IndyCar’s No. 1 problem

A reader writes, To me, one of the largest obstacles (and easiest fixes) for getting new fans to pay attention to Indycar and for Indycar to capitalize on a new fan’s “awe" of the sport or of a driver (a new hero) is the livery of the cars.

Imagine going to a football game to cheer for your favorite player on your favorite team. Yet, at almost every game he is wearing a different number on his jersey or the team is a different color or the team is using a different logo. How can you keep up with who is who and which team is which unless you are a diehard fan (and even then it is difficult)? Well, that is exactly what you have in Indycar.

Bernie Ecclestone (the head genius of Formula 1) realized this was a huge obstacle for attracting and maintaining fans many years ago. What did he do? He made it mandatory that each team use a specific color on their car and no other team could use the same color. This created continuity and identity for the teams, for the drivers, and most importantly for the fans. It allows fans to quickly identify the team and drivers as they fly by at 100+mph, which is a lot quicker than any football player runs down the field.

The counter argument is that corporate sponsors will only want to sponsor a car if they can paint the car in their logo. Horse manure! First, where are the sponsors now? They are not here because the sport isn’t popular enough. Second, how did Ecclestone’s idea work in Formula 1? It’s the second most popular sport in the world (behind soccer…err, football to the rest of the world) and by a long shot the most popular form of the motorsports in the world. Corporate sponsors are plentiful in F1 to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. Do they give this advertising money to the teams only if they change the car’s livery to their corporate logo and colors? No! They don’t care at all.

So let me ask you these questions. Which color are the Ferrari cars? Which color are the McLaren cars? What about the new Mercedes team or the RedBulls? Heck, what about the Caterhams? Even for the casual F1 viewer, these are easy questions for them to answer. Now let’s ask the same questions about Indycar. What color are the Penske cars? What about the Andretti cars? Ganassi?

You probably said the Ganassi cars were the red Target cars, right? And that the Penske cars were the red and white “Marlboro" colored cars, right? If you did you would be wrong on all accounts, with partial credit for the Ganassi cars because most of them are the red Target colored cars, but not all. The Penske cars and the Andretti cars are all different colors, logos, and livery.

So let’s go a bit further to the more important question of asking the 10 year old kid in the stands to point out the car that his/her new hero is driving.

Quickly, describe to me the car that Sebastian Vettel is driving? How about Fernando Alonso? What about Lewis Hamilton? I bet the kid got each of them right.

Now to Indycar with the same 10 year-old kid in the stands at a race. What car is Castroneves driving? What about Marco Andretti? Graham Rahal? Dario Franchitti? I bet the kid only got Franchitti’s right…and the kid would only be right at some of the races because he was driving a purple-ish colored car during many races of the year.

In both of those examples, I named probably the most easily recognizable driver names to the casual fan in both series.

The point is that Indycar has to make it easy to follow the sport if you want maintain established fans as fans, want new fans to continue to be fans, and to convert casual fans into real fans. How can the 10 year-old kid follow his hero (and, yes, I whole heartedly agree with AR1 that it’s about the drivers and the drivers being advertised as heroes) if the kid cannot follow his/her hero from race to race or year to year? How can anyone for that matter? Where is the continuity?

No amount of putting lipstick on a pig or coming up with new promos to prop up one single race will make a difference in the long run. This one will and it is easy to implement with a simple rule stating that each car in a team must have the same color scheme. Just think of watching the Indy 500 and you can easily tell with a casual glance where the Ganassi (red) cars are on the track, where the Andretti (dark blue) cars are, and the Penske (yellow) cars are. Are the teammates working together on the track? Is it easy to tell which team and hero (driver) is leading? Now imagine ESPN doing their highlights of the race – can you easily tell who is doing well in the race without even listening to the ESPN commentators?

People will not change to follow another or a new sport unless it is easy to do so….period. D. Hughes Cincinnati, OH

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