New deals package IndyCar Series, IMS

Hulman & Co., owner of the IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, is selling sponsorships that include both the property and facility for the first time.

The move follows new CEO Mark Miles’ reorganization of the company earlier this year. He brought sales for both the series and the facility into the same division, and that opened the door to selling sponsorships that include speedway and series assets. Previously, both IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway had independent sales teams that sold separate sponsorships. On occasion, in select categories, they worked together to offer potential sponsors a package that included assets from both the property and facility, but that was rare. Now, all deals will include assets from both.

The first test of the new approach will be on display as Hulman Motorsports, which oversees both IMS and IndyCar, searches for a new title sponsor for the IndyCar Series. Izod, which was paying $10 million a year to title sponsor the IndyCar Series, announced last month that it will end its sponsorship after this year.

Miles is spearheading the effort to replace Izod. The series last year under former CEO Randy Bernard priced a new title sponsorship at $6 million a year in rights fees and $5 million a year in media, but Miles said that the price of the sponsorship will be dictated by the mix of IndyCar and IMS assets that a new title sponsor wants.

“We’re not going out and saying, ‘We’re selling a title, and it has to look like this,’" Miles said. “We think we should look at the array of assets and convey to partners that we’re not interested in selling sponsorships separately from IMS. We’re looking at it as though we have a lot of assets. Then we can ask what’s appealing."

The push to find a title sponsor coincides with an effort to sell presenting sponsorships during the month of May. IndyCar will hold events at IMS that month over three weekends — a road race, qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 and the Indy 500.

Hulman Motorsports is looking to sell a presenting sponsorship for the entire month or three separate presenting sponsorships for those three weekends. The sales push coincides with an effort to make the month more compelling. The May 10 road race is a new event designed to draw fans to IMS and generate enthusiasm for qualifying and the Indy 500. Miles also wants to make qualifying more compelling by setting the pole late in the day on Sunday, May 18, and he hopes to add a high-profile concert at the end of Legends Day, the Saturday night before the Indy 500.

“I see the possibility of selling the weekends [separately]," Miles said. “There’s also the possibility of selling the whole thing as a portfolio."

Motorsports marketers think including IndyCar and IMS assets in sponsorship deals will help brands and Hulman Motorsports. Brands will benefit by being able to negotiate deals with one rather than two companies, which should result in price efficiencies. Hulman Motorsports will benefit by offering sponsors interested in the IndyCar Series the chance to activate on-site at the sport’s marquee event, the Indy 500, and offering sponsors interested in IMS the opportunity to activate at more than a dozen other races through the IndyCar Series.

“Anyone who wants to be involved with the league wants to be involved with the speedway," said Jon Flack, president and COO of JMI, an Indianapolis-based motorsports agency. “You’d think there would be financial efficiencies, more unified activations and ways to extend marketing campaigns from the Indy 500 to the series. [Hulman Motorsports] should be able to get bigger categories at bigger price points."

In addition to looking for a new title sponsor, Miles said he is continuing to look for a CEO to oversee Hulman Motorsports, who will oversee the commercial business of IndyCar and IMS. He began the search nearly a year ago and said that finding the right candidate has been difficult.

IMS Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Mike Redlick resigned last week. Miles said that if he can’t find the right fit for the CEO job, he may split the job in two and hire a senior vice president of sales and a senior vice president of marketing and communications. Both would report to Miles.

“We have taken significantly longer than I expected," Miles said. “We’re comfortable with that because it’s more important to get it right than get it fast. We’re going to be happy with the result and have an answer in due course this year."

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