Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
February 2, 2011
THE MODERATOR: Welcome, everybody, to today's IZOD IndyCar Series conference call. Earlier today Penske Racing made two separate sponsor announcements with GuidePoint Systems coming onboard to sponsor the team's three IZOD IndyCar Series entries and serve as primary sponsor of the cars driven by Helio Castroneves for five races and Ryan Briscoe for two races.
The team also welcomed aboard PPG, which extends its long-time partnership with the team, to include sponsorship of the three IZOD IndyCar Series cars as well as primary sponsorship for Ryan Briscoe's car for three events at Milwaukee, Iowa and Kentucky.
We're joined today by Tim Cindric, president of Penske Racing, Geoff Dixon of GuidePoint Systems, Bill Shaw of PPG, and IZOD IndyCar Series drivers Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves.
Gentlemen, thank you for taking the time to join us today.
Tim, first question for you. I know you have had a busy off-season. Obviously we've had announcements for Shell-Pennzoil, Meijer, IZOD, AAA, and now GuidePoint Systems and PPG. How does all of that fit together in the program for the team?
TIM CINDRIC: Well, I think first of all the unique thing about today is we have an opportunity to announce an extension of a partner we've had within Penske for over 32 years in PPG. Anytime when we are able to do that, continue that continuity, obviously we feel like we've done our jobs collectively to have that kind of relationship. It really means that both companies have a win-win over the years.
Then to bring GuidePoint on that is new to the series, new to the organization in some ways, but to be able to establish that partnership on and off the track, I think it's something we're really looking forward to. To be able to kick off the first race the year with GuidePoint and Helio, I think it will certainly prove to be a strong springboard for the year.
THE MODERATOR: Geoff, as Tim mentioned, your company is new to IndyCar racing. What is it about the sport that drew GuidePoint into the system? I guess it makes great business sense at this time for the company to come onboard?
GEOFF DIXON: Yes, it makes great sense for us, being an automotive supplier with some new and some exciting high-tech products that are out there when we were looking for a way to expand our brand and awareness out there, we couldn't think of anybody better than the Penske Racing team.
THE MODERATOR: Bill, you have a long history with Team Penske and PPG has a long history with the sport of IndyCar Series. What about the IZOD IndyCar Series encouraged your company to step up to be a primary sponsor of Ryan Briscoe.
BILL SHAW: It's just really trying to extend our reach within Penske Motorsports and the proud legacy that we've had. It was just a strong natural extension to kind of get back into open-wheel racing and join up with Ryan and the team to continue to promote our brand. We're very excited about the additional exposure.
THE MODERATOR: Helio, you're going to carry a few paint schemes this season. First, do you think you have room in your car? And how excited are you to welcome a company such as GuidePoint to the IndyCar Series?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Well, I'm super excited. Certainly everybody from Team Penske working together, the relationship they have with PPG, it's a long time. We're really happy that we have an opportunity now to put it on the car. It's been on the car before, but now the name as well. And GuidePoint, certainly we had a sponsorship with Philip Morris for so many years. We're very thankful for what they did for us for the entire season.
Now opening up an opportunity for new brands, new names, certainly GuidePoint is one of them. We're also really, really excited. I just can't wait. One thing for sure, they're going to know where I'm going. I'm not going to be able to get lost and nobody is going to be able to steal my car (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Ryan, I knew it was an exciting week for you with that football game down in Texas. Adding companies like PPG and GuidePoint to your car for 2011 has to make you pretty excited and looking forward to getting the season started?
RYAN BRISCOE: Absolutely. Reiterating about the phenomenal job everybody at Penske Racing has been doing over the off-season, the marketing team, Roger, Tim, everyone has been working so hard on getting these sponsors signed up. It's just really exciting to add these two to the list.
I'll be really glad to run with GuidePoint and PPG. Just can't wait to carry those colors.
THE MODERATOR: Let's open it up for questions from the media for any of our guests today.
