Fixing IndyCar, part 5: Telling the world

IndyCar, IndyCar commentary — By on December 21, 2012 11:02 am
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Link back to:

Fixing IndyCar: An introduction

Fixing IndyCar, part 1: Defining the sport

Fixing IndyCar, part 2: Creating heroes

Fixing IndyCar, part 3: Healing from within

Fixing IndyCar, part 4: Connecting with fans

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This final installment of the series on fixing IndyCar was going to start with a rant about how IndyCar needs to market to a younger audience on a national scale.

As if they were reading my minds, this morning I happened upon this trailer for Turbo, the IndyCar movie currently in development with DreamWorks.

It’s targeted directly at kids and families. It’s in 3D. The detail in the animation gave me chills. I could have done without the flying car, but I’ll accept that as a minor failing.

I don’t think anyone should be counting chickens just yet… but man, this thing looks like it might actually work.

Thank you, Randy, a thousand times. May this become your legacy.

I still have a few other points to make, though. (Naturally.)

First: it’s so very, very critical that IndyCar not make its classic mistake of putting all of its marketing eggs in one basket with this. (Danica, anyone?)

In the six months IndyCar has between now and when this movie comes out, I desperately hope that every available resource will be put into fixing the other issues within the sport as laid out in the earlier installments in this series. It would be so incredibly heartbreaking to see people flock to the sport in response to Turbo only to be driven away just as quickly by all of IndyCar’s persistent failings.

And I also hope that IndyCar is working on following up the film’s release with a national-scale marketing campaign to cement brand recognition with the general public. IndyCar’s promotion model has been stuck in the early 1990s for far, far too long — there was once a time when track promoters and television partners could be counted on to do sufficient marketing on their own that the sanctioning body could stay out of the equation, but that time has passed. Those entities are now concerned about their own bottom lines and no one else’s, and so these days it’s IndyCar’s job alone to introduce people to its product. I’ve written about this before in more detail, so I’ll link to that discussion here. (Paul disagreed with me in that one, of course. Silly Paul.)

Finally: I promised up front that the final part of this series would include a discussion of how IndyCar will know whether these measures are working.

The obvious measure of success is increased TV ratings, sponsor interest, and butts on the aluminum, of course. No one needs me to point that out.

But there are other, more subtle things that will change before these more evident things do. Primary among them: fans will be… happier.

There’s an undercurrent in the culture at 16th and Georgetown of people who believe that many fans will simply never be happy and there’s no point in trying to please them. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Everyone single one of us wants to love every aspect of IndyCar without fail.

If things work when they’re supposed to, the dissent within the paddock goes away (or at least appears to), and more efforts are made by IndyCar to put their drivers’ immense talents and personalities on display and to show fans they’re appreciated, an amazing thing will happen: people will complain a lot less. They’ll start spending a lot more time talking about the things they’re supposed to be talking about, like driver skill, team strategy, and the on-track action, and the negativity will fade into the background.

It can happen, I promise, if the right people will believe in and invest in the right changes.

Happy holidays, everyone. Let’s see what 2013 has in store.

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