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‘Turbo’ Could Be an IndyCar Marketing Engine
As with other sports, auto racing is looking to the movies to help strengthen its marketing. “Turbo,” a 3-D animated film about a snail named Turbo, a motorsports fan who has Indianapolis 500 aspirations, was chosen by Izod IndyCar Series racing to widen its exposure to a younger and more family-oriented audience.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway layout and the voices of a number of real IndyCar drivers are featured in the film, securing its connection with the real world of racing. Also, several of IndyCar’s commercial partners got on board with the film, including Firestone, Sunoco, Chevrolet and Verizon. Even AAA will have a Turbo-theme safe driving campaign (snails are apparently very safe drivers).

At the New York premiere of “Turbo” last week, head-high plastic snails celebrating the film’s star character gave way to real-life stars. Namely, real racecars and Ryan Hunter-Reay, the IndyCar driver who holds third place in series points. Although Hunter-Reay has no voice in the film, other IndyCar drivers — Dario Franchitti, Will Power and Mario Andretti — do. But the filmmakers seem eager to prove the movie’s racing pedigree and had arranged for other drivers — Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan, this year’s Indianapolis 500 winner — to appear on “Today” with Hunter-Reay earlier in the day.

The film’s plot recalls the story from “The Little Engine That Could,” albeit updated and with a certain resemblance to the movie “Cars.” The plot essentially runs this way: A young hotshot hero with his mind on speed learns to become less egotistical and play well with others. Ryan Reynolds provides the voice for the lead role, and other characters are voiced by, among others, Samuel L. Jackson, Snoop Lion and Paul Giamatti, who attended the premiere. Each actor’s voice, along with the visual stimulus of hot rod-esque snail shell customizations, make each character unique.

Film franchises fit nicely around auto themes but the most successful of them are marketing engines for product tie-ins. “Cars,” from Pixar Animation Studios, achieved some $10 billion in retail sales between the first film, released in 2006, and the second, in 2011.

If IndyCar’s partnership with DreamWorks Animation on “Turbo” is any indication, auto racing is looking to hook up with the same sort of marketing powerhouse. By working with DreamWorks, the production house that created “Madagascar” and “Kung Fu Panda,” IndyCar hopes to connect with a younger audience through an engaging film, and of course, through video games and apps.

A video game has already been released, with a television series due to follow. There is also a Turbo Racing League game app. NY Times

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