Q. Helio, I'm sure you watched some of the 24-Hour race over the weekend. A lot of your fellow competitors were there from Ganassi. How anxious are you to get in some kind of a racecar after this long layoff?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yes, I'm really anxious to be back behind the wheel. My buddy Ryan did everything he could, finishing in the top five, actually it was pretty good. Again, it's one of those things that you've got to do what you've got to do, waiting for the right opportunity.
Right now we're just focused for the first session, for the first pass we're going to have coming soon hopefully. But certainly I'm really anxious. There is not much more we can do than running, lifting weights, stuff like that to keep ourselves in shape.
The good news is with so many associates we have this year, so great to start a new relationship and traveling, kind of like knowing everybody from the beginning, even some of the associates and partners we have, it's going to be for three or four races, still you can see the excitement of everyone just to be part of Team Penske.
For me, that keeps up the rhythm. But certainly nothing like being behind the wheel, driving the car, and I just can't wait.
But the rules are rules. You have to wait for your opportunity to be back behind the wheel. But I'm sure when we get back it's going to be a relief.
Q. Ryan, could you comment about your 24-Hour experience. Are you actually coming to the Super Bowl because we're snow bound here in Fort Worth?
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, definitely hoping that clears up for the weekend.
No, it was really good. It was fun to participate in the 24-Hour. It was fun getting in race mode, doing plenty of laps down there. We had such a long off-season, hopefully the work I did at the Daytona 24 is going to help for the IndyCar Series this year.
It's a huge year for us. We have all these new sponsors. It's going to be extremely important that we can do everyone proud, do the team proud, and go on and get a championship.
I just can't wait for the first test and first race at St. Petersburg to get this season going.
THE MODERATOR: Ryan, I know we kind of mentioned the Super Bowl. How does a guy from Australia get to be a fan of the Green Bay Packers? What has this month been like following this team?
RYAN BRISCOE: It's been a lot of fun. Definitely the Green Bay Packer thing comes from my wife and all of her family there. They're huge Green Bay fans; always have been. So from this I've certainly become a big follower, one of their biggest fans.
This season we've been to four of their games, starting with the one at Lambeau in December when they beat the Giants. A big thanks to Verizon actually. They provided the tickets to go to that first game. They're taking us down to the Super Bowl. Myself, Helio and Will, we're all going down this weekend. Will and Helio are cheering on the Packers, as well, because they need all the support they can get. Right, Helio?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: That's right, my friend. I can see who wears the pants in the family over there (laughter).
BILL SHAW: Ryan, you know what PPG stands for? It's Pittsburgh Plate Glass.
RYAN BRISCOE: It's a sore subject, but I still support the Green Bay Packers (laughter).
Q. Over the last few years it seems like sponsorships have been pretty hard to get. Are they getting a little easier now?
TIM CINDRIC: I think certainly you're right. The past couple years industry has looked at things much closer. It's not as simple as putting a name on a racecar and thinking that's enough in terms of your brand awareness.
Fortunately we've been able to put together a very strong brand on and off the track. I think what you're seeing now is obviously a lot of the sponsors we have, they're really more than sponsors, they're our partners. To have the ability to expand partnerships for us is a much better strategy than really trying to find sponsors.
It's something that Roger really started the whole association with sponsorship, that type of thing, way back in the Sonoco days, of bringing sponsors in, figuring out how to tie that into his business.
It's been a huge benefit for us. I think that the partners that we have see the value in it beyond just the B-to-B aspect or I'm sure they'd do something different.
THE MODERATOR: Obviously it's difficult to get sponsorship. There's been some positive momentum with the IndyCar Series with recent announcements. Is that momentum something that kind of incites the business community to jump into a sport after watching it from afar?
GEOFF DIXON: I can answer that. The positive standpoint is yes, it is. You see the growth and exposure to it made it easier to make the decision along with the partnership side of the whole program.
BILL SHAW: I would concur with that. Obviously being close to the drivers on the Indy side for years as well, it was just a natural progression for PPG.
Q. Tim, I'm kind of curious about what you guys do in your approach to sponsorships. It seems like we get one announcement after another. Is there something you do differently than other teams?
