Shoe in hand, pounding podium

Posted by Iannucci | 5/05/2008 | 5 comments »
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You may have already read this since it was posted last week, but there is an interesting article out there expressing several ideas on why the IRL is still having trouble finding major sponsorship. The column is by Jason Peters, who’s 360 IMC company works to market and promote drivers in the Indy Racing League. Here’s how the piece starts.

A few days ago I received a phone call from the Motorsports Manager from a major company who is currently putting in a lot of effort into sponsoring a car in NASCAR. The reason for the phone call was to discuss the possibilities of a sponsorship in Indy Car.

Needless to say it was a very short phone call.

Their rational was, they would lose too much money if they ended their NASCAR sponsorship. It wasn’t totally because of the lack of value in Indy Car. But obviously if Indy Car had more value the sponsors would be more interested.
Since Jason is a solution-oriented guy he goes on to suggest many ideas for the IndyCar series, such as having a specialized television show, moving away from International Speedway tracks, and promoting drivers not named “Danica”. Now, to that end I think the league is actually doing some of these by developing the “Up To Speed” show, adding several former Champ Car venues, and, well, we’ll get to the Danica part here in a moment.

However, the one thing Peters mentions that keeps coming up over and over in the comments here and elsewhere is the broadcast. Personally I disagree with him that the on-air people are the problem (they’re flawed but they get the job done, mostly), but we definitely agree on this:

It is also time to focus on all the cars and drivers. For some teams, they get less than 2 minutes of coverage out of a 2 hour race. It is a reason one sponsor did not renew its program. That is unacceptable.
Amen! Because you know what – “2 minutes” is probably being gracious. The only time there’s airtime of Darren Manning or Vitor Meira or AJ Foyt IV is when they are getting lapped or there is an on-track incident. When they’re actually racing – pffft. Forget it. If you’re not at the front or you’re not Danica! then you don’t count.

Think about it. Why should it be any surprise that Danica! gets all of the sponsorship? She can be running in 12th and the camera is going to be on her car. Motorola. Go Daddy. XM. All of her bills are getting paid. Looky here, it’s five minutes of consecutive footage of Danica! driving in 12th. Let’s go to a pre-taped package of her describing her feelings. Aaaaaargh!

Folks, Oriol Servia is currently 8th in the ICS championship standings and we haven’t seen 2 minutes TOTAL of Servia on the track this year (although we did see him talking about Salvador Dali). How is a guy like him ever going to get sponsorship when he’s off-camera even when he’s driving well? And that’s just one example of a dozen or so out there. For goodness sakes, Hideki Mutoh finished 6th in Kansas and I don’t think he was on camera more than one minute – and he’s with a Big Three team!

With the most important race of the year on deck this point can not be emphasized enough. It’s all well and good to show those Big Three cars running at the front, but if ESPN is going to really be a partner and help grow the league to everyone’s benefit then they need to help ALL of the teams by finding ways to show us the rest of the cars now and again. When Manning and Townsend Bell are fighting for a Top 8 position – which actually means something now – it would be nice if they would go ahead and show us a few minutes of that battle. It’s not like we’re going to turn off our TVs.

So just in case the good folks at the Worldwide Leader are reading, how about we put print that bit one more time, in bold no less.

It is also time to focus on all the cars and drivers. For some teams, they get less than 2 minutes of coverage out of a 2 hour race. It is a reason one sponsor did not renew its program. That is unacceptable.
Thank you. You can have your soap box back now, Jason.


  1. Anonymous // May 05, 2008 9:06 AM  

    i think that about sums it up

  2. EnsErmac // May 05, 2008 10:22 AM  

    This isn't just a problem in the IRL. I've seen a few taxicab races where lapped cars will hold up the leaders just to get airtime for their sponsors. It is really a catch-22, to grow the sport with the sponsors, you need to show everyone. The problem lies in, who wants to watch everyone? Not me for one, unless she is causing an accident, I could care less what someone like Milka Duno is doing.

  3. Anonymous // May 05, 2008 11:25 AM  

    I agree that ESPN has a major effect on sponsorship dollars. The better the job that they do, the more money pours into the coffers and presumably their cut gets bigger. Can you say "self-interest"?

  4. Johnny // May 05, 2008 11:38 AM  

    Jahuti Rhys:

    That's true to an extent, but if ESPN over promotes, it could become a NASCAR-like cheerleader that hampers the sports credibility with the press. It's a fine line and I think they're working on how to optimize it between "broadcast partners" and "shills."

  5. Anonymous // May 06, 2008 5:41 AM  

    It's what I like to call the Paul Page effect; spend the entire race talking about the four drivers that the commentator recognizes and ignore and misidentify some others.

    I have to say that the IRL might be better served by putting the Mike Joy/Davey Hamilton pairing in the TV booth with Marty to hold down the fort in lockstep.