Tudor to sponsor new United SportsCar Racing series
On Thursday it was announced that Tudor would be the main series sponsor of the new United SportsCar Racing.
Just 135 days from the 2014 Rolex 24 hours at Daytona, the debut race for the new United SportsCar Racing series (the combined Grand-Am and American Le Mans Series), they get a new name and an “entitlement” sponsor.
United SportsCar Racing, we hardly knew ye, because now it's the Tudor United SportsCar Championship. The five-year deal with Tudor, “an innovative and retro-chic brand,” we're told, matches the series with “a premium Swiss watchmaking brand appealing to people with an acute sense of style, a desire to be different, and uncompromising quality expectations. Its price positioning sits in the premium segment that complements Rolex's position in the high-end luxury segment.”
Esquire magazine touted Tudor as “the younger, more affordable little brother to some brand you may have heard of, called Rolex.” Tudor was launched in 1946 by Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf, but was pulled from the U.S. market in 2004. Now it's back, and Rolex is using its longstanding partnership with Grand-Am to launch it.
Said IMSA CEO Ed Bennett, “This is a natural progression of the fantastic relationship we've cherished for decades with our partners at Rolex.”
“For years Tudor has been inspired by motorsports," said brand manager Russell Kelly. “This new partnership between Tudor and IMSA allows us to elevate our commitment to sports-car racing. This is the perfect alignment between partners dedicated to performance and precision.”
Several announcements remain for the United SportsCar Championship, including the 2014 schedule, which is expected to include about a dozen races, likely dropping some present venues such as Lime Rock, Mid-Ohio and Kansas, and will possibly feature GT cars (and no prototypes) at Long Beach, and Prototypes (and no GT cars) in Detroit, though the latter would seem like an enormous mistake. Also awaited is the precise formula required to performance-balance the slower, heavier Daytona Prototype cars with the ALMS's LMP2 cars, likely done through more downforce and more horsepower for the DP cars.
Q and A
DAVID HIGDON: Good morning, everybody. Excited to have you all here. Breakfast today was hosted by our friends at IMSA. We have Chairman of the Board of IMSA and the Vice chair of NASCAR, Jim France, here with us today. Thanks, Jim, for everything that you do for us and SportsCar. Also with Jim, to his left, is the President of NASCAR, Mike Helton, who joined us this morning on a busy day, knowing this is an important day for the world of motorsports.
I'd like to introduce to you first to two of our folks who will be here to talk about the announcement. First, the President of IMSA, Mr. Scott Atherton. Scott, why don't you join us on stage. And joining Scott is the Vice President of Rolex to talk about one of his affiliate brands and their association with SportsCar moving forward in 2014. Peter Nicholson, come join us up here.
I'm going to turn it over to Mr. Atherton. Scott, if you want to fill everyone in on today's news.
SCOTT ATHERTON: Thank you very much, David.
Good morning, everyone, and I appreciate you joining us. I know as David already said, it's a busy day here, and today for us is going to be historic. I think if you asked any motorsports sanctioning body executive what are the important ingredients for a successful series, for sure you would hear things about the quality of the teams, the professionalism, ideally you'd have multiple manufacturers, you'd need a big schedule that had all the right races at all the right racetracks. And I think if you look at the merger that's occurred between the GRAND-AM Rolex Series and the American LeMans Series presented by Tequila Patr¢n, when you combine those two together, I think we've got a check in all those boxes.
But if you were to ask, again, what's the most important ingredient, I believe it's having a series title sponsor who is a true partner that is out there actively pursuing and building the brand in a partnership way. And with that, it is my distinct pleasure this morning to announce that the TUDOR watch brand has become the title sponsor of United SportsCar Racing in what from today forward will be called the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
It's a five year commitment, which on the heels of the five year term that we announced a few weeks back with a television partnership with FOX Sports, I think this places SportsCar racing in North America in the strongest position it's ever been.
So Peter, on behalf of all of us with United SportsCar Racing, what is now the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, a sincere and genuine thank you, and I can't wait to get this kicked off. Over to you.
PETER NICHOLSON: It's a very historic day for the TUDOR watch brand. It's fair to say that the TUDOR DNA reflects style and design, a passion for top performance, and truly a reference for motorsports. TUDOR has been involved creating motorsports chronographs since the early '70s and has a great, great history there.
So to join forces and to be united with IMSA and in recognition of this wonderful merger of ALMS and GRAND AM, where we've also had a long term relationship, we couldn't be more proud. TUDOR is very committed to moving ahead in a big way with activation, with media. It's a great opportunity for our brand, too, because we're re-launching, and so on a beautiful day it's hard to say it was a perfect storm, but it really was a perfect alignment between two re-launches of a major source, and we look forward to the beginning of a wonderful relationship today and most importantly with racing in 2014.
