Mexico is selling the Champ Car series, not just tickets

 by Jose Arrambide
April 19, 2004

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Editor's Note:  Jose Arrambide is a welcome addition to the AutoRacing1.com staff.  A writer in Mexico, Jose brings a fresh look to the sport of auto racing from the Mexican standpoint.

Webster`s dictionary describes marketing as “the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods, services, organizations, and events to create and maintain relationships that will satisfy individual and organizational objectives.”

Although this is a very good definition, I find the next quote from an unknown author to be a better way of explaining what marketing is to people who do not make a living out of it, “If the circus is coming to town and you paint a sign saying, "Circus is coming to Fairgrounds Sunday," that's Advertising. If you put the sign on the back of an elephant and walk him through town, that's a Promotion. If the elephant walks through the Mayor's flower bed, that's Publicity. If you can get the Mayor to laugh about it, that's Public Relations. And, if you planned the whole thing, that's Marketing!”

Champ Cars made their third ever appearance in Mexico in 2001.   Monterrey had the honor of hosting the inaugural race of the 2001 season and becoming the second city in Mexico to hold a Champ Car race (there were two races in Mexico City in 1980 and 1981.  In fact, Michel Jourdain`s father Michel Jourdain Senior was the only Mexican to drive in both races), in a country that had hosted 15 F1 races and 2 Champ Car races, but that hadn't seen an international race since 1992 (the last Mexico Grand Prix in F1).  The 2001 Champ Car race was a huge success, because of all the attention from the media the tickets were sold out without the need of any kind of marketing strategy.

Because of the 2001 success, organizers in Monterrey thought that fans would fight for the tickets of the 2002 race without any marketing or PR at all.  They were wrong.  They had to advertise the event at the last minute, and although the event was sold out again, the last tickets were purchased the last minute, on Friday and Saturday of the race weekend. In 2003 they tried to do a better job than in previous years, but they confused advertising and publicity for marketing.  They thought that by running a few ads in the newspapers and TV, and sending a few faxes to the media and journalists they were doing marketing. They had good intentions, but did a very poor job at promoting the race.

Because of the history of almost zero promotion of the three races,  I am totally surprised by the great job they are doing this year.  They finally understand that having a great product is only half of the work, and most important, they have learned that they are not really selling the tickets, they are selling the series, they are selling the event and the drivers.

Sunday newspaper ad

One proof of their change of attitude from selling tickets to selling the event and the series is the ad they ran this last Sunday in all of the papers in Monterrey.  They bought a whole page in the sports section that had in Big Bold Letters “It starts today, Champ Car World Series, with speeds over 300 km/h the fastest racing series begins its 2004 season. Follow it from Long Beach at 3 PM. And it's getting closer to Monterrey at the speed of the world. Tecate Telmex Grand Prix 21, 22, 23 of May 2004”. Another example are all the billboards advertising the series first and the event second that are posted all over the city. And yet another great example are the TV ads promoting the series and the event, the ads are sponsored by TECATE.

And although it is great to see all these ads in the papers and the TV, and the billboards, the greatest improvement in marketing has been the way of handling the media. The organizers have realized that sending a few faxes and a few tickets to the TV and radio stations is useless.  They have realized that they also have to sell the series and the event to the different sports commentators and journalists, and it looks like they have done a great job at selling them the series. 

For the first time ever the organizers did an official countdown event to the race in Monterrey, presenting all of the Mexican drivers. For the first time ever, 2 local channels in Monterrey sent reporters to cover a race outside of Mexico. Yesterday I was surprised to see 2 different local sport shows in different channels, the anchors were urging people to buy tickets for the Monterrey race, one of them even said that a sold-out race should be the only acceptable thanks by the Monterrey fans for the great efforts done by OWRS to save Champ Cars.

All this makes me confident that not only will the Monterrey race be a sold-out event, but that more Mexicans will be following all of the races of the 2004 season.

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