INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, March 28, 2001 - When Northern Light Technology, Inc., was founded in 1996 in Cambridge, Mass., it adopted the name of the clipper ship Northern Light because, in its day, the ship was noted for its speed, groundbreaking...
INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, March 28, 2001 - When Northern Light Technology, Inc., was founded in 1996 in Cambridge, Mass., it adopted the name of the clipper ship Northern Light because, in its day, the ship was noted for its speed, groundbreaking technology and value to its customers. Those same assets will keep Northern Light, the title sponsor of Indy Racing, in good financial condition during the current economic downturn and solidly behind the Indy Racing League in the future, said the company's chief executive officer, David Seuss. Concerns, especially from fans, about Northern Light's sponsorship status surfaced when the company's presence was diminished in ABC Sports' live television broadcast of the season-opening Pennzoil Copper World Indy 200 on March 18. Northern Light has elected not to purchase any TV advertising in 2001 including the ABC package due to the present soft economy, particularly in the technology sector, Seuss said. "When we first announced our title sponsorship (in January 2000), we had this outpouring of fan mail from Indy Racing fans who were excited about a new title sponsor," said Seuss. "The next biggest wave of fan mail we've gotten was when fans noticed we weren't mentioned very often by ABC in the first race of this year. I guess change is noticed." But the recent change shouldn't be perceived as a lack of support for the series, Seuss said. Along with Indy Racing promotional efforts, Northern Light backs the series with the Northern Light Cup and $1-million bonus awarded to the season champion. Northern Light is able to continue this support of Indy Racing because the company hasn't endured the catastrophic problems suffered recently by "dot-com" companies. "Northern Light is not a 'dot-com' company, per se," said Seuss. "Eighty percent of our revenue comes out of the enterprise information portal market, and in that sense we're more of a technology vendor than a 'dot-com' company. And that makes us more resilient." Northern Light contracts with corporations to provide a business search database, thus making Northern Light's client base more stable and less susceptible to economic trouble than companies that rely more heavily on the online retail market. "We're starting to see advertising contracts for our Web site that were canceled for Q1 (first business quarter of the year) that are rapidly being renewed for Q2," Seuss said. "I interpret that as our corporate customers seeing a change in their business prospects." The Indy Racing League originally appealed to Seuss because of its demographics and its incredible business-to-business marketing opportunities among sponsors within the Indy Racing community. That allure remains for Seuss and is even stronger today. "There were several factors that attracted Northern Light to Indy Racing," Seuss said. "We looked at the demographic fit between our users and Indy Racing fans, and the fit was and is terrific. "The second thing you look at is whether or not the connotations for our brand are right. Northern Light is the technology leader in the search engine space and the enterprise information portal space, and the connotations of Indy Racing are technology, speed, power and an environment where competitive success is meaningfully rewarded. "We also found it (the sponsorship) was a very efficient media buy in terms of sheer dollars per unit of exposure." Seuss said he is very proud of the Indy Racing Northern Light Series' accomplishments in the past year in terms of its ability to focus fan and media attention to the series' exciting on-track entertainment, increasing involvement with other sponsors and providing fans with an intense, expanded schedule that will take Indy Racing to more markets in 2001 than ever before. Instead of worrying about the stock market, all Seuss - a longtime competitor in sports-car racing - can think about is how to take Indy Racing to the next level. He said the next goal is to bring the Indy Racing Northern Light Series further into the mainstream.
"I think one of the things about Indy Racing that is just terrific is access," Seuss said. "We have free and open driver autograph sessions at every event. We open the garages after the events for fans to come down to interact with drivers and teams and see the cars up close. We emphasize great deals and ticket packages for families.
"We have access to drivers at the track, we have three times more (television) programming this year between the races, the non-race shows and the increase in the number of races. We're trying to be the most accessible, top-drawer racing series in the world."