DAVID HIGDON: Peter, my first question is today is obviously not coincidental. You have a big event in New York, New York Fashion Week. Can you explain a little bit about the TUDOR brand and the launch that you have this evening in Chelsea Piers?
PETER NICHOLSON: Yes, well, we've had the makings of a TUDOR re-launch in the U.S. for about a year, and tonight is the culmination of that in New York at the end of Fashion Week. We'll be downtown in the Meat Packing District. We'll have about 700 folks from all kinds of walks of life to help launch the brand. We've got jewelers who are up and running across the country, and tonight is really a quick time out to thank all the folks that we work with that have been involved, and to raise a glass to a wonderful future for the TUDOR watch brand.
DAVID HIGDON: Scott, I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about when you were dealing with the entitlement, obviously had a lot of interest. Why TUDOR? Why not Rolex? What was the ultimate decision there and how that came together with Peter?
SCOTT ATHERTON: The merging together of the two SportsCar series has pleasantly had the residual effect of a lot of interest by not only teams and manufacturers but also sponsors, and for the first time we actually had more interest than we had capacity for the entitlement.
We made a commitment early on between both the Rolex partnership that was in place with GRAND AM and the Tequila Patr¢n partnership that was with the American Le Mans Series. It was, for lack of a better description, a first right of refusal. The TUDOR opportunity came about, as Peter said, the timing simply couldn't have been better. You had an opportunity there to re-launch a brand in North America with brand attributes that were very much in line with what this SportsCar platform represents, and when you look at what this provides for us in terms of an activation partnership, I want to say quickly that it doesn't mean that our partnership with Tequila Patr¢n is going away, but we are not going to be pursuing a presenting sponsorship. This will be a full title and we will keep it clean, so to speak, and keep the focus on TUDOR. But our rapport with Tequila Patr¢n continues.
DAVID HIGDON: Peter, just to be clear, Rolex will still be involved in SportsCar in other fashions, including the 24 Hours, right?
PETER NICHOLSON: Yes, Rolex continues its involvement with the Rolex 24 At Daytona. We'll be involved with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, and obviously Rolex is involved with F1 and the 24 Hours at Le Mans. TUDOR is a timing partner of the World Endurance Championship, and so that is also an important consideration. TUDOR is also a timing partner of Ducati on a global basis. TUDOR has deep roots in motorsports, and it just teams like a wonderful opportunity, and we couldn't be happier launching it with our new partner.
PETER NICHOLSON: Sure. Well, we know that we'll have tremendous interest at retail among our jewelers to bring people out. We've experienced that over time, certainly with GRAND AM, and we know that it'll only get bigger and better with Tudor out in the marketplace.
SCOTT ATHERTON: I would say that we have, for the first time, an entitlement partner with the capability of activating in an unrestricted way. We can't go into the details of this relationship, but I will say that it is a vertically integrated partnership. There's a commitment to media activation, at track activation. You're going to see the two entities between United SportsCar as a motorsports platform and the TUDOR watch brand working very closely together to build each other's brands.
PETER NICHOLSON: That's a very good question. The TUDOR brand, the name was registered in 1926. The brand was founded in Geneva in 1946. It's its own vertically integrated brand. There's a Rolex brand and there's a TUDOR brand. And since the '60s and '70s, TUDOR has had a huge involvement with performance, whether it's been water based watches, whether it's been motorsports watches. I think when you look back at the '70s, it was kind of the golden age of motorsports, and TUDOR took advantage of that opportunity, was designing sports chronographs back then that are prized by collectors today. That enthusiasm has continued, and in about 2007, TUDOR kind of re-launched its design ethic and began to bring back some of the great old treasures but give them a new modern twist. Our group calls them a retro-chic look, so retro obviously paying homage to the prior generations, and chic being something that looks good today with splashes of color and a different kinds of straps and materials and things that just aren't done on the other brands.
For TUDOR, it's a great opportunity with more involvement in motorsports to even go deeper into design.
SCOTT ATHERTON: It's next up, candidly. I'd hate to put a marker on a date and not deliver, but we are very, very close, and for sure it will be our next news to come.
SCOTT ATHERTON: That's a tough question for me to answer. There's certainly autonomous championships here, and I think where we will benefit from the direct link we have with NASCAR, today is a perfect example, being able to be a part of this much larger event that's directly tied specifically to NASCAR and the Sprint Cup and the Chase. I don't see us merging our sponsorship brands together, but time will tell.