We recently sat down with David Pettit, VP of Marketing for the 2014 series, to learn more about how the United SportsCar Racing and IMSA will grow North American sports car racing in 2014 and beyond.
Q – The GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series and the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón are well-known names. What is the plan to build the United SportsCar Racing name?
A – The key to building the brand is two-fold: helping our partners leverage their association with the series in their communications and consistent messaging. We developed very detailed brand usage guidelines to effectively position our brand within our marketing activities. This will help to ensure quality for our brand across all of the partners, thus ensuring consistent messaging. The expectation is for our partners to use our brand across their own marketing platforms as they activate against motorsports and sports cars in particular. This can extend to other sports and activities such as auto shows, which are a natural fit.
A – Our team is developing a marketing plan and campaign which will be implemented across a number of media partners such as FOX, Racer, Autoweek and others. This strategy provides for a deeper messaging platform and complements the messaging of our partners.
Q – United SportsCar Racing is the premier series. What is the role of the IMSA brand as the sanctioning body?
A – IMSA's importance is what it means historically in sports car racing in North America. It's kind of the part we use to envelope all the different platforms and something we'll look to continue to grow from a brand standpoint. We understand IMSA's value; it's a great fall back. We've refreshed the brand with a new logo. It's a way to carry forward the tradition of the brand but also have it align with United SportsCar Racing. Our goal with IMSA is to bring sports car racing in North America to a higher level than it has been in quite some time. IMSA lends quite a bit of credibility to United SportsCar Racing because of its history (as a sanctioning body for professional sports car racing) for avid fans that have followed sports car racing for a long time.
Q –The series has a new contract with FOX Sports. What are the benefits of the long-term partnership?
A - Stability for the series is extremely important as it provides a platform from which all of our partners and stakeholders can build their marketing plans around. It develops a place where fans know they can to find sports car racing and United SportsCar Racing in particular, on a week in, week out basis. Same channel, same location helps us provide simplicity from a fan or consumer standpoint. And consistency certainly helps.
The FOX channels are going to be surrounded by other general sports channels/programming. It's been a long time since people, just casual people, will be exposed to racing without having to look for it. It's just going to come up and be in front of them at the conclusion of some other sporting event which provides a great chance for us to engage those people, many of them for the first time.
From an automotive partner standpoint, they can see the value of that as well because on a racing channel you're talking to people who are already converts. They want to showcase their products to a broader fan base that really doesn't know what Audi, Porsche, BMW and others are racing. Everyone who is endemic to the sport, such as tire manufacturers, are really excited about this.
Q – More and more partners seem interested in the new series. To what do you attribute this?
A - A couple of things are driving interest. The biggest thing is just the pure strength of unification, the coming together of two very solid but different approaches to sports car racing in North America. From that comes all the obvious benefits that anyone could expect. A great schedule going to great tracks, larger car count, increased attendance, increased TV viewership and increased partner activation both on-track, at-track and away from track. It helps provide the scale that we all believe sports car racing should enjoy and makes it a much stronger marketing platform than we've had in quite some time.
At least a generation has pretty much been glossed over, a generation that's never seen sports car racing at its peak. They've seen bits and pieces of it. This is a chance to bring sports racing back to the pinnacle in North America.