(Originally posted by Steph to Planet-IRL.com.)
Planet-IRL’s IRL Editor, Paul, has written an excellent summary of why the fans should be very excited about IZOD’s new involvement in the series as its title sponsor.
Let’s get into this in more detail and take a closer look at the demographics involved.
Shortly after the season finale in Homestead, I wrote a post elsewhere about why the Faster Cars, Cheaper Tickets, Sexier Drivers campaign that was running at the time was aimed in the wrong direction.
In a nutshell, I explained that NASCAR has gone beyond being a mere sport fandom and has managed to integrate itself into an entire subculture. (Listen to Blue Collar Radio on XM Radio for an hour — a task I find myself subjected to regularly due to my father’s fascination with it — and you’ll see exactly what I mean.) I theorized that trying to break into that market was a near-insurmountable task for IndyCar and that they should turn their attention elsewhere.
With the new partnership with IZOD, this is exactly what’s being done. IZOD can help steer IndyCar toward a completely different subculture: a younger, hip, urban demographic that will find fascination with the speed and the competition and the (potential) star power of the drivers. IndyCar offers them something that they can relate to, something that doesn’t belong to the you-might-be-a-redneck crowd but has just enough of an international flavour to give it some credibility on the world stage and yet remains unquestionably American. It’s a perfect fit.
This can be summed up with a very crude and generalizing analogy: NASCAR has fans who drink beer and shave car numbers into their back hair, and F1 has fans who sip champagne and indulge in haute couture. With this move, IndyCar has put itself right in the middle — cosmopolitans, if you will, and IZOD. It’s exactly right, and it’s where this form of the sport has always belonged.
My only niggling fear is whether the segment of fans who pull up to the track in their motorhomes, pull out their camping chairs and crack open a beer will continue to identify with this image as it crystallizes. And this divide may have been at least partially responsible for the split in the first place. CART was headed in this direction in the mid-90s, and the short-track racing fans in the Midwest — who (rightfully) consider themselves the birthplace of IndyCar racing and everything it stands for — began to feel disconnected from the sport. It’s going to take a delicate dance to ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself here.
Where does the answer to that lie? Seems like a good subject for another post. In the meantime, feel free to discuss it in the comments.