Off-the-cuff reactions to the BCG report

IndyCar, IndyCar commentary — By on March 1, 2013 8:29 pm
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Jenna Fryer’s gotten a hold of the report from Boston Consulting Group highlighting their recommendations to the Hulman-George family for IndyCar going forward.

Here are my instant, extremely off-the-cuff reactions.

BCG said IndyCar was “the best pure racing motorsports league in the U.S. … but the series suffers from lack of awareness.”

Well, this is a good start. It’s comforting to know they saw things the same way we do. (Unless this was please-the-client speak — but I don’t get the sense that was their MO here.)

Focus groups suggested that marketing strategies should be geared to “positioning IndyCar as having the most skilled, daredevil drivers and not theatrical off-track personalities.” They indicated they valued fast cars over science and engineering; winning over points challenges; suspense through lead changes over entertainment through crashes; and the diversity of track types rather than ovals.

All of these points are consistent with what I could have concluded from my own casual chats with fans. (We now have documented proof that the ovals-only crowd are the extremely vocal minority. Maybe they’ll finally cool their jets.)

IndyCar should split the schedule into two seasons — a 15-race U.S. calendar from April to August and an international series during the offseason.

HELL YES.

The hypothetical schedule proposed by BCG included seven cities not currently visited by IndyCar. It opened at Houston, then Phoenix, the Indy 500, Miami, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Pocono, Toronto, Seattle, Sonoma and Fontana. The “playoffs” portion included Texas, Long Beach and the Indy road course. BCG argued for a playoff because “the current IndyCar schedule lacks consequence and the television ratings are at the lowest at the end of the season because the series does not have a mechanism to create suspense.”

Nice ideas. Moving Long Beach just can’t happen, though. Other than that and Indy, just about everything else could be adjusted to accommodate this. Things have flip-flopped around so often lately that no other events would be adversely affected by another date change.

I still hate the playoff idea, especially the way BCG has framed it — it would come off as a cheap imitation of the Chase. My feeling has been that the end of the schedule has tapered off in recent years due to scheduling missteps, not the lack of a mechanism to create suspense.

I found it interesting to see the IMS road course on that list as the season finale. Every (admittedly anecdotal) sense I’ve had is that fans in Indy have no interest in seeing IndyCars on that track whatsoever. I know BCG proposed this because they want to see IMS host more events so that it will earn more revenue (they suggest such an event could earn the Speedway up to $4.3 million), but I think that could be disastrously wrong.

One television partner, preferably ABC/ESPN, or placing as many races as possible on ABC.

BCG makes this suggestion on the assumption that ABC will be a fair and willing TV partner, and history has proven this not to be the case. As for getting more races on network TV — gee, thanks. Hope the H-Gs didn’t pay too much for that bit of sage advice.

The report also suggested the NBC Sports Network may be in violation of its contract with IndyCar if it promotes any other motorsports series more than IndyCar.

Now that is an interesting revelation worthy of further investigation, especially with Formula 1 being shown on NBCSN for the first time this season.

IndyCar should reduce the Leaders Circle subsidy payments to teams and redirect the funds into a weekly purse based on performance.

I made this exact point on Trackside with Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee during Blogger Night a couple of weeks ago and got shot down. (I’ll try not to feel too vindicated.)

The report targets Indy 500 ticketing, suggesting penthouse and deck tickets should be raised from $150 to $200, paddock seats from $90 to $150. Other seats should drop anywhere from $5-$20 and sometimes more. IMS should also lower almost every ticket for the Brickyard 400 and Red Bull Grand Prix.

This wouldn’t be popular, obviously, but it’s probably long overdue. Something tells me no one has looked at the ticket pricing model and ratios since Paddock Penthouse tickets cost about $10 each. Fans would gripe, but they’d pay up.

Other revelations from the report are likely to come to light in the coming days. We’ll inform our readers about any other significant recommendations as they surface.

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