Can the Super Bowl benefit INDYCAR?

IndyCar commentary — By on January 31, 2012 9:34 am

This week, tens of thousands of football fans, journalists, tourists, and talking heads will descend on Indianapolis as it prepares to host Super Bowl XLVI. Tens of millions more will follow along in the 24/7 television newscycle. No other sports event in America manages higher ratings, or a more exhaustively thorough slate of coverage and analyis leading up to the event itself.

Indianapolis is no stranger to hosting large events; each May, the Indianapolis 500 reaffirms its status as the largest single-day sporting event in the world. Yet in this city where INDYCAR itself is headquartered, can the Super Bowl be a boon to the 500 and the IZOD IndyCar Series?

Skeptics will likely say any television coverage of INDYCAR as a cultural tie-in to Indianapolis will be fleeting, and perhaps that’s true. But when the Super Bowl travels to a city, the media reports on the cultural identity of that city as part of the build-up. Visitors to Indianapolis this past weekend were greeted by a spectacle of 33 INDYCARs, arrayed in 11 rows of 3, on the Circle downtown. Reports were that the place was simply jammed with fans and visitors.

In an era when 30 seconds of air time during the Super Bowl costs $3.5-$4 million, more cost-effective forms of advertisting stand out as prime opportunities. Having 33 INDYCARs assembled in downtown Indianapolis and farmed out all over the region is a unique, iconic idea that can appeal to football and racing fans alike. A race car decked out in your team’s logos and colors is something that can be referenced across the sports spectrum, noticed by hardcore fans.

Don’t look for a singular moment during Super Bowl coverage this week that encourages fans en masse to swarm the IZOD IndyCar Series. Look for more subtle opportunities, such as Graham Rahal’s appearance on a CBS Super Bowl commercial review this week. The benefits the Super Bowl brings to INDYCAR are perhaps less immediately perceptible and dramatic than we might wish, but they are no less real for it. Consider the tens of thousands of CEOs and top business executives that will flood the city for the Super Bowl. You never know when the seed of an idea to become involved in the IICS will be planted during the week.

By all accounts, INDYCAR has done what it can to get its product out and about during this unique weekend in the American sporting landscape. Though the dividends might not come quickly, they will come in drips and drops as the sports consciousness of the visiting or viewing fans is reminded of Indianapolis, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the inherent coolness of the product at hand. The intrigued businessman of today could be the sponsor of tomorrow. A video montage of Indianapolis featuring cars screaming around the corner could remind the lapsed fan of what still transpires here each May and beyond.

Displaying 33 INDYCARs on the streets that are playing host to the Super Bowl is a fine start. Now, it’s time for the efforts behind the scenes and on the ground to take over.