Is Champ Car at risk of racing headlong into oblivion?
|Thursday, December 27, 2007
In reference to the reader who asked about Champ Car about whether they are going to hi-definition next year, I have to ask “What is Champ Car?”
Of course, AutoRacing1.com readers know what Champ Car is, but as I walked the PRI show a few weeks back, and met with several team members and crew, there continues to be a lack of marketing effort on behalf of the Champ Car World Series. The lack of series promotion coupled with the poor TV ratings has pushed the series past the realm of irrelevance.
Outside the die-hard fan, no one really knows anything about Champ Car, and even the die-hards have no idea about who will be in what car. Imagine corporate America’s impression after being asked by teams for sponsorship, from a series few have heard of or know anything about. Is Champ Car headed for oblivion?
I’m not trying to be negative, but if things do not change, the series could face additional hardships. Being “penny-wise and pound-foolish” is no way to grow and maintain the series or company, so I’d like to throw out some suggestions to those in charge. The goal is to have a fire sale of sorts to keep current sponsors, attract new sponsors and give the “appearance” of a series that provides commercial marketing potential.
Cancel the trips, and vacations and start tending the store, so to speak. When sales are down, the leadership needs to step up and manage top to bottom.
- Pay for the production and commercial time for series sponsors who use a Champ Car, or the name Champ Car in their commercial. Starting with the current list of sponsors, (McD’s, Bridgestone, etc.) get the Champ Car name out there with entertaining commercials. Use Paul Newman, or whatever hook is needed to get attention (NASCAR sponsors have done a great job with their commercials, with their drivers always in uniform)
- The commercials should be played during top rated shows, sports and/or newscasts (not daytime soaps, or game shows and NOT only during Champ Car events!). These commercials should start playing in January and build up leading to the first race of the season. Champ Car has all the demographic information to get the message out. Time to start using that information!
- Offer the same program above for any new series or team sponsors who commit a specified amount for the 2008 season or beyond. A sponsor who commits $4 million (or whatever Champ Car decides) to a team gets free commercial time in Prime Time, again if the Champ Car name or cars are used, all paid by Champ Car.
- In order to offset costs, utilize the fan base at strategic areas in order to get free rental cars, hotels, travel, and local sponsorship for each event. For those who meet set targets, give them free tickets or VIP passes for events. For those that secure sponsorship for set amounts, pay them a commission or set finders fee. This could also include working on single race sponsorship for teams. There is no reason a car can’t have a sponsor for different events. If the cost is $4 million for the season, then $400k-500K/race event might be the next best thing.
- Pay for High Def production, and find a sponsor to cover the costs (or most of the cost). “Champ Car in HD brought to by Visio”, for example. Small sponsors should be found for the timing and scoring displayed during telecasts, “The Best Buy Pass of the Race”, etc.
- Get Ford back. Give them anything they want, but get the name back and work on co-branded commercials. Again, the series needs to have some name recognition and Ford needs some help as well.
- Have a race Memorial Day weekend, prime time if possible. That is the top motorsports weekend in the US, with almost all major series having a race. USA Today has a big motorsports section, and any race will receive some attention. Make it a Made for TV event, to be played Saturday night on ABC, with the race in the US or abroad. Make everyone run their backup cars, to get the car count up. Make the best impression for the weekend! And in case they can’t schedule an event, sponsor two cars in the Indy 500.
- A commercial press release a week. Start working with the sponsor partners to get their names out on a regular basis. News, news and more news! Technical highlights, product focus or introductions sent out to all major media outlets. Give them the exposure they deserve, and other potential sponsors might start recognizing the value.
Hopefully, Champ Car can start to do something proactive in its marketing campaign leading up to the 2008 season, instead of continually reacting to bad news or issues.
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