Friday, March 14, 2014

INDYCAR Inks Title Sponsorship Deal With Verizon

INDYCAR, the sanctioning body for the IndyCar Series, formally announced Friday morning the signing of Verizon Wireless as the series title sponsor.

"Verizon is the perfect partner for us to showcase the high level of innovation and technology that is inherent in our sport," said Mark Miles, CEO, Hulman & Co., the parent of INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "INDYCAR will provide a large audience of tech-savvy consumers who are eager for the latest technology to further enhance their experience."

The long rumored deal, heard about as long ago as May 2012, comes together following four seasons with IZOD in the role. With a change in leadership, IZOD, who signed a six year deal (7th & 8th year option) in November 2009, made it known prior to last season that they wanted to conclude their series title sponsorship. The hunt was on and they found a partner in series and Team Penske sponsor, Verizon Wireless. The series will now be known as the Verizon IndyCar Series.

"Verizon is delighted to become the title sponsor of the Verizon IndyCar Series and to bring even more of our innovative technology to the fans, to the teams and to the entire motorsports community," said Dan Mead, president and CEO of Verizon Wireless.  "The intersection of racing and technology has never been more relevant, and our expanded partnership with INDYCAR provides a unique opportunity to demonstrate that synergy, integrate new services like LTE Multicast and help propel the sport forward." 

Verizon's Team Penske sponsorship of Will Power full-time and Jaun Pablo Montoya part-time as well as the Verizon P1 Award for pole winners will continue.

According to the press release:

The collaboration includes significant network coverage upgrades to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as part of its Project 100; short- and long-term technology enhancements to INDYCAR Race Control; the addition of pit lane monitors and enhancing connectivity for spectators at each domestic race venue.
Verizon will also deploy its LTE Multicast solution at racetracks in the future, complementing the Verizon INDYCAR 14 app and indycar.com, the official website of INDYCAR. This emerging technology delivers rich multi-faceted multimedia content to multiple devices at once rather than sending it in a separate stream to each user.
Following the 9:46am press release, Hulman Motorsports CEO Mark Miles, Hulman Motorsports Chief Revenue Officer Jay Frye and Verizon Wireless Vice President of Marketing Brian Angiolet discussed the deal on a conference call. The transcript:

