Question: Bear with me, Curt, there is a point at the end of this:Oh haha and har-dee-har, Mr Cavin, although this is beginning to look like the message du jour for this year’s Indy 500. The author of Cavin’s question isn’t credited, but by coincidence an entire article on this sort of thing has recently been penned by ESPN.com’s John Oreovicz. One of those top drivers – specifically Tony Kanaan – recently spoke with league officials about the current marketing strategy for the ICS.
Which driver winning the 500 benefits the 500 and the IRL most in terms of publicity? The answer: Danica, Sarah, Milka, Al Jr., Marco and Michael.
The problem is, these aren't the IRL's top drivers (Kanan, Wheldon, Hornish, Helio, etc.). My point is, the top IRL drivers need some off-track buzz. They need to each wake up and do something. Get into trouble, date a model, say women can't drive, start a fist fight, pose naked, yell at a reporter ... anything to get some national talk radio and print buzz going about these guys. The rest will take care of itself. Any publicity is good publicity.
Answer: I see your point, but yelling at a reporter isn't my preference, and I'm not interested in seeing Kanaan naked.
"We can make it better," Kanaan said. "I talked to them because we do a lot of driver appearances during the year and I wanted them to hear from me, from a driver's point of view, about some of the promotions and driver appearances we do. And I wanted to hear from them what they have in mind for the future.Boy, isn’t this the conundrum for the league right now: They have more than a handful of marketable personalities but officials are only able to provide exposure for a few. You can’t put everyone in an ad because people get confused, and quite honestly the general sporting public doesn’t know who most of these drivers are anyways. Even Gene Simmons knows it is a lot easier to focus on selling just a few drivers in a 30-second commercial or a newspaper ad.
"There was no big concern or complaint. I just wanted to understand the approach. I feel that to make the series grow, we need to sit down and talk, and I suggested that they talk to other drivers as well."
Indy Racing League vice president of public relations John Griffin said the league's national marketing campaign is based around four drivers -- Patrick, Dan Wheldon, Sam Hornish Jr. and Marco Andretti.
So do you sell the “marketable” stars like the ladies or the Andrettis, or do you push guys like Wheldon, Castroneves and Kanaan who are actually winning races? Sure the former are easier to sell, but the casual fan will get quickly disappointed if the hyped drivers don’t win some of the upcoming races.
While no specifics were mentioned, Kanaan was probably pointing this very thing out – that he and others are actually winning while others (like say his American teammates) are getting all the hype. Kanaan likely feels a lot like Matt Kenseth or Kevin Harvick, who despite their on track successes spend weekends driving in between innumerable Dale Earnhardt Jr commercials. You gotta think there’s some palpable frustration that such successful and personable Brazilians like Helio Castroneves and himself are getting the short end of the promotional stick, since they pretty much do it all except be Americans.
Then again, I do see a bunch of black “3”s on cars and trucks all the time. I tell ya Helio is HUGE!
Looking deeper, there may be a logical explanation for marketing someone other than El Nariz and Spiderman. Check out this 1998 CART spot featuring our favorite Brazilian racers and decide for yourself if this is really the marketing angle you the IRL should take.