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Izod Likes its Bang for IndyCar Buck
When you hear someone mention “Izod,” what comes to mind? Preppy guys sporting collared, short sleeved shirts complete with crocodile logo at a backyard barbeque, talking business and bragging on their golf game?

Maybe so. But counter intuitive as it might be, Izod’s biggest foray into sports marketing isn’t the country club world of tennis or golf. The Philips Van Heusen brand is in its second year as title sponsor for IndyCar, whose signature event, the Indianapolis 500, runs this weekend. The company pegs the investment at “mid-eight figures” over at least six years, which generally jibes with earlier published reports of $10 million annually (it’s hard not to wonder why sports sponsors always insist on giving ballpark estimates of their deals instead of the precise number – if you’re coming that close, is there really any competitive advantage to stopping short of the actual figure, or are you just doing it because you can?).

So why auto racing? Philips Van Heusen Chief Marketing Officer Mike Kelly says that some aggressive research his crew conducted a few years ago showed that when it comes to the psyche of male fashion, the power of both sports and transportation is huge. “The notion of cars, trucks and motors are always in the minds of boys,” says Kelly. Transportation information, he found, is devoured by the 18-35 male at about four times the rate of pure fashion information. Hence, you’ve found a good spot to attach yourself to. “When you have brands that are 45, 50 years old, you always have to be going after that NextGen male,” he says.

With a regional schedule of 17 races, IndyCar gets Izod into the Midwest, south, and both coasts. The company makes aggressive use of co-branding, teaming up with Mattel for a Hot Wheels for a jumping stunt and with Honda for a car giveaway and a “Fastest Seat in Sports” promotion that gives a lucky fan a chance to rise with racing legend Mario Andretti.

Kelly confirms that the IndyCar exposure has yielded double-digit (10% or more) annual sales growth for the Izod brand (again – estimating just because you can). Another thing Kelly likes about the racing racket: compared to the NBA, where Izod hold naming rights to the New Jersey Nets arena, there’s a lot more networking going on around the racing pit.  “It’s amazing how many guys are walking around looking to do business,” he says. “At the Nets games, there’s no really around doing that.”  Kelly says he does expect to re-up with the New Jersey arena for a deal based around concerts and college sports, even with the NHL and NBA tenants now gone. But the biggest way to a man’s fashion heart, he believes, is through cool cars. And, no doubt, through Danica Patrick.  Forbes.com

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