TIM CINDRIC: Well, I don't know honestly because it's been a while since I've experienced the other teams' side of how we approach things these days.
For us, we put together a staff where Roger has instilled in us to anticipate things in life rather than react to them. There's certain things in racing that you have to react to, but there's a lot more things that you have to anticipate.
About four or five years ago we felt like the model was changing and we couldn't rely on a CEO-level relationship like we have in the past with Philip Morris or Miller Brewing Company in NASCAR. A lot of these associations were because they enjoyed racing, the camaraderie, that type of thing, and they also liked to see their brand on racecars.
We felt like we needed to put together a more strategic approach and position ourselves to where from a business-to-business perspective we would not only have sponsors, but we would have partners. Those partners would race with us, they would win and lose with us on the weekends, and hopefully we would win together during the week.
We put together a program in which Bud Decker came to us with Kodak, and he had been on the other side of the fence as a sponsor of our organization. With him coming onboard, we decided to really revamp our marketing department. Again, we brought on another person in Jonathan Gibson who had been on the other side of the fence. So we brought people into our organization that knew what the sponsors and our partners needed out of the relationship to make sure it was productive and it was a win-win. They've been able to fill people around them.
I think what we've got better at is servicing those partners to what their needs are and showing them the way to really bring home what the ROI is on the association and be able to spread that message within their own organization.
Q. Tim, can you tell me if there's been I guess an intentional shift towards something to seek a sponsorship for a season, primary sponsorships, in blocks more than maybe the full-season traditional single primary sponsor we've been accustomed over the years? Is that an adjustment you've made internally or is that an adjustment you made simply because that is what the market is demanding these days?
TIM CINDRIC: That's a good question. Certainly being able to add a full-season sponsor like Verizon, and in the Cup Series when we look at Miller Lite, if we look across the board at NASCAR and IndyCar, there's very few sponsors that are able to sustain that whole partnership and what it takes to do that throughout the season. You can count on one hand how many organizations are able to sustain that at the right level.
I think for us, we had to change our strategy to where that's the goal. The goal is to have three or four primary sponsors that we run all season with and build that equity between the two organizations. But obviously with the economy and the way things have been, we knew that wasn't realistic and we needed to keep trying to figure out how to get organizations that are still key organizations, that are organizations that are at the top of their business platforms among their peers, and bring organizations in like Shell and GuidePoint and some of these other sponsors into the series, to get their feet wet and try to understand what it's all about. They're going to walk here before they run, I'm sure.
Between the series' growth and the hopefully the wins we have on and off the track, we'll be able to build them into bigger programs longer term. And from a series standpoint the more of these type of sponsors that the series is able to have associated with them, the more they can spread the word really what IndyCar racing is all about.
Q. The quick follow-up would be, it sounds like it's not just a shift in approach from your end but also something you're finding sponsors are reacting favorably to in that you're not asking them to write a massive check up front for something they are taking a bit of a leap of faith on, compared to this model, the initial buy-in, per se, isn't huge, and you hope if they like it, they sign up for more in the coming years.
TIM CINDRIC: Yeah, that model has proven over and over again with Roger over the years. Verizon is another great example. They didn't come in and say, We're going to sponsor a season. They came in and helped us with Will at Indianapolis, and that grew into a few other races. They saw the value in it. They saw what IndyCar had to offer. More importantly, they saw where it was going in the future and the things they could do with racing that they couldn't do with some of the other programs they had within their marketing.
When I say that, I'm not referring to motorsports, I'm referring to their stick-and-ball or traditional programs. It offers a unique approach for their consumer, for their VIP.
With IndyCar, the access you get is really incredible when you look at almost being in the locker rooms with the team, being on the sidelines with the coach, and being able to hear what's actually happening during the race itself.
It's a unique experience that's hard to explain. And once they get a taste of it, a lot of them just seem to grow on it.
THE MODERATOR: Seeing as we have no more questions from the media, we're going to thank everyone for their time.
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