IndyCar Should Copy Michael Andretti
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.
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.
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.