Will Power races down the backstretch during the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama, April 7, 2013 Photo By Matt Schafer

Verizon to Sponsor Indycar? Announcement Friday

One of the worst kept secrets over the past years is that Indycar has been pursuing Verizon as a title sponsor, and it looks like the deal is done.

Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press tweeted out that an announcement is imminent.

#IndyCar Verizon deal appears to be done and announced tomorrow, about same time Dale Jr. will be talking in Bristol.

— Jenna Fryer (@JennaFryer) March 13, 2014

That tweet was quickly followed by a short story from Indianapolis Star’s Curt Cavin that the deal was done. Both of those reporters are really solid, and if they say it’s going to happen I’m inclined to believe them. Dale Jr is schedule to speak at 10:45 a.m. Friday.

Obviously this would be huge for Indycar, and probably represents the best case scenario for the sport. Earlier this month Street & Smith’s Sports Business Daily reported that the series was close to inking Verizon to a 10-year, $100-million deal. According to Tripp Mickle’s article the deal would include a yearly $5 million rights fee paid to the series and an additional $5 million in activation. To put the deal into a  little bit of context Street & Smith reported in a separate story that Nationwide Insurance is paying between $8 to $10 million a year with an additional $10 million in activation. So it’s not a top of the market deal, but it’s one that Indycar needs.

Indycar has had a trouble history with title sponsors since “The Split” in 1996. FedEx, Pep Boys, Northern Light and now IZOD have all come and gone. IZOD seemed to become disinterested, and I saw a noticeable pullback in their marketing effort. If Verizon stays an active partner for the next decade, and hopefully beyond, it could be the partner that Indycar needs to grow the series. It’s a pretty accepted fact that R.J. Renyolds Tobacco Company was responsible for much of NASCAR’s growth, and since Indycar began rebuilding itself in the mid 2000’s it’s been looking for a partner that wants to help grow the sport, and Verizon looks like the best match to date.

Verizon has a massive platform it can use to promote the series. It has over 180,000 employees, and a world-wide reach thanks to its merger with Vodafone. It’s a household name and ranks 15 on Fortune 100 list.  Given Vodafone’s reach I wouldn’t be surprised if Vodafone was named sponsor of the hoped for international series. Ideally this is the partner that Indycar has been hoping for.

The company’s path to Indycar goes through Roger Penske. In 2009 Will Power filled in for Helio Castroneves, who had to sit out the first race of the season because he was being tried for tax evasion.  After Castroneves was cleared from the charges Verizon appeared at Long Beach in 2009 with Power driving. Verizon and Power returned for a partial schedule in 2009, and in 2010 Verizon moved up to full sponsor of Power’s car. This year Verizon announced that it will be sponsoring former CART and Formula One stand out Juan Pabulo Montoya as he returns from his self imposed exile from legitimate racing.

Verizon left NASCAR after two years where the company wasn’t allowed to place it’s logos on Penske’s 12 car. Their sponsorship was something they inherited from their purchase of Alltel, and after fulfilling the contract moved on to Indycar, where they were allowed to actually place it’s name on a race car. It joined a number of sponsors who left NASCAR for conflicting with the sanctioning body’s exclusive sponsorship deals.

I’m looking forward to finding some details about the sponsorship. Verizon already has a great Indycar app that I absolutely love. Odds are there will be both internal promotion to Verizon’s customers and external promotion such as ads. I would think we’ll see Verizon roll out some new technology products that will enhance the fan experience. I really think this is the best case scenario, and it seems like fans agree.


Tags: IndyCar Roger Penske Verizon Verizon Wireless

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