CHAMPCAR/CART: Montreal: McDonald's announcement transcript

Champ Car Press Conference With John Lewicki of Mcdonald's®, Kevin Kalkhoven, Paul Newman, Carl Haas and Sebastien Bourdais ERIC MAUK: We'd like to get underway with what is a special press conference for the Champ Car World Series today. ...

Champ Car Press Conference With John Lewicki of Mcdonald's®, Kevin Kalkhoven, Paul Newman, Carl Haas and Sebastien Bourdais

ERIC MAUK: We'd like to get underway with what is a special press conference for the Champ Car World Series today. First of all, I'd like to introduce all the principals seated to my left. We'll start closest to myself with the president and CEO of the Champ Car World Series, Dick Eidswick.

To his left, co-owner of Newman/Haas Racing, a man who needs little introduction to most of you, Mr. Paul Newman. To his left, co-owner of the Champ Car World Series and co-owner of PKV Racing, Mr. Kevin Kalkhoven. To his left, the senior director of Alliance Marketing for McDonald's USA, Mr. John Lewicki.

To his left, the series points leader in the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, driver of the #2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Newman/Haas Racing, Sebastien Bourdais. To his left, the co-owner of Newman/Haas Racing, a man who has been here longer than most of us, Mr. Carl Haas. At this moment, I'd like to turn things over to Mr. Kalkhoven.

KEVIN KALKHOVEN: Thank you, Eric. Welcome, everybody, to the third consecutive running of the Molson Indy Montreal. Most of you think you're actually here for some very major announcement. The reality is that what you're seeing is the senior citizens representation of motor racing. It's even more embarrassing than that because at the Denver race, we actually had an owners and drivers go-kart competition. I hate to say it, but I was lapped by somebody. Here is the prize money that I owe him (laughter as he gives Mr. Newman a quarter).

There is nothing more embarrassing than being lapped by, first of all, a fellow owner, and secondly, one who is just a little bit older than I am. Thank you all, as I said, for being here. What I want to be able to do is make a very important announcement on behalf of Champ Car, an announcement that is a significant partnership as we move forward. John, could you come with me.

JOHN LEWICKI: Certainly.

(The two men reveal a banner announcing the new partnership between McDonald's® and Champ Car)

KEVIN KALKHOVEN: What I'd like to announce is that McDonald's has agreed, and we're thrilled to have them as the official fast food restaurant of Champ Car through the 2006 season. It's a wonderful opportunity for the Champ Car World Series, to align itself with probably one of the most recognized brands on the planet, if not more than the planet. I swear if ever there was going to be a colony set up on another planet somewhere, McDonald's would be there, too.

This international reach of McDonald's corresponds very well with a lot of activities that we are doing in the Champ Car World Series. It is great to be allied to such a very important, well-known and significant worldwide brand, and fits with some of the direction that Champ Car is going as it expands its boundaries on a worldwide basis. With that, Eric.

ERIC MAUK: Mr. Lewicki, as we said before, the Senior Director of Alliance Marketing for McDonald's, USA. If you would like to say a few words.

JOHN LEWICKI: Thank you very much. First of all, I'm very proud to be here and announce the fact that McDonald's is becoming an official sponsor of the Champ Car series. I did have a little ribbing this morning that Paul was trying to find a T-shirt for me because he thought I was overdressed for the occasion, but we'll muddle through that. You know, we got into this property last year as a three-race sponsor with Newman/Haas on the #2 car with Sebastien. Ironically, they went out and won the first race, and we kind of got hooked. We went from a three-race sponsorship to a full-team sponsorship this year. It just makes sense for us to add on to the Champ Car series and become an official status sponsor.

As a global brand, the importance and the interest to us with Champ Car is the fact that they do expand boundaries, not only in the US with races, but Canada, Australia, Mexico. As we look at opportunities to promote our brand and talk about our brand, it makes us very proud that we have a series that has that international reach and helps us talk about our brand in a significant way. So, again, really I'm very proud to be here. I thank all of you for coming. But we're very proud to be a sponsor of the Champ Car series.

