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Editorial

CART Not Branded - the world is confused

 

 by Paul Josephson
August 10, 2001

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It's no wonder that the world is somewhat confused when it comes to CART.  First and foremost, when you mention CART racing, you immediately get blank stare #1.  The average American immediately envisions go-kart, shopping cart or golf cart racing.  CART!?!?  What's a CART?  Then ask them what a Champ Car is. Watch out for blank stare #2   Just getting past those two hurdles can be a challenge.  There are so many things CART can do to stop the confusion.  In this article we start with Branding 101 - 'At the race track'.

Let's start with the very basic of concepts that have alluded CART - the names of CART races and related souvenir programs. Many CART racing events do not use the CART name or have the CART logo for CART races that are promoted through billboard, newspaper, radio, and TV advertising. The lack of CART branding on many types of race promotions carries over to race program covers as well. Below are some observations from a few of this year's program covers for CART races:

Program cover title: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
Logos on program cover: FedEx and the TGPLB; no mention of CART 
Type of car(s) depicted on program cover: CART (Newman-Haas #6 and Target #12) 

Program cover title: Grand Prix of Detroit
Logos on program cover: FedEx and IMG Motorsports; no mention of CART (Did IMG Motorsports omit CART from the cover on purpose, knowing that it was probably the last race at Belle Isle?) 
Type of car depicted on program cover: Close-up of cockpit and driver; could have been almost any kind of open wheel race car

Program cover title: Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland
Logos on program cover: Firstar, FedEx, CART, and IMG Motorsports 
Type of car depicted on program cover: CART (Sigma's) 

Program cover title: Michigan 500 Presented by Toyota; Michigan ARCA 200
Logos on program cover: FedEx, ARCA RE/MAX Series, and the Michigan International Speedway; no mention of CART (Did MIS omit CART from the cover on purpose, knowing that it was probably the last race at MIS?)
Type of car depicted on program cover: CART (Target #12) 

Program cover title: Target Grand Prix
Logos on program cover: Energizer, Chicago Motor Speedway, and FedEx; no mention of CART
Type of car depicted on program cover: CART (Target #12)

Observations

1.) CART was not part of the event name for these five races.
2.) The CART logo was on only one of these five program covers. Any major sporting event involving a company should ALWAYS have the company logo prominently displayed somewhere with the event on the program cover.
3.) The FedEx logo was on all five program covers. (Kudos to FedEx!)
4.) Although four of the five program covers featured a CART car, it wasn't clear what type of car was depicted on the cover for the Belle Isle race. A CART car should always be clearly featured on the program cover.

A CART race weekend features other support races, but let's face it - the CART race IS the main event. It's the event that draws the people, so why can't the CART name be part of it as well to better establish branding for the series? Race sponsors, such as Toyota, deserve to have their company name as part of the event name, but shouldn't the Long Beach race, for example, be renamed the CART Grand Prix of Long Beach Presented by Toyota?

Also, CART promotions rarely mention the fact that the series is the fastest, most diverse, and most competitive major racing series in the world. I have heard CART officials, including Joe Heitzler, use these adjectives to describe the series, but I can't recall if I have ever seen these words in print or heard them spoken on radio or TV ads as part of a CART race promotion.

For these and other reasons, the confusion about CART branding exists. The marketing of CART racing should be improved to provide substance and consistency in branding wherever CART races are promoted. CART needs to:

  1. Strive for its own identity;

  2. Work with track promoters to better link race events with the CART name and cars; and 

  3. Find ways to better promote its strengths (i.e., fastest, most competitive and diverse) that make it such a fantastic racing series.

To be continued......

The author can be contacted at contacts@autoracing1.com

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