California is one of my most favorite places in the World; Southern California to be specific. Not being at the Grand Prix this past weekend was very difficult for me, but thankfully the crushing emotion was slightly alleviated by the fact that the race in Long Beach was broadcast on NBC Sports. I understand that the Verizon IndyCar Series is trying to get more races broadcast on ABC because they think this will help ratings, but I’ve yet to see a correlation between the two. In fact, by taking races away from the NBC Sports network, they’re frustrating their current fan base. In my humble opinion (and the opinion of numerous others), broadcasts on NBC Sports are far superior to those on ABC. The commentators are more engaging, have personal experience in the series, show comfort & familiarity with the drivers & owners and possess decades of racing insight between them. I’m referring to Leigh Diffey & Townsend Bell of course. These two make a great team. They are a blast to listen to, as are the IndyCar turn announcers who keep us updated from their respective positions around the track. I think that IndyCar needs to take a serious look at keeping our American open-wheel series on NBC Sports & perhaps working with their new title sponsor, Verizon, to somehow give fans more access to the better broadcast. We can’t expect to build a fan base by simply utilizing something more accessible (local tv stations in this case). If that “something” is lacking the quality, continuity & entertainment of another option, then are we really doing ourselves, and more importantly, the IndyCar Series itself, any justice?
If we are attempting to gain viewership and fans in general, then the marketing team needs to approach this like dating. Stay with me… I swear I have a point. Even though it’s 2014, I’m old fashioned and actually enjoy the courting stage of dating. Everyone in this initial “getting to know you” portion of the potential relationship should be putting their absolute best foot forward. We want to entice the other person, keep their interest, make them laugh… we usually like to show that we’re serious about our career and have some kind of passion for it, we hope to come off as intelligent but also want to show that fun-loving side of ourselves. NBC Sports & it’s commentators do that in their broadcasts – they grabbed our attention off the bat and when we don’t get to spend the weekend with them… we notice. And we miss them.
When you get to a certain point in the relationship, you want to introduce your friends and family to this new person. Why? Because they’re awesome! How would you feel if you had the meeting all set up and this person who you were so excited to introduce to those you cared about, sent his second-cousin Bobby in this place? Bobby’s perfectly nice, but his jokes are kind of awkward & cheesy, and you just don’t have that comfort level with him as you do with “your guy”.
I’d love to get some more feedback from you guys on how you feel about the apparent (albeit slow) transition from NBC Sports to the ABC network. Another talking point for this conversation – NASCAR entered into a contract for broadcasting with NBC Sports starting next season and lasting through 2024. While I am not a fan of that particular series, it would be ridiculous to deny that their ratings are higher than ours and that NASCAR is the “household racing name” that most Americans are familiar with. So, if we are hoping to emulate or rather, surpass, the ratings of NASCAR… why are we straying from the network that produces so much Championship-Event programming? Isn’t that company we want to be in the presence of? Setting ourselves apart from the competition doesn’t have to be literal. In fact, it could be more detrimental than beneficial. Tweet me @shayzen and let me know what you think about all of this. I’m excited to hear what you think!
Earlier I mentioned Townsend Bell being one of my favorite commentators for the Verizon IndyCar Series. I am also a big fan of him behind the wheel. I first started paying attention to Bell when my favorite clothing brand, the Memphis-based Americana-influenced William Rast (WR), decided to get into motorsports sponsorship. William Rast was Bell’s primary sponsor for the 2008 Indianapolis 500 with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. Bell finished 10th that year, the first of his three Top 10 finishes at IMS. This year will mark his 8th attempt to clinch victory at The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
This year, Bell will have another fashion-forward sponsor in Robert Graham. You might not recognize the company name yet, but if you’re an IndyCar fan or even just an event fan of the Indy 500, you are already familiar with Graham’s work… Bell’s famous bright yellow fedora from last year’s 500 was a piece from the collection. Another familiarity to this year’s setup for Bell, is running with KV Racing. He drove for them at the 2009 Indy 500, finishing his career best at the track, just shy of the podium in 4th place. KV Racing is the defending Champion team at the Yard of Bricks this May, with driver Tony Kanaan attaining his elusive 500 victory with them in 2013. Bell will be the 3rd entry for KV at this year’s event, wheeling the #6 Chevy. The first 2 rides belong to full-season drivers Sebastien Bourdais (#11 Hydroxycut/Mistic Chevy) and Sebastian Saavedra (#17 AFS Chevy). Will this be the year that all the stars align over the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Townsend Bell? We’ll know in just 6 short weeks…
I will be doing an article closer to this year’s Indianapolis 500, featuring the other “single ride” drivers, as there has been a lot of news recently about who is driving for what teams & who will attempt to make up the Field of 33 on Memorial Day weekend. If you think you’ve been inundated with news in the first 3 weeks of the season… just wait until May hits! Nothing to worry about however, just stay connected to the More Than A Fan: Wheels network and I will be more than happy to make sense of it all for you. In fact, I look forward to the challenge! After all, May is the best month to be an IndyCar fan… and this May we get THREE races: The Inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis (May 10th), the 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500 (May 25th), and Race #1 of the Dual in Detroit doubleheader on Belle Isle, MI (May 31st). Wow, we’re so close I can almost smell the Firestone rubber burning!