Hand-tied by low TV ratings, yet another Indy exec jumps ship [Editor's Note: You cannot expect anyone to be successful on the commercial side of the business when you hand tie them with 0.15 TV ratings just so you can pocket the big NBC Sports Network check.]
Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles is still looking for a chief executive to oversee the commercial side of the IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The resignation this month of Mike Redlick, IMS’ chief sales and marketing officer, likely adds a little urgency to Miles’ methodical search. Redlick, who has nearly 15 years of experience working for NFL and NBA franchises, joined the Speedway in March 2011. No indication has been given as to why Redlick resigned.
Redlick's resignation is the second big blow to Miles' sales staff in recent months. Greg Gruning, IndyCar’s executive vice president of corporate sales and the series’ point man in brokering big sponsorship deals, resigned in late June.
It’s difficult to say whether Miles is being extra finicky so he can find just the right fit for the commercial CEO job or if nobody wants the position. Several candidates have surfaced and then—for various reasons—faded away.
Now, Miles, who admits the hire is taking longer than expected, says he may have to split the position into senior vice president of sales and senior vice president of marketing. Both would report to Miles.
While Miles considers dividing that key job, he continues to bring together sales efforts of the IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway in an unprecedented way.
He’s shopping combined sponsorships deals that include elements of the IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. For instance, opportunities to be a major sponsor (perhaps even a presenting sponsor) of the Indianapolis 500 could be combined with title sponsorship of the series. Miles remains hesitant to sell a title sponsorship to the Speedway itself or the Indianapolis 500, though presenting sponsors are not off the table.
The new combined sales offerings give series sponsors opportunity for high-exposure events at the Speedway, and IMS sponsors opportunity to earn exposure at numerous markets nationwide where the series races. Sports marketers say it’s difficult to predict demand for the combined opportunities.
Previously, the IndyCar Series and IMS sales staffs worked mostly separately. Miles earlier this year began melding the staffs in the hope of driving efficiencies and increase revenue for the track and open-wheel series.
Selling a series title sponsor is a top priority that Miles is leading personally. Izod bolted as title sponsor following the conclusion of the 2013 season.
In addition to the series title and presenting sponsorship deals, Miles is also looking for a sponsor for the entire month of May at IMS. But he’ll also consider selling separate presenting sponsors for the new IndyCar road race at IMS, Indianapolis 500 qualifications weekend and the Indianapolis 500 itself. Miles said he’s willing to customize a package to fit sponsors.
Miles is not only looking for sponsors that will pay hefty six- and seven-figure sums for the sponsorships, but also a six- or seven-figure sum to promote the series to expanded markets.
The push for sponsors comes as Miles makes other significant changes to the series. In addition to launching the inaugural IndyCar road race at Indianapolis on May 10, Miles has compressed the season to five months, from March 30 to Aug. 30, in part to avoid conflicts with the NFL.
Miles added: “We wanted to have more consistency so that fans can know once our season starts we’re going to be out in front of them throughout and until the end.”
The series in 2014 is losing key races including in Baltimore and Sao Paulo, Brazil.
At the same time, Miles has floated the idea of having a non-points winter series of races overseas. It’s not clear how his sales staffers will pitch sponsors for the winter series and if they’ll bundle sponsors for that winter series with the regular spring/summer series. IBJ.com