I’m used to switching back and forth between my two jobs: healthcare service during the week, race cars, writing, and social media on the weekends. I went back to my office this past Monday morning, fresh off the Honda Indy 200 race weekend at Mid-Ohio, ready to switch back into healthcare mode. But this time, it was different.
Now, mind you, I’ve been in the world of Indy car racing, in one facet or another, for three decades. I have worked at the same Sports Medicine office in Cleveland, Ohio for nearly 6 years. And for the past 3 years, I’ve been juggling both professional passions. Up until Monday, I always had to correct people at my healthcare office when they would ask about my “weekend vacations” or, my favorite question, “So how is your NASCAR stuff?”. My replies have always been the same: “I haven’t had a vacation since 2010…”, “Race weekends are work weekends for me,” and, the age old “I wouldn’t know, I’ve never been to a NASCAR race.”
But, there’s a good chance those days are over… or at least lessening. I think the Verizon IndyCar Series got the ball rolling toward better brand recognition on Sunday night, with a little show called Celebrity Family Feud on ABC. Allow me to tell you why: I walked into my aforementioned office on Monday, just before 7:00 a.m. and while swiping my badge in the front lobby, I hear, “Oh hey! I saw your Indy guys last night!”
I had to take a second to pause and figure out who the heck just said the word “Indy”, in my workplace, without any prompting from me. I turn to see my coworker smiling so I proceeded to ask if she actually watched the race, and she said, “No, but I did see them on Family Feud… and they are hilarious!! TK and Helio and all those guys!”
I almost fell on the floor. Not only did she get the name of the racing series right, but she retained their names. And she wasn’t the only one… social media fell in love:
What was going on?! Folks that do not consider themselves race fans, raving about IndyCar drivers? Was this the apocalypse?
No, it was the result of exploiting the awesome personalities we have in IndyCar on an unfamiliar stage, but one that already had eyes on it. The driver’s personalities are key to branding the series, appealing to more sponsors, and intriguing the public in general. Not to mention that their appearance was anxiously awaited by the current fan-base, for months!
If we can showcase all of our drivers more often and on larger stages, the potential of positive responses is endless. Think about it. Isn’t this the prime time for exposure? We are losing Target at the end of this season, a sponsor in Indy car racing for 27 years. One of the reasons they gave for leaving is that they are looking to do something fresh in their sports marketing campaigns. While that commentary is a bit of a blow to us as a series, we can either be bothered by it, or we can use it as motivation and take a page from the same book – re-branding ourselves with a fresh take. I feel like that’s the precipice we are standing on.
Another co-worker asked me a question about the “Indy guys” later that morning, to which I replied, “Yes, that really is THEM. They are funny, happy, goofy guys, and the the best-kind-of-crazy.” I expanded on it, telling him how they then get in the car and blow your mind even more with natural talent, honed skill, and admirable focus. And for the first time, it felt like they were all actually listening to me talk about IndyCar. They cared.
A third co-worker came up to me and said, “Hey, I went to your place this weekend with my family.” I asked her what she meant and she said, “The track in Indianapolis!” We talked about it at length and I could tell she genuinely enjoyed the visit to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. She said her baby girl, who is a toddler, mimicked everyone when they got out of the bus during the track tour, and kissed the bricks! They made really great memories and learned so much about the sport. She now has a better understanding of why I love it so much.
If we can keep charging down this track towards continued exposure then we can garner even more television viewers and peak the interest of the public. This should lead to more fans in the stands who will be treated to the remarkable racing product that is IndyCar – seeing it in person instead of through a television screen. Rookie and veteran fans alike will experience the races at full speed, heightening the senses and evoking emotion laced with adrenaline.
We have the potential to not just be the most competitive racing series on the planet, but to also earn bragging rights as the race series with highest attendance in the States. At this rate, maybe I can even get my co-workers to come to a race in the near future and get us closer to that goal. After all, it’s up to all of us to make this happen.
In-post photo: Racer.com
Feature photo: semifiction.tv