Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Five and Why…

OK so you know the deal…IndyCar and a $5m bonus for any mercenary who can win the season finale @Vegas.  After an initial twitter buzz about all the nascar drivers who may or may not do this, then dire pessimism about nascar teams that would never let their guys go turncoat to a list of Former IndyCar passer throughs and has-beens has been hashed over all day, we still have several months to ponder who the participants will be.  (man that was an ugly sentence…)
Something important to remember here, that the five to be selected will be selected based on an Advisory Committee.  IndyCar will choose those five from a list of interested parties.  Despite money, IndyCar fan wishes or the wishes of the drivers themselves, IndyCar will choose who IndyCar wants to be racing.  So who will they choose?
Let’s take a second to talk about the purpose of this event.  It is all about Product Sampling.  This whole gig is an investment in giving out the crack hoping people come back for more.  IndyCar wants Fans, in the seats and on the tube sampling this product as it runs on ABC.  Since Vegas is a high banked 1.5 mile oval there is more than a small chance that the track will yield a Texas/Chicagoland/Kentucky race:  entertaining for the novice and likely to bring newbies back for more…
As for the fans in the seats, there will be up to 80K tickets available.  Now in reality, how many people who see a race at Mid Ohio are going to go to Vegas to see this even if they have a free ticket?  Let’s see there’s a plane ticket, hotel ticket and the issue of vacation time availability that will eliminate most fans.  Even myself, I will be going, but I will be Buying tix to get a good seat.  If I am shelling out $ for the rest of this deal, I’m not ruining the rest of the outlay only for GenAd seats in row 1. 
So who’s getting all these free tix?  Well, my hunch is that there will be a “Get Your Free Vegas Tix here” booth at the only event that is within day trip range of Vegas.  Long Beach.  The ticket giveaway is all about getting the Long Beach crowd out to see an Oval with the hopes they will: Perhaps come back to Vegas the next year on their own dime, Certainly might watch other races on TV the following year and even more…Get these people hooked on Oval racing so that in 2012, you have a base of people already predisposed to having an interest in buying a Ticket to an October 1, 2012 date at Fontana.  Yep the F-word again.
As for getting TV fans to sample the product, Drivers will be selected by the league depending on the eyeballs that are likely to follow that driver to the TV set the day of the race.  Remember the principles covered in our last Advertising 101 post.  Not all fans are equal.  More fans are not always better particularly if they are named bubba, eat beef jerkey and live in a trailer.  Drivers who bring the most “appealing” eyeballs to the TV set will receive priority.  One final lesson – from marketing and advertising is needed – What it means to create a portfolio that maximizes reach.
So who do I think is coming?  First, a blanket statement about who is not coming.  Anyone who has been here (Champcar or IndyCar) before in a meaningful way will be staying home.  No Sam, No JPM, No Bruno J, No Scott Sharp you get the picture. 
Here’s my five (previously tweeted this afternoon with a slight change) and why…
Kimi Raikonen – Former F1 World champion, now turned world rally challenge driver is a natural.  He gave up F1 because of the politics, openly teases IndyCar fans by name droping it on his website and can finance the deal himself with it being rationalized as a Measured Bet.  It will probably will cost hmm – let’s say $250k to finance this one off race.  If he wins that is a 20 to 1 return on his investment.  Given the Nigel Mansell experience, Any former F1 world champ will look at the Current 25 driver IndyCar field and surmise that he probably has a better than 1 in 20 chance to win… SO to Kimi, this looks to be a good bet to improve his pocketbook and a chance to Party and GET TRASHED in Vegas afterwards.  From the league’s POV, F1 fans in America skew High Net worth, gotta love those people watching your product.  Kimi is a shoe-in.
Bryan Clauson – As much as IndyCar fans have man crushes on Randy Bernard, Randy has a man crush on The reigning USAC champion.  Bryan will have spent the Lights season using his light scholarship to learn this side of the sport.  And Technically he would NOT be an IndyCar Series driver.  It would not be a big stretch for Schmidt Motorsports to put a car on the grid in Vegas, particularly if they could use the opportunity to wine and dine potential investors or sponsor prospects for a Full Time IICS gig in 2012 for the team and or Clauson.  IICS is cross pollinating with USAC at Iowa and Milwaukee this year  and sprint car fans should be one of the easiest conversions to the IICS, since it is reestablishing a relationship not creating one.  Those Midwestern and western fans can help grow the overall TV number and help sell tickets at any of the Midwestern tracks.
Simon Pagenot, Marino Franchitti or David Brabham – As we discussed last week, Sports Car Fans skew in the upper income brackets and those are nice eyeballs to have in your viewership audience.  As for the Highcroft drivers, they are currently stomping the pavement looking for work, and Highcroft itself has fallen on hard times, only running 3 ILMS races this year.  They could borrow a car from one of the IICS teams, spend some time working with it, service it with their own crew and use this race, much as Schmidt Racing would do, to build momentum and sponsorship interest for an IICS run in 2012.  As for Franchitti – Dario has always said he wanted to race sports cars with his brother one day, it would an interesting story to see the brothers race in Dario’s stomping grounds.
Travis Pastrana – The four time Rally America Champion and X game competitor skews in the other direction that the league would want – Young and Male.  While Travis has begun to go down a nascar path, this kind of money would still mean something to him.  Another possibility that fits in this slot would be a formula Drift Driver.  As I speak, Spike and Doug are Twitter bantering about the prospects of Tanner Faust in the mix here.  Either way, same important demo reached.
Finally – You had to figure nascar figured in somewhere right?
Trevor Bayne – This of course would seem to be the dream guy from nascar at this point.  No Cup Chase Commitments or considerations and he’s currently riding a wave of fame from the Daytona Victory.  The nationwide series race that weekend is on the 14th, two days before the Vegas Finale.  Of course there is the issue of Trevor being a Ford Driver contracted to RFR, one of the big three nascar teams who would have very little interest in seeing their driver participate in some that had the potential to detract from Cup.  But If Randy and Bruton could make a case that the exposure would help Trevor get sponsored next year and the overall cross pollination of racers being good for ALL forms of motorsport, they could be onto something.  Otherwise, Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray or Keselowski (but NOT JPM or Sam Hornish) someone will be on the outside of the cup chase looking in and the owners here would have no qualms at all making the call to field an extra IndyCar for one of their cup drivers.
So there’s my five, carefully selected to draw desirable eyeballs to the product.  Hopefully, Randy will have the riches of Options I have here sitting at the Kitchen table.

1 comment:

  1. That...is a very interesting take, JP. That analysis of what's behind the Vegas thing (i.e. everything before you start listing drivers) is about the best breakdown of what is going on that I've read anywhere yet (and I've read about 6-8 takes on the Vegas race already).

    As for your drivers...I'm not so sure how viable I think a couple of those picks are. The Clauson pick is a shoe-in. So is Pagenaud. The Kimi thing is EXTREEEEEEEMLY interesting, and you may very well be right about him getting a 20 to 1 payback (especially if he can convince his rally sponsors to front him the cash, though maybe they'll be against him getting distracted from his ongoing rally education). Pastrana would be awesome, but I'm not sure I see him doing it (though if you'd told me this time last year that he'd be doing NASCAR, I'd have punched you in the face after picking my jaw up off the floor). Bayne...that's a pipe dream, but it's one I like.

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