The 2019 IndyCar season kicks off this weekend in St. Petersburg, and the series is riding a wave of momentum on a variety of fronts which has presented it with the pieces to better position itself as a long term, viable global sporting property to all stakeholders including drivers, teams, commercial partners, and fans.
On the commercial partner side, a new multi-year domestic broadcast deal with NBC has been signed. NBC will be allocating considerable on-air network TV and OTT resources to the series, including the Indianapolis 500, IndyCar’s “bucket list” signature event that provides not only massive entertainment and drama, but huge commercial opportunities for consumer and B2B brands (example seen here).
A new title partner, Japanese technology giant NTT, promises to bring innovative technology to the series that will enhance both the on site and digital fan experience.
New Fuel/Retail partner, Speedway LLC, presents the ability to promote IndyCar and race team partners in its 4,000 stores spread across the entire expanse of the U.S., reaching and influencing millions of its customers.
These three, when activated successfully alone or as a whole, have the ability to amplify the exposure of the entire IndyCar ecosystem to existing fans, and positively influence a whole set of new ones. And, commercial partners should be pleased and plan to effectively leverage the sales and marketing opportunities their investments in the series and teams present them.
New Teams and Driver Influx
The positive momentum and renewed popularity of IndyCar is bringing in an influx of new diverse teams and drivers from other motorsport series and backgrounds.
Swedish rookies Felix Rosenqvist (Ganassi) and Marcus Ericsson (Arrow Schmidt Peterson, who now have received additional “Title Partner” investment from Arrow Electronics), come from Formula E and Formula 1 respectively, and bring a wealth of experience, strong international following, and a budding rivalry to the series.
Teams such as sportscar racing’s DragonSpeed with British driver, Ben Hanley and Harding Steinbrenner (NY Yankees fame) Racing fielding young American rookie, Colton Herta, head the list. Meyer Shank Racing, which ran a partial 2018 schedule, is upping its race count this year to 10 events with Brit Jack Harvey at the wheel.
There could be up to 38 cars vying for the 33 starting positions at the Indianapolis 500 with part timers Juncos, Dreyer & Reinbold, and Clauson-Marshall fielding entries, along with additional cars for the existing full time teams. This will add to the incredible high drama on “Bump Day” which is truly unlike anything in the world of sports.
The McLaren Factor
More positive news comes with the announcement that the storied motorsport brand McLaren is entering the Indianapolis 500 with two time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso, and that this is the beginning of a possible full time entry of McLaren into the IndyCar series.
The series is, again, gaining massive star power in Alonso, who at the moment is at the peak of his driving abilities and global popularity. It will also be gaining an association with the McLaren name again, a brand not only steeped in IndyCar history, but one that is also now on the cutting edge of commercial and technological innovation.
Alonso’s strong showing for McLaren at Indy in 2017 should be similarly followed up this year. Coupled with his and McLaren’s huge global following, IndyCar has a tiger on its tail, particularly if the team chooses to move forward on a full time basis in the series.
A new season always brings excitement. However, this one brings opportunities as well. Opportunities, that, if successfully leveraged, can reap short and long term rewards for all involved in the series.