Case Study: From Disconnect to Reconnect, the New IndyCar Fan Village

By Apr 13, 2011

Over the last 10 or 12 years at IndyCar racetracks there had been some type of fan village footprint for sponsors, but it was limited and didn’t fit the growth of the sport.

“We knew we had to step it up,” said IndyCar Director of Marketing Kasey Coler.

And so it did. It hired Promo 100 experiential agency Marketing Werks to act as a central communication point to unify sponsors and activations under the Izod IndyCar Fan Village.

The deal came by way of introduction from Verizon, a client of both IndyCar and Marketing Werks. As the series got underway a few weeks ago, the new village was unveiled and will be up and running at 14 North American races this year. And while IndyCar has 40 official partners, it wanted to start small showcasing just five in the new Fan Village— Izod (title sponsor), Verizon, Honda, Mattel Hot Wheels and the National Guard.

“We brought all the partners together to create one destination, but made sure that everyone is not stepping on each other,” Coler said. “We needed to coordinate the content. If the National Guard is bringing in an IndyCar driver we need to make sure that doesn’t overlap with what Verizon is doing.”

Andrew Connell the senior director of client services at Marketing Werks waves the Green Flag and provides a case study of how the Fan Village got back on track. Marketing Werks ranked No. 35 on the 2010 Promo 100 (now the Promo Power Agency Rating) with $31 million 2009 U.S. net revenue.

The challenge Coming out of the previous years, there was not a cohesive feel to the fan zone and IndyCar did not have the resources to pull all the sponsors together and activate cohesively. Some sponsors participated and some didn’t depending on the race. And with each sponsor activating independently it wasn’t clear what would happen on site, which meant that fans could encounter five simulators and spin wheels, a less than stellar experience.

The solution Marketing Werks was hired to act as the umbrella activation agency for the five sponsors. A dialog began to integrate the partners as a single unit within the Fan Village. The goal was to improve the response for sponsors and to enhance the fan experience with the latest technologies, social media and lifestyle activities with one consistent overall look and feel themed around racing.

The activations:

1. The space A 100 x175 foot space was designed as a (racing) circuit to house the sponsors. Sponsorship levels determine the size of each footprint.

2. Gathering data When fans arrive, they register and receive a lanyard with a bar code. As they move through the circuit they check in at each sponsor’s checkpoint to earn credit toward that stop. These registrants also automatically become members of IndyCar Nation, the racing series official fan community.

3. Prizes As the registrants check in from station to station a randomly timed instant-win prize game surprises fans with various rewards based on the sponsor, like a handset from Verizon or an old Mattel Hot Wheels car. The prizes are awarded in grand style on a central stage that adds exposure for the sponsors. Once a fan completes the circuit he or she is entered to win an all-expense paid trip to the championship race Oct. 16, in Las Vegas.

4. Sponsorship activations

Verizon The space has the look and feel of a garage seen at the track where fans can take a ticket to use a large cell phone charger for 25 minutes. Verizon handsets are on display and fans can learn about the IndyCar app available on the Android platform. The biggest attraction here is the racing simulator that requires fans to use the new Motorola Xoom Tablet, available on the Verizon Wireless network, as the steering wheel.

National Guard This space is all about the local community with local recruits on hand to talk up the Guard. Fitness challenges and shooting games with a leader board system are a good fit for young, competitive gamers and others who might be interested in joining the Guard.

Izod The title sponsor’s big push is all around social media. Visitors to its space can choose from three “print ad” backdrops—a snow or water scene or a racetrack—to have their photos taken in front of while holding Izod props. They then head to the upload “bar” where they can access their photo and are encouraged to like Izod’s Facebook page to share their photo with friends.

Mattel is working hard at the tracks to expand the demographic of its brand to an older audience—boys 11 to 15. To do that, it has also executed a simulator speed experience and has a large display of Hot Wheels that chronicle the history of the toys.

Honda is focusing on the launch of its new Honda Civic by talking up the technology around Honda in motorsports and what technologies it has incorporated into cars on the track. A souped-up Civic is on display.

5. The Stage A large stage with a LED screen shows sponsor content. Izod may bring out models dressed in fire suits or do a Q&A with a driver. A widely popular event, hour-long autograph sessions with drivers are a fan favorite in the Village.

6. The Results An average of 4,000 fans have registered at each of the weekend events. Sponsors receive the qualified opt- leads and a communication schedule is set up to coordinate the flow of messages.

“It’s now a single coordinated effort among key partners, you don’t have overlap like you would have at many other sporting events,” Coler said.