Like a driver heading toward the finish line, IZOD IndyCar Series’ sponsorship momentum shows no signs of slowing down.

The open-wheel auto racing series has secured four new non-endemic sponsors for the 2012 season including a multiyear partnership with Discover Financial Services, the league’s first in the credit card category.

Other new sponsors include Genesco Inc.’s Lids headwear chain; translation app developer Ortsbo, Inc.; and Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka, the latter of which also will expand an existing partnership with Vision Racing and driver Ed Carpenter for the 2012 season.

The IndyCar Series also has signed two new endemic partners: Group Lotus plc and General Motor Co.’s Chevy, both of which will supply engines. It also has inked a three-year extension with Bridgestone Americas’ Firestone brand.

The new deals come amid growing viewership and race attendance. Attendance grew 9.8 percent in 2011 over the previous year, while ABC and NBC Sports Network average viewership increased by 28 percent, according to IndyCar.

In another measure of success, IndyCar also has seen a lift in sponsor activation. Sponsors in 2011 increased activation expenditures 22 percent over the previous year, said Greg Gruning, IndyCar’s executive vice president of corporate business development.

And the motorsports series plans to build on that success in 2012.

“This is going to be a good year for IndyCar. You’ll see more sponsors and more activation programs,” said Gruning, who spoke to IEG SR in advance of the Feb. 13-14 “State of IndyCar “ event in Indianapolis.

Discover Helps Open The Door To More Sponsors
Discover will leverage the IndyCar Series with two co-branded credit cards. One card will feature an image from the 1960 Indy 500, while the other will feature a contemporary race car.

The credit cards will offer a number of customer perks ranging from autographed hero cards and race credentials to “once in a lifetime experiences” such as the opportunity to attend a breakfast with an IndyCar legend or ride in a pace car or two-seater.

“The IndyCar Discover card will offer tailored benefits and exclusive access to events that cardmembers care about most,’ said Kevin O’Donnell, vice president issuance, Discover Network.

The card is Discover’s first co-branded product with a motorsports property, he said.
First National Bank of Omaha will issue the card.

While the Discover deal is significant in that it marks IndyCar’s first partner in the credit card category, what is truly notable is how it will help the motorsports series identify new sponsors and build relations with existing partners.

The partnership will accomplish those goals in the two following ways:

In-depth audience research. IndyCar will use the partnership to gain data on cardholder buying habits. The racing series will receive the information from Segmint, Inc., a technology company that tracks credit and debit card usage.

IndyCar will use the data to better understand its fan base and identify potential sponsors. The data analysis company tracks what products and services cardholders buy and where they make purchases.

“If the data shows that my fan base loves dogs, I can to a PetSmart or Purina with third party authenticated research. I’m not approaching them on a hunch,” said Gruning, sharing a hypothetical example of how IndyCar can use the info.

The data will support the league’s existing consumer research, he added, noting that the Discover/FNBO relationships help alleviate the cost of accessing additional data. “I would have to pay a lot of money to get this kind of analysis.”

In addition to the co-branded Discover card, Segmint will share information on credit cards issued by other banks with whom it works. IndyCar can use the data to track spending habits on specific activities and products, such as motorsports events and car parts, as well as geographic areas, such as purchases that have been made within a 150-mile radius of a specific track.

The auto racing series also will use the data to enhance its fan outreach and social media initiatives, said Gruning. “The data will help us get smarter on how we market our sport and communicate with fans.”

Cross-promotional platform. Recognizing the value of sponsor cross-promotions, IndyCar plans to leverage the co-branded card with its other corporate partners.

The motorsports series hopes to accomplish that goal by tapping sponsor assets to enhance the card’s rewards program and promote the product. In exchange, the sponsors will gain exposure in card marketing activity.  

“This provides an opportunity to engage other partners from a promotional and co-marketing standpoint,” said Mark Sibla, IndyCar’s vice president of partner strategy.

IndyCar is working with five partners on the program, he said.

Other New IZOD IndyCar Series Sponsors
Sponsor Sponsorship/Activation
Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Spirit brand will tout the IZOD IndyCar Series and Vision Racing on point-of-sale material and other marketing collateral at on-premise accounts. The company also plans to run a drink promotion in which consumers can vote on their favorite beverage made with Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka.
Lids Hat retailer will expand IZOD IndyCar Series’ merchandising presence in 2012 by hosting retail outlets in the IndyCar Fan Village and two other locations at each track. The locations will be staffed by local Lids employees.
Ortsbo App developer will use its technology to translate presentations at live IndyCar events. For example, IndyCar will use the technology to translate comments from IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard in a real-time setting during the Feb. 13-14 “State of IndyCar” event.