Q. Mark, a big day for IndyCar as Verizon was announced a short time ago as entitlement partner for the Verizon IndyCar Series.
MARK MILES: It's a huge day for IndyCar.  I think of this day as a game‑changer for IndyCar, for the series, for our fans, the teams, our drivers.  In a real sense I think it represents a kind of confirmation of the strategies we've put into place and where we intend to take the sport and is the beginning of the next phase of IndyCar's growth.
Brian, as my partner on the phone now, Brian, I just want to say publicly how pleased we are with today and getting us to this place.  It's not lost on us that Verizon has been a partner of IndyCar as our official wireless partner for the last four years, so we know that you know us, and we know that you know the sport.  You've already made great contributions primarily through the sponsorship of the Penske car, the Verizon car, but you've had the opportunity to really get under the hood, so to speak, and to understand the potential of this sport and what makes us tick, and that gives us great confidence about this partnership going forward.
You know, as we've done some work in the last several months as has probably been done in the past, I think about what is fundamentally IndyCar; speed and the daring of the drivers and the skill of the drivers are, we think, a huge part of what we offer the public.  But at the same time, going back to our earliest roots, innovation is part of our brand and part of what we stand for.  The more we've thought about it, innovation has a role on the track, and we expect to be more innovative, again, over time.
But innovation also has a lot to do with how we go to the market and how we captivate the fans and present the sport in all its depth and excitement to fans, and I cannot imagine a more perfect partner to be true to those roots and to take us to the next level of leadership in sports for the way we use innovation to put the sport forward.
So we are just thrilled with this announcement, cannot wait to begin to activate, as the sponsor folks say, and to take this to a new level.
Q.  Brian, as Mark mentioned, Verizon has been a partner of IndyCar for the last four years, and now you take the big step up as the entitlement sponsor.  How excited is Verizon about today's announcement?
BRIAN ANGIOLET:  Well, I mean, obviously we're thrilled.  I think to Mark's point, we've had a great relationship just as a partner, and then even with the Penske team.  When you look at this, it just became the right time for Verizon to step up into this position.
Internally, we have been evolving our brand and our position in the marketplace from a mobile‑ and wireless‑centric company into more of this technology company, and when you think about the role that technology plays in IndyCar, it just seemed like a great match.
And now with this agreement, and when you look at the roadmap that we have both in the agreement and from a product standpoint, I think we feel that we now have a platform really here to demonstrate what all of our technology can bring to the fan base, inside and outside the venue.  So it's a perfect match at a perfect time.
Q.  Brian, Verizon, as I recall, their last national TV commercial actually featured a driver, Will Power.  Can you break down the money that's going to be invested on an annual basis, how much would be for television and commercials and newspaper and magazine advertising and just the marketing of IndyCar?
BRIAN ANGIOLET:  Yeah, I mean, it's not our policy to comment on kind of the level of investment around these things, but what I can tell you is the choices that we make to feature drivers in some of the commercial assets that you're speaking of, we're not necessarily beholden to those just by whatever our commitment is.  Those spots and commercials for us are about putting our brand in the right context where we can tee up certain things.
My point in saying all that is we'll invest in those at whatever level we feel appropriate, either to drive brand, or as we start thinking about product or fan experiences as the years come, it wouldn't be beholden to simply anything that's in an agreement.  I think it's a good partnership for us to use in multiple ways beyond just a specific in‑program type of activation or marketing asset.
Q.  One of IndyCar's big weaknesses the last few years has been the lack of national recognition and marketing and commercials.  Can we expect to see a jump in that, I guess is my question?
BRIAN ANGIOLET:  Yeah, I think you will see ‑‑ we've had a commitment to ‑‑ we've got cars with the teams, we've got drivers, the Indy league itself, the technology position, the spots that we're creating around that I think are going to be very exciting, kind of visceral, and that's part of the muscle that we would bring and will bring.
Q.  For Mark, how do you measure the importance of being able to go from one season with a sponsor to getting a series sponsor the very next season rather than, say, having a lame duck season where you didn't have any sponsorship at all as the entitlement?
MARK MILES:  You know, we like to think we're aggressive in growing IndyCar racing, and so time is of the essence.  That's not a financial answer.  Financially the series, the company is in very solid shape and we're very much in an investment mode this year.  But we are just eager to get on with taking this sport to another level, and what Verizon brings is a long list of attributes.
You know, I've come to already not think of them so much as a wireless company as a technology company, and it's the Verizon IndyCar Series, but they're our technology partner.  We've had a chance to have a lot of conversations about the potential for the development of technology, and it just knocks your socks off and gives me a lot of excitement about the way we can reach fans, provide more value for the teams and the drivers.
