Q and A with IndyCar boss Mark Miles
He has been talking to the team owners and getting their feedback on what the sport needs.
"They all have their personal concerns about the sport, but they are all united in their common desire to grow the sport. More than anything they want clarity and leadership in the sport.
"I think the product is great, but some of the topics we are focused on came out of the Boston consulting Group report.
“They asked the right questions,” Miles said. “How do you get more fan engagement? How do you have higher television ratings? What is authentically the INDYCAR brand? How does your schedule –North American and international – help you grow fans and increase the economics for the whole INDYCAR family? What should we be doing better to promote the series?
"We need to move from where we are today more toward innovation without driving the teams out of the sport from a cost perspective and that is not easily done. We need to look at a number of things - tires can contribute to speed, body kits, more HP. This is the fastest series in the world. It has been 2006 since we set records at the Speedway. How can we get incrementally faster to safely inch our way back up to record speeds?"
“I think that’s a big hook for the public,” he said, adding that tires, aero kits and engine horsepower all or individually could contribute to speed (Ryan Briscoe won the 2012 pole for the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race with a four-lap average of 226.484 mph). “We need to move from where we are toward innovation while being mindful of costs to teams. We are the fastest series in racing, and that ought to be top of mind and noted.
“It’s a little bit complicated, but there might not be a next INDYCAR CEO, per se,” Miles said. “Our organization has kind of built two organizations. You've got structure at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway organization that has sales and marketing and licensing and communications and then you've got the exact same functions staffed differently at the INDYCAR organization, across the street from each other.
''So I think anybody coming to it would say, 'Could we be a higher-performing, more effective organization with more money to invest in human resources if we put those together?' There are a couple of different models (including an individual who would oversee technology and competition and another who would oversee a commercial division). You determine structure based on the talents available to you.
"There are different ways we can put the two organizations together, we are working on it. It somewhat depends on the talent you have available to you and we ultimately will decide our structure based on the talent we have. There are different versions we are looking. It's similar to a basketball coach who will plan his offensive and defensive strategy based on the type of players he has.
A second scenario could lead to streamlined operations for IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway with Miles in charge and strong leaders running the day-to-day operations.
Miles said there are a few potential CEO candidates he's "looked at the resumes and thought 'this might work,' "but that conversations with Brown are the most serious. But it's up to Brown to decide if he's truly interested in the job.
"He's got a complicated life that he's got to sort out, and we've also got to do our due diligence. You don't just fall in love overnight,'' Miles said. ''We continue to learn about each other and how we think, and he can speak for himself - he's got other interests, and this isn't a part-time gig. So we've got to see."
"I have a lot of passion for IndyCar and I'm getting to know Mark," Brown told AP in an E-mail en route to London. "We are exploring to see if there's a way to work together. It's a great product and I'm positive I could contribute to its growth and success."
With TV ratings being so low, we asked if he has considered breaking the NBC Sports Network TV contract and moving to another platform.
"It is not on the table to break the NBC Sports Network contract," said Miles. "A very high priority of mine is to increase TV ratings. We are doing some things to more the needle a little at a time. We had a conversation with John Miller yesterday about how they can promote IndyCar. Everyone there at NBC are focused to raise that platform. I think F1 and IndyCar on the same platform can be a positive. Having races of both allows you to tease fans of one with the other. Data from the Boston Consulting group shows that small incremental increases in TV ratings can have a big impact on sponsorship for teams. Just don't expect ratings go from 0.5 to 4.0 overnight.
Talk about the turbo movie came up. "I just saw a near final version of the film in Los Angeles," added Miles. "It is close to done. It's really good. We loved it. Their message to us is that it is testing better than expected with adults, teenagers and kids. It will probably premier in theaters in July in conjunction with the Toronto race. You will begin to work together promoting it as early as May.
AR1.com asked him whether there are any plans to have IndyCar advertisements in theaters before the movie like we see with NASCAR.
"That is precisely something we are looking at," smiled Miles. "Good idea!"
"I never bought time in Theaters before but we now understand who we have to buy it from and how they price it. You cannot buy time before Turbo showings only, but I think it is a cost effective way for us to tie the IndyCar brand to the movie and increase awareness of the sport."
It was the first opportunity AR1.com had to meet Mark Miles in person, but it's clear he is very smart and asking all the right questions. Our initial impression was excellent and in Miles IndyCar may finally have a leader that can indeed move the needle up.
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