The Marketable Personality of IndyCar Racing – Part I

JGS_0139-1For years I’ve pondered why it’s so difficult for the average person to differentiate between IndyCar and NASCAR… in all reality, they couldn’t be more different. However, I’ve suspected part of the reason was due to exposure levels of each series. But it occurred to me this week, that can change. And it wouldn’t even be that difficult. Simply stated: we have to provide the public with more exposure to IndyCar drivers.

One huge difference between IndyCar and NASCAR paddocks is fan access to drivers. I haven’t personally been to a NASCAR event, but I am basing that conclusion off multiple reports and stories that I have heard for years from both fans and media. Access is one of our strongest selling points, and we need to extend that access outside the track as well.

Recently, though this is not a new complaint, there have been a lot of driver-appearance events that were open to the public but many fans didn’t know about them until after the fact – Graham Rahal at Steak ‘n Shake in Columbus and Conor Daly at Wal-Mart in Mansfield this past weekend in central Ohio, are two perfect examples.

While at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, a few fans asked me if I was aware of those events and I had to say no. They were disappointed at the lack of promotion beforehand, because they absolutely would have attended if they had the information prior. Hearing about these missed opportunities for fans, bothers me, so I checked Twitter feeds for the drivers and teams. While I did see a handful of tweets leading up to the Rahal appearance by Graham and RLL personally, Daly’s meet and greet with fans wasn’t promoted at all. In fact, the only thing I saw was Daly’s tweet about it, and that was posted halfway through his appearance.

And how about the fact that Wal-Mart referred to him as an “Indy Racing League Super Star”, as opposed to, oh I don’t know, a “Verizon IndyCar Series Rookie Driver”? I feel like that would have been better, not to mention accurate, and it makes me wonder how much the venue communicated with the series or team.

Regardless of wording on a banner, this event was a full hour of Daly’s time dedicated to meeting fans, signing autographs and taking pictures, and unfortunately a lot of his fans were within a short distance from where it took place but only found out about it after it concluded. This has to stop!

Why not utilize the IndyCar Nation newsletter to communicate to fans where appearances, meet & greets, or events might be taking place leading up to an event, rather than tweeting photos of “what happened earlier today.” We don’t need to keep things a big secret. If they were made aware, I guarantee people would mark their calendars, bring their friends, and IndyCar would reap the benefits of a packed event and satisfied fans. We can’t expect all promotions to come directly from the series, but I definitely feel like there is room for improvement.

JGS_9985-1Graham Rahal commented on marketing during the first day at Mid-Ohio, when asked if he felt pressure to promote the Honda Indy 200 specifically, given that it is his “home track”:

“I feel the pressure to promote IndyCar racing, period. I’m probably one of the most active on social media for that exact reason. I feel it’s a big part of our jobs. People don’t realize that just driving the racecar is probably not even 50% of the job anymore. How can we advance the series? How can we promote our sponsors and do a better job? That’s how I view things. My goal overall is to try to help grow the series in whatever way I can.”

THIS. This is the mindset that needs to infiltrate the entire paddock and the series itself. It doesn’t matter how amazing the IndyCar product is if people don’t know about it. That doesn’t just mean reaching out to one group though, it means utilising more public platforms to gain new viewers and fans, while never forgetting to actively engage and reward the fan-base already invested in you.

I want to share with you how both of those things collided in a personal way for me, over the past week and why I think IndyCar has a fantastic opportunity in front of them, if they grab the reins and run with it… check all of that out by clicking here for Part II of The Marketable Personality of IndyCar Racing.

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In-post photos: Joe Skibinski / IndyCar
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