We're so eager to get on with it.  I haven't thought of it in the past as whether we skipped a beat or might have from one year to the next, but I can tell you that I expect impact this year, and for all the journalists that cover us and for fans who watch us and fans who don't know they're going to watch us but will, there will be a discernible difference this year.
Q.  And as far as delivering a message, Verizon always seems to be one that has a very well‑thought‑out plan what their message is going to be, and in a lot of ways you've got to really feel like this is indeed a long‑term commitment.
MARK MILES:  Well, if that's a question, it is, although we won't get into the specifics.  It wouldn't make much sense to have a title sponsorship relation for a year.
But again, it's more about the shared vision for what technology means to IndyCar racing and how we can be the market leader at least in motorsports in that regard.
Q.  And finally, the fact that Verizon is a recognized consumer name, how valuable is that to be involved as a series sponsor?
MARK MILES:  It's huge.  I mean, Verizon as an institution is one of the most compelling companies in this country.  It isn't lost on us that they have a pretty substantial advertising budget, and they're so good at the development of their company and their brand.  I just don't know how we could have a better partner in terms of what they stand for as a company and what they bring to us in the way of an informed sponsor.
Q.  I wanted this to go to Mark.  IndyCar racing in particular over the last few decades or so has had sort of a troubled history with primary sponsors:  FedEx, Pep Boys, Northern Light and now IZOD have all come and gone.  To the fans that want to get excited about this partnership, and there is a good bit to be excited about, but may be a little hesitant to be completely excited about it, what would you say to them?
MARK MILES:  Well, I think a couple things.  The first is just think about the kind of company that Verizon is and what they can bring to IndyCar racing.  We've said this earlier on this call, but when they begin with us to roll out effectively products, technology products that will enhance the experience of all our stakeholders starting with fans, I have no doubt that fans are going to be delighted for the value that Verizon brings to IndyCar racing.
I think fans want to see the sport grow, too, and what Verizon can do in helping us effectively promote this sport and Verizon together will be important and will generate a lot of excitement by open wheel fans and now Verizon IndyCar Series fans.
 I guess I don't think much about the past, to be frank.  I'm thinking about how we're going to take the sport forward.  I've never spent a second thinking about comparing this situation to prior ones because I'm so completely convinced about how this one makes sense, how this partnership will make sense.
As I said, it isn't lost on either Verizon or us that I've seen Lowell McAdam and Dan Mead and Brian and their entire team in the IndyCar paddock often for the year that I've been involved, and I know that they know what they're getting into, and they know how ‑‑ they see the sport the way we do.  It is a compelling, exciting sport that is perfect as the sport to apply technology to, to make it more compelling to fans, and again, on other levels that are more internal for teams and our drivers.
So I guess I'd just say, well, if you don't want to trust us, don't; watch this space.  We have complete confidence that this is going to be a home run for IndyCar fans.
Q.  We've heard about the possibility of Verizon for quite some time.  How long has it taken to get a huge company like Verizon and IndyCar together to get this program together?  Obviously it didn't happen in a week or two weeks or three weeks.
MARK MILES:  You know, I don't remember exactly when it started.  I think we've been developing a relationship over ‑‑ well, I'm sure prior to Mark Miles being part of IndyCar, and as our official, I guess, wireless partner over the last year, we've gotten to know each other and had a lot of conversations about where the series is headed, what our objectives are, and what the growth trajectory looks like.
I don't remember a day when this started.  I think it probably started in a sense back four years ago.
I will say this:  Yeah, Verizon is a huge company, a big organization, but they're agile in this regard.  When we got to the point of being ready to enter into these conversations, they and we, I think that getting to a signed agreement took ‑‑ was sort of like IndyCar itself:  Record fast.  I want to take this opportunity to thank Jay Frye and Karen Hadley, the two people on point to some extent on both teams for shepherding it and going through a lot of complicated things as any title sponsorship has to be in record time.
Q.  Brian, I am talking to you on a Verizon phone, strangely enough –
Q.  And you have been involved in the sport.  Will the fans when they come to the various venues see you more visible with programs and things that the fans there can get involved in and sign up, get them excited about Verizon and realize that some of the services out there don't work at the racetrack whereas Verizon does, for instance?
BRIAN ANGIOLET:  Yeah, well, thank you again.  I think a couple things:  I think part of this ‑‑ first of all, I think as a matter of presence, the assets that we will be able to utilize all around the venue, you're going to feel more presence there.  So the activation, the weight of the activation will definitely be significant.
I also think to the point we've been discussing today, it's our intent to be able to bring new technology into the experiences for fans, especially as time goes on, so you'll definitely feel it not just from a branding and activation standpoint but from a technology and use standpoint.
