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Atherton says State of ALMS Series is strong

ALMS
Friday, October 01, 2010

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“Strength and new growth” are on tap for the 2011 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patr¢n. That is the forecast Series President and CEO Scott Atherton delivered today in the annual State of the Series address at Road Atlanta. The Series is closing an incredibly tight 2010 championship with Petit Le Mans powered by MAZDA 2. 

“Our brand is healthy, strong and poised for growth,” proclaimed Atherton.  “Our product is well-positioned to meet our customers’ needs and business objectives.”



Atherton touched on virtually every aspect of Series’ business in his 30-minute address. He emphasized the ALMS had made significant strides even amidst the worst economic climate in decades.  He highlighted new partners, competitors, car classes, media, a new race and compelling new data from Nielsen Media Research.

The most dramatic growth area Nielsen confirmed was the 18-34 year-old age group. Nielsen verified that the coveted demographic, as a percentage of the American Le Mans Series fan base, grew by 100 percent over the last two years. 

“In an era where headlines are being made by other sports organizations that are losing interest from this key demographic,” said Atherton, “we are attracting them in record numbers.  That is truly remarkable and a testament to the relevance and technology that is emphasized by our series.  These types of metrics are extremely positive for not only the ALMS, but our marketing partners as well.”

Additional Neilson Media Research revealed:

  • Ninety (90) percent of ALMS fans believe it is important for manufacturers to develop technology through racing as opposed to lab research.
  • Fifty-two (52) percent said they would be willing to pay a premium price for automotive technology that is developed through racing.
  • Seventy-five (75) percent of ALMS fans report they are more likely to purchase products and services from companies associated with the Series (up 49 percent from two years ago).
  • Presenting sponsor Tequila Patr¢n was six times higher in brand preference than that of the next most preferred spirit.
  • Sixty (60) percent of ALMS fans responded they had switched brand preference to Patr¢n as a result of its association with the ALMS.

“These revelations speak to the broader objective of understanding and accurately assessing the marketing power of the Series and what it can do for our stakeholders,” emphasized Atherton.  “Whether you are an auto manufacturer, gourmet food company, team, driver or event promoter, the value of this platform is significant and more importantly – growing.”

New marketing partners, headed by Tequila Patr¢n in its first year as the Series’ presenting sponsor, led growth and activation as well.  Freescale Semiconductor held two “Future of Transportation Technology” seminars to share advances in that sector, a perfect resource for new partner Battery Tender as well. Yancey’s Fancy gourmet cheese conducted in-store promotions with Costco in most ALMS markets.  Meanwhile Microsoft’s Forza Motorsport 3 for Xbox showcased teams and tracks. Activation was not limited to new faces, however.  Long-standing partner Michelin produced what is considered the best promotional event in the history of the Series with its inaugural “Motorsports on Main” event in downtown Greenville, SC – just 10 days prior to Petit Le Mans – which drew an estimated crowd of 12,000 for the one-day American Le Mans Series-featured street festival.

“Growth in activation by our partners benefits all involved and is essential to the strategic growth of the Series,” said Atherton. 

One area of growth comes with the advent of a new race in Baltimore, a coveted Northeast market, on Labor Day weekend next year.

“The Baltimore Grand Prix will be a real crown jewel on our schedule next season,” said Atherton.  “The course along the Inner Harbor is perfectly suited for our fans and one that will provide our partners with excellent marketing opportunities. The location being right next door to Washington DC and our green racing links to the EPA and Department of Energy is another significant positive.”

Atherton also re-emphasized that both Sebring and Petit Le Mans races would be designated as official Intercontinental Le Mans Cup races in 2011, adding to the prestige and allure of the international competition.

The ALMS chief executive lauded new on-track content in the form of Jaguar’s initial campaign as well as the creation of the LMP Challenge class that brought seven new full-season ORECA FLM09 entries to the grid.  The Series’ full-season average car entry was the largest in its history, and for the first time, all four class championships have come down to the final race.

Atherton emphasized however, that the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patr¢n is not going to rest on its laurels.  He announced new programs for 2011 – Riley Technologies with an LMP2 chassis for customers and a Lamborghini full-season GT effort by West Racing headed by Eduardo Espindola in concert with Yokohama Tires. Coupled with Lola, ORECA and Norma commitments to build cars and the already announced engine efforts by Roush-Yates, HPD/Honda and Judd, Atherton expressed great comfort in continued content for 2011.

In addition, he confirmed that the Series will be consistent with ACO (Automobile Club de l’Ouest) regulations in 2011 including separate LMP1 and LMP2 classes.  He praised the ACO for its decision to have LMP1 race cars compete with smaller displacement engines to emphasize fuel efficiency and emission reduction while also grandfathering current P1 cars so they may be eligible next season.  He welcomed the introduction of the new cost-capped LMP2 car and cost-controlled engine programs that would provide even further distinction between cars in P1 and P2 class.

The Challenge classes (LMPC and GTC) remain in 2011 with IMSA seeking improvements on operating costs, while GTC class will be limited to only 2010 and 2011 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars with that field capped at 10. 

Media and communications was another area that Atherton emphasized.  He indicated that the Series will announce a new television package soon, while reiterating the strides made in 2010. They include live Web streaming of the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Mid-Ohio rounds – plus all qualifying sessions – along with the success of two innovative CBS docu-dramas coordinated by Intersport Productions and this weekend’s 11.5 hours of live flag-to-flag coverage of Petit Le Mans for the first time by both SPEED and Sirius XM satellite radio. 

Social media and content delivery will continue to be priorities. Americanlemans.com will continue evolving with an expanded content base, including video and interactive enhancements. Augmenting the Series’ official site will be additional emphasis on social mediums such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, along with improved and new apps for devices such as iPhone and Android.

Atherton also announced that ALMS Production Services will grow into a full-fledged production entity capable of producing broadcast-quality video and content for the Series as well as its partners with a wide range of projects including promotional material and fully produced shows similar to this year’s productions of Patr¢n GT3 presented by Yokohama coverage. 

Not overlooked in the ALMS success story of 2010 was its position as the Global Leader in Green Racing.  The Series added another alternative fuel – IsoButanol – this season. With all cars competing on one of five types of alternative fuels and/or energy sources, the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency continue to embrace the Series as the only motorsports body to meet its protocols for Green Racing. Their Green Challenge™ competition coupled with Michelin’s GREEN X® Challenge have become benchmarks in the industry for the development and scoring of green technologies and efficiencies. 

“In 2010, we built upon out status as the Global Leader of Green Racing,” said Atherton.  “Manufacturers along with both the automotive and mainstream media have acknowledged and applauded our efforts.  What started five years ago as an idea has matured into a benchmark positioning on a global scale against which all other examples are measured.”

With an anticipated record crowd for this weekend’s Petit Le Mans and strides in areas of green racing, content, new partners, and media, Atherton would undoubtedly and gladly hold up the ALMS 2010 season for the favorable results that it has delivered, on and off the track.

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