INDIANAPOLIS—Years of negotiations, failures, frustrations and questions produced this bold statement Thursday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"To be honest with you, its the first legitimate title sponsor that we've ever had," said Brian Barnhardt into the microphone at the pavilion, in front of a packed audience, and under the gaze of a new logo.
Don't blink twice when you look at the name.
"It was about three months ago," said Mike Kelly, the Executive Vice President of Marketing and Creative for Phillips-Van Heusen Corporation about when they seriously considered take on the title sponsorship.
Izod was already the official clothing provider for the league in 2009, and after a year of being apart of the open wheel entity, decided to take the final step.
See: Izod's Road To IndyCar Series Sponsorship
"The league was in a position we felt that weathered some of the things, the difficulties from last year, they were gaining some steam abroad," said Kelly. "We believe in the model, and there stable."
Now that Izod has signed on for six years with the possibility for extension after in a deal thats valued to be in the multi millons according to Kelly. It's one of the more unusual unions between racing series and product, but in some ways, thats the point.
"It's a whole new dimension for IndyCar Racing, this is huge," said Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO Jeffery Belskus of getting the sponsor.
At the very least it raises some eyebrows since having a upscale clothing line sponsor a racing series in the United States is rare. IndyCar's previous sponsors were Pep Boys-an auto parts store-and Northern Light-a now defunct search engine, both of whom had shorts and unfullfilling stints with the series.
After an eight-year hiatus without a top sponsor, the series was more receptive to a different approach to the advertising game.
"If you have an industry sponsor become your title, your not gonna get anywhere new," said IndyCar Series competition president Brian Barnhardt of Izod. "Now we're gonna get an opportunity to get into homes that aren't necessarily race fans and get an opportunity to attract them to the IndyCar Series and raise the value for participation."
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Some of the drivers got a taste of that over the past year when Izod stepped up their role in the series by providing the clothing line for employees in and around the track. Included in the deal were promotional trips for the drivers to department stores weeks ahead of races, which allowed the interact with people who weren't familiar with the series.
"We spent a lot of time going to Macys in different markets and definetely saw a benefit to that," said Vision Racing driver Ed Carpenter. "I'm really excited to see exactly what they're gonna do now that they've invested to become the title sponsor."
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Already they've put up a billboard in New York's Time Square showing off their new sponsorship of the series, and Kelly said they hope is to expand the brand into foreign markets. A 2010 schedule features three international trips to Brazil, Canada and Japan, and was a big attraction for Izod as they looked to sign on for full sponsorship.
"There's opportunities here for 18-to-24, there's opportunities 25-35 those markets," said Kelly of the potential for Izod now that they are aligned with the IndyCar Series. "We're working hard to reach those groups ourselves.
"We're of one mind, we have a common vision and a common goal, which is exposure through non-endemic sports space."
No one knows that better than Ryan Hunter-Reay, who has had his car sponsored by the company often in his IndyCar career.
"Izod's been around for a while, they know what they're doing," said Hunter-Reay of his primary sponsor in 2009.