Even when you look at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I think there lies some really great opportunities for us to have some real showcase of where our brand is going, and then with a lot of this, too, we always are very, very committed to the customer experience and our network capacity and capability at these types of experiences, and that's not different than a few of the other partnerships that we have.
I think all that combined, when we do make a decision like this, to partner, we bring the full scope and scale of what we have to offer to make it successful.
Q.  My question is for Brian.  Verizon and Penske have been a successful and really fulfilling partnership so far, so with that said, what does Verizon get in terms of viability from this partnership beyond what it was already receiving with the Penske relationship?
BRIAN ANGIOLET:  Well, I think you get ‑‑ you just basically get to complete the circle.  I mean, there's wonderful assets.  The Penske team are amazing partners, and the team assets are incredible.
We've had some venue and track assets before, but now really we have the opportunity to help on a much broader scale.  Without getting into details, I think about it more as just completing the circle.  You've seen us in piece parts before.  I think it'll be more immersive in terms of just the scale of our brand presence, and then the ability to really work technology into the experience for fans as time goes on in this deal, I think that's the other area that's a real win.
Again, there's just so much technology involved in IndyCar and the precision, and that is exactly where our brand is going.  I mean, just the ability to demonstrate it, without getting into a lot of specifics, but those elements and assets in this, again, just really rounds out the partnership, all of our partnerships to date, really.
Q.  Brian, could you talk maybe just a little bit about some of the other corporate partnerships and sponsorships that you have outside of IndyCar, and then how IndyCar kind of fits in with your overall marketing scheme?
BRIAN ANGIOLET:  Well, I don't want to take from this day.  I'll just say this:  I think generally speaking, we have continued to become increasingly selective with the organizations that we partner with, and we do that because I think what we want to do is we want to go deeper and broader within a relationship.  So part of this is all about truly organizations that we feel will go to that level of depth and breadth in a relationship.
From there, again, I think where this fits in our portfolio is our technology future and the ability to demonstrate that and use this sponsorship as a platform for us to kind of showcase that.
It really starts to push us forward on where our company is going, where our brand is going.  To the earlier question, the commercials and the kind of things that we'll even talk about will start to morph that way.  So it puts us on our leadership path into that new direction of technology, not just mobile or wireless or phone company.
Q.  If you can, does this contract include any provisions that would preclude any additional sponsors, competitive sponsors to Verizon coming in and sponsoring say other entrants in the car, whether those be mobile sponsors or technology firms?
MARK MILES:  I can take that.  While it protects existing relationships that are in the paddock, yes, it does provide exclusivity for Verizon going forward.
Q.  As you know, we're an online publication, and we live and die by not only having fans online but being able to publish online.  I'm interested if Verizon is bringing us things like more bandwidth at venues, both for the fans and the media.  I'm interested in the online feeds for timing and scoring, and I also note that a lot of sports venues have their own Wi-Fi systems now so fans can bring their mobile devices to watch the event and to get the scoring from there.  I'm interested to find out what Verizon is bringing to the table in terms of fan and media enhancements from technology.
BRIAN ANGIOLET:  I'll just say this at this point:  We're not commenting on any details or definitely of detail in that whole space, but again, it's our intent to make sure that we have a solid fan experience and that we are deploying new technology in and around venues to increase the fan experience and many others that actually will be utilizing the network.
The details of that and a lot of those kinds of things are things that we continue to work in the course of the partnership, and I'll just leave it at that.
MARK MILES:  I can add at least from an IMS perspective, you know that as part of our project 100 leading up to our 100th year celebration, the 100th running of the 500, we are making capital investments at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and while over time I'm sure that there will be even more interesting technologies, you will begin to see improvements in the connectivity, both cellular and data and Wi-Fi at IMS to some extent beginning this year but certainly emphatically by the race after next.
Q.  How much will we expect to see ad buys involved?  Do you have any that are going to start rolling out immediately?
BRIAN ANGIOLET:  Are you speaking just in relation to promoting the partnership?
Q.  Well, Sports Illustrated, television, are we going to expect to see any ad buys immediate?
BRIAN ANGIOLET:  Yeah, I mean, I think basically we are and have been
preparing to activate the partnership in kind of good faith have been working it at the launch of the season, so there's material that we've been in the process of producing and all of that good stuff to hit our kickoff date.
Also there's a couple other concepts we're working that follow up, so it's an iterative process, but we'll be fully activating day one.


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