Other elements of the new campaign include a special-edition issue of Racer magazine previewing the IndyCar season, which is being released digitally to subscribers today, and an effort to get the word out about the sanctioning body's new IndyRivals Fantasy Challenge game that is being introduced this season. O'Donnell said that the new marketing push comes on the heels of a strong start to the "Rivals" campaign, which was developed with Nielsen and digital-ad shop Rocket Fuel and which he credited as being partially responsible for sparking a 25% TV viewership increase last season for race broadcasts on ABC and NBC Sports Network.
O'Donnell: "Our data shows — and this is common across many sports — the more engaged the fan is with us on social media and our online content, the stronger the relationship is and it improves our loyalty to us weekend in, weekend out. We increased TV viewership because they're now fully engaged in the sport."
INDYCAR announced today it has launched the second year of its 'Rivals' advertising campaign, which features drivers including 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power, three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, defending Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, rising young stars Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe and Josef Newgarden and several others. INDYCAR will utilize platforms in TV, print, radio and digital media to expand the reach and appeal of the Verizon IndyCar Series and connect its drivers to the sport's culture of speed, daring and celebrity.
Last year, on the heels of its 'Rivals' campaign, the series experienced tremendous growth – highlighted by an overall TV viewership increase of 25% from race broadcasts on ABC and NBCSN.
"INDYCAR experienced a substantial step forward in 2014 across many of its marketing and communications platforms," said company CMO C.J. O'Donnell, who enters his second year with INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "The 'Rivals' campaign was a successful first step in the evolution of the INDYCAR brand and it clearly resonated with a passionate Verizon IndyCar Series audience. Our efforts to thrill our fans and champion our heroes will continue this year as we continue to highlight the speed and innovation that is inherent in our sport."
The 'Rivals' campaign will build on the highly successful digital advertising campaign developed last season in partnership with Nielsen and Rocket Fuel. Those efforts proved effective in the series' efforts to increase TV viewership, which improved by more than 20 percent among those who were exposed to the campaign. Nielsen and Rocket Fuel have successfully leveraged viewership data to assist INDYCAR in targeting those households most likely to tune in each weekend.
The new ads also incorporate a new form of innovation that will be introduced to INDYCAR in the 2015 season as manufacturers Chevrolet and Honda have developed their own racecar chassis designs that will be implemented this season. These new race car designs, known as aero kits, represent another step forward in improving INDYCAR's on-track performance, speed, innovation and safety.
The INDYCAR 'Rivals' campaign was developed in cooperation with partners at Johnson & Wolverton.
The Verizon IndyCar Series' 16-race season begins on March 29th with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, broadcast live on ABC at 3 p.m. ET, and will be highlighted by the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 24th.