ERIC MAUK: Thank you, Mr. Lewicki. Welcome to the Champ Car World Series. Next, a young man who is quickly becoming one of the most widely recognized race car drivers in the world, with five wins and five poles just this year alone in Champ Car. He also carries one of the most recognizable brand names in the world on his car. The points leader of the Champ Car World Series, driver of the #2 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, Sebastien Bourdais. Sebastien, if you care to make a few comments.

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Welcome, everybody. I think is great news, the involvement of a great company on a higher level. Well, I was very proud last year to drive the McDonald's car in Cleveland. We won the race as John said. That was the first step of the adventure. I'm just very glad this whole relationship is reaching a very high level. Just looking forward to trying to win this championship and put the McDonald's colors out front.

ERIC MAUK: Thank you, Sebastien. Mr. Newman, you've long been a driving force not only behind this team, but you've also done a lot to help Champ Car and to help this McDonald's partnership come along. If you care to make some comments.

PAUL NEWMAN: The bet was a dollar, and I got a quarter (laughter).

I can only say, as far as my own company, our food company, our connection with McDonald's has been productive beyond almost imagination. Once they get behind something, the results are stupendous. They were not a silent partner, and they jumped in with both feet. I'm convinced they would do exactly the same thing.

They will be fierce in both promotion and in marketing. I'm trying to get them interested in cross-dressing - a little salad dressing on the salad, a little salad dressing on the hamburgers. Trying to get Champ Car encouraged in doing the salad dressing for fuel (laughter). At any rate, it's going to be a powerful, powerful influence on our team and for Champ Car and racing in general. Thank you.

ERIC MAUK: Mr. Haas, you've seen the McDonald's brand name on your car three races last year. As Mr. Lewicki said first time it was on the car, took it to Victory Lane in Cleveland. Your thoughts on this partnership.

CARL HAAS: I think Paul said it, it's really an honor to have McDonald's with us, not only for our team, but as it has been said, I think it will be terrific for Champ Car. We're just very happy about it. I'm sure it's going to work out wonderful. Thank you.

ERIC MAUK: Thank you very much, Mr. Haas. We'll take questions from the media.

Q: Mr. Lewicki, can you talk at all about how this sponsorship or this situation is going to be activated, what kind of things might McDonald's do to help promote the situation.

JOHN LEWICKI: Well, right now, because of where we are in our planning cycle for this year, we're getting all the planning stages in place for really kind of kicking it off in 2005. You won't see a whole lot for the rest of this year because of the shortened season and where we are in our planning cycle, but we're in development now of how we'll activate it in 2005.

Q: John, not to belabor the point, but in the past, Champ Car has had sponsorships, and there really hasn't been much visibility. Will you take an active role in promoting the series and maybe the drivers with TV commercials or print ads, or is it too early to talk about that?

JOHN LEWICKI: A little too early and premature to talk about that. I think it's safe to say one of the reasons that we got involved in Champ Car is because of the exposure, where they are across borders. We chose Montreal to have this press announcement today because of that global reach and the fact that our Canadian company will be involved, our Mexico company will be involved, the US company will be involved, and hopefully the Australian company will be involved, as well.

As we start to develop our plans, and please understand that we are separate companies around the world under one global banner, so you may see a little different activation in each country as appropriate for the country. But in the US, I'm responsible for the US, we'll start our planning around some of the races, got some of our Canadian counterparts here who will look next year at the races up in Canada, as well as Mexico and Australia.

Q: Can we assume that McDonald's will be back as a team sponsor next year, as well?

JOHN LEWICKI: Yes, you can. We have a contract with the Newman/Haas team through the 2007 season. We will be the primary sponsor through 2007, at least.

Q: Will the logo McDonald's be included in the logo of Bridgestone Champ Car or the logo will be changed, Mr. Kalkhoven?

KEVIN KALKHOVEN: For this moment, the logo is going to stay exactly as it is. But we fully expect to see the famous golden arches being used a lot throughout the Champ Car series.

ERIC MAUK: We do have a logo made up that signifies the new partnership. We'll be sending that out with the release a little later this afternoon.

Q: McDonald's will have special hospitality?

JOHN LEWICKI: Yes. Sebastien said it, at every one of our restaurants (laughter).

