9. The fact Micheal Andretti got Indycar promotion done with NFL and College football is ridiculously impressive. Indycar should definitely follow his example.

  10. Wow. When it comes to propping up an agenda people have short memories…

    if getting promo at a single NFL game is stellar promotion then what was it when the series had the 33 NFL team decorated show cars That traveled to nfl cities to promote the Indy Superbowl? Then when all those cars were peppered all around Indy to greet the 200,000 visitors that came to the city during superbowl weekend?

    It seems in reality that Micheal, using football as a promotional tool is following the precedent the League 5 years earlier.

    What I would sort of question is how many people actually heard anything about the race. Do you see any actual fans or crowds in any of those pictures? If a promoter promotes in an empty room, does any one care???

    If Micheal is this promotional god, perhaps he should get off his ass and help promote his home states race.

  11. […] George Phillips wrote Monday, the series could first start by being a better promoter of itself. I can’t speculate if the marketing dollars are there or not, but yeah, putting an IndyCar at or […]

  12. William Mackenzie Says:

    I hope this isn’t a silly question – Is there a reason that this blog entry and these comments above mine assume that Michael Andretti’s marketing team had no support from Indycar’s PR/marketing team on this particular event, or that they don’t support similar events in other markets? Seems odd that they would send a comms person there randomly and not for a purpose if they weren’t involved…maybe I’m missing something but just wanted to be fair.

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