Phillips-Van Heusen's (PVH) Izod brand, as well as Honda and Verizon, are among the brands activating against the centennial of the Indianapolis 500 race on Memorial Day weekend. Izod, which is title sponsor of the Izod IndyCar Series, sponsored an event at New York's Classic Car Club of Manhattan to kick off the series, which begins this weekend with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Fla.
Among a host of programs around the IndyCar series, the IndyCar title sponsor is launching a TV ad this weekend around the St. Petersburg race and has inked deals with brands like Verizon, Honda and Macy's that puts those brands in Izod IndyCar ads and vice versa.
Case in point is the new Izod spot touting its Indy sponsorship and featuring the alt band Weezer. The ad also features racing legend and entrepreneur Roger Penske, a Honda Civic Indy pace car and Verizon branding.
Honda is launching its own ads this weekend touting Civic, Izod, and Macy's. One of Honda's spots features Indy icon and Formula racing legend Mario Andretti, who is appearing in at least one TV spot for the Civic. In the ad, which also breaks this weekend, Andretti is talking with a guy about his Civic, with the guy trying to tout the Civic's virtues to a guy used to driving at 200 mph-plus in an open-wheeled racer. Unimpressed with the fact that the Civic has air conditioning, Andretti shows him his Honda-branded racecar. "Mine has air conditioning, too," he says. Cut to the two of them screaming down the track in the two-seater.
Jeff Belskus, president and CEO of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said the race track will celebrate the centennial of the Indy 500 with a series of events, including a lineup of 250 vintage racers and pace cars; an emerging-technology day in May, and "the world's largest-ever autograph signing," featuring 269 IndyCar drivers on May 28, race weekend.
Randy Bernard, CEO of the IndyCar series, says the series will include a multimillion-dollar fan experience at every track this year and a new garage-themed area for kids, as well as a change in how the race is started based on fan input.
Mike Kelly, EVP of marketing for PVH, whose Izod brand is in its second year of a five-year title sponsorship deal with the IndyCar series, said he decided to get into IndyCar even though "I knew nothing about motorsports" when IndyCar called the company after the race series had reunified its business with Champ Car in 2008. IndyCar wanted Izod to manufacture Indy-themed shirts. "I went to the race and it took five minutes to get the needle in the arm," he says.
"The cars are works of art; it's the fastest motorsport on the planet," says Kelly, adding that part of Izod's activation will include putting the vehicles in Macy's show windows in the flagship New York store and possibly bringing IndyCar races back to the Izod Center venue in New Jersey. "We have fallen in love with the sport."
Kelly said that Izod is also involved in the NBA and NFL, but "when I go to a basketball event and sit courtside, there's nobody I can do business with. I go to the track paddock and there are Fortune 500 companies." In addition to Honda and Izod, Mattel will have activation, as will Verizon, which has moved out of NASCAR to IndyCar. Izod and Verizon have a co-branded mobile app that shows race video and data.
Honda is using IndyCar and cross promotions with Izod and Macy's to tout ShopHonda.com, dangling Izod products and a chance to ride in the back seat of an open-wheeled racer with Andretti at the wheel. A second Honda ad touting Izod shows the women's cosmetics section of Macy's. While sophisticated women shop for makeup, a group of rough-looking guys stroll through. "Men, the shopping event of the year has arrived," says the voiceover. "Visit Macy's to get an Izod shopping spree."
As part of Honda's promotion at shophonda.com the Torrance, Calif.-based automaker is giving away Civics in 10 markets. Mattel will tout its Hot Wheels brand with a global program on Hot Wheels' Facebook page.
Kelly says last year saw a 40% growth in sponsors who joined the series and the largest increase in the 18- to-24 audience base. "Appealing to those audiences is very exciting for sponsors," says Kelly.
Now I may be taking some of the quotes out of context, but it appears as though this long-term multi-million dollar sponsorship deal was done because after 5 minutes at the track someone who admits he knew nothing about motorsports was having fun and that there were opportunities to do business.
Just where in this 'strategic plan' did the relationship that the brand's customers have with motorsports come into it, or was the decision just a personal preference.