Q: John, in paying for the program, does this come from corporate down or franchisee up?

JOHN LEWICKI: This is a corporate decision.

Q: Mr. Kalkhoven or Mr. Eidswick, can you talk a little bit about how this relates to possibly other big companies getting interested in this sport again? Are there going to be other announcements like this do you foresee sometime within a reasonable amount of time?

KEVIN KALKHOVEN: One of the things that's really been kind of surprising to me over the course of the last year has, indeed, been the level of interest that's been shown by large international companies, worldwide companies, in motorsports in general, and certainly from my experience in Champ Car. It is my firm belief that we will be seeing other announcements before the start of the 2005 season.

Q: Mr. Lewicki, can you give us an indication of how much this deal is worth? Mr. Kalkhoven, do you hope this is the type of corporate inertia that will kickstart things and more corporate sponsorships coming into the Champ Car World Series?

JOHN LEWICKI: I can answer the first question by saying we never discuss financials. I'm not at liberty to say.

KEVIN KALKHOVEN: Can you repeat the question again to make sure I reply properly.

Q: Just in terms of corporate inertia, kicking off more and more interest. Once you have a big brand name like McDonald's on board, is this the type of thing you would hope would jump-start more interest in the series?

KEVIN KALKHOVEN: Yes. First of all, we're very grateful to McDonald's for their sponsorship of both the Newman/Haas team and now their representation in the series. One of the things that becomes very important in motorsport is this issue of momentum - momentum of the race series, the fans, and of the sponsorship.

One of the things that's been really very pleasing to me this year - in fact, I will say amazing to me this year - is the level of interest that's been shown first of all by our fans, our race attendances are as good as last year if not up in most of most places, and with that a corresponding interest in motorsport by large international companies and in particular in the North American and South American influence within Champ Car.

Q: Mr. Newman, there is a rumor, as you know, that your Newman/Haas will increase of one car, bringing it to three. Is this possible? Is it true?

PAUL NEWMAN: We hope to increase it by 17 cars (laughter). I'm not really at liberty to discuss one car at a time.

Q: Mr. Lewicki or Mr. Kalkhoven, this series has not had a title sponsor now for a couple of years. Were there any discussions about a company as large as McDonald's becoming the title sponsor of the entire series?

JOHN LEWICKI: You know, the discussions really, again, we started in with the Newman/Haas team, and we're kind of taking it one step at a time. We're very happy of the position we're in now. We may have an opportunity to expand that in the future, but right now we're going to develop on the program we have now.

Q: If I may follow on that, Kevin, is there a title sponsor announcement in the offing?

KEVIN KALKHOVEN: You know, just wait till the start of the 2005 season. We don't want to give you all the surprises in one go (laughter).

Q: Paul or Carl, there's been a number of reports in the media over the past several months about a possible split in your team. Can either one of you comment on that? Is that now a dead rumor?

PAUL NEWMAN: That's why we're sitting so far apart (laughter). No, we are together forever.

Q: Mr. Lewicki, do you think maybe you could address what kind of challenge it will be going forward with the different countries with McDonald's as far as getting them on board to support this program?

JOHN LEWICKI: I think the biggest challenge is my own country. I think the success and popularity of Champ Car in Mexico and Canada, it's an easy piece. Our Canadian company is getting very behind it. We'll look to develop some plans for 2005. Mexico is a bit of a smaller country for us from a size standpoint, but very supportive of the program. My issues in the United States are really to figure out how I can fit it in with all the other marketing plans we have. It will be just a question of how we work it in.

Q: Mr. Lewicki, what kind of feedback have you been getting from the restaurant owners?

JOHN LEWICKI: It's funny, I want to be very clear about this, we were introduced to this property through our association with Newman's Own. We'll walk through a wall for Paul. Paul opened our eyes to this. It's a passion of his. We have found that it's a great opportunity for us, as well.

Our restaurant operators are very pleased with the relationship.

ERIC MAUK: Gentlemen, that will bring an official end to our press conference. Thank you very much.

-ccws-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Paul Newman , Sébastien Bourdais , Carl Haas