Mark Miles
Mark Miles

Some of the discussions at the recent IndyCar PR Summit at St. Petersburg, prior to the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, have leaked out and shown just how serious IndyCar is about listening to what has been said by the media, and all the aggregate PR & Marketing folks in attendance at the closed meeting. MARK MILES, new CEO of Hulman & Co. was a participating attendee.

IndyCar committed to the improving its image and raising the level of awareness and followers both in the seats and on TV.

One area discussed was Social Media. This is a fast-growing area, IndyCar was told. Almost as soon as one fad appears and peaks, another occurs. One of the most mentioned was Twitter and it’s expanding influence worldwide. IndyCar was told it needed to get on the bandwagon and now.

The Shorty Awards analysis of Unmetric data shows that parody Twitter accounts often do better than the actuals. In some cases, only the parody accounts live and frequently get retweeted,mainly in Formula One and NASCAR – such as The Fake Charlie Whiting, Real Wife of the Fake Charlie Whiting, Darth Hendrick, Orange Cone, and NASCARCASM. Additionally F1has some very clever F1 teams who anonymously pen Tweets under the team’s name, such as Lotus F1 Team and Caterham. KIMI RAIKKONEN/Lotus evolved as a very dry-humored good sport despite his frozen monosyllabic demeanor. In sports, parody Tweets from CNN and ESPN draw more followers than their real-life counterparts. Anyone ready for @Fake Robin Miller?

During the six months between races, some clever people at IndyCar created eleven or so YouTube/Twitter feed episodes of what four devilish drivers did to while away their time. #TheOffSeason starred WILL POWER/Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet-who showed just what a dry sense of humor he had hiding under his poker face gaze; JAMES HINCHCLIFFE/ Andretti Autosport Chevrolet confirmed what nearly everyone already knew about his wisecracking persona (Remember his first GoDaddy Driver Intro with the Danica wig?); JOSEF NEWGARDEN/Sara Fisher Hartman Racing Honda emerged as the Dennis The Menace of IndyCar; and who woulda thunk CHARLIE KIMBALL/NovoLog Flex Pen Chip Ganassi Racing Honda could be so funny? Throw in some cameos by IndyCar staff, team owners and such, and what’s not to like?

The point was made that more of that kind of image needs to get out, to help create awareness of the strong, versatile personalities in IndyCar, and exploit it shamelessly. Make names like SIMONA, SIMON, SEB and SEB, RYAN, MARCO, and GRAHAM household names. NASCAR was one example oft-cited. NASCAR has done a good job this season in its various promotions involving the drivers, such as four top drivers meeting their respective new Gen6 cars, and other driver showcase promos.

One topic brought home time and again was the inconsistent TV coverage. It is difficult for the new NBC Sports Network to build momentum with the six ABC broadcasts interspersed midseason. The teams wanted more coverage. On the teams and sponsors wish list was more complete coverage of each race – all practice and qualifying sessions, as well as more pre and post-race coverage. More race promotion was also requested, i.e. more TV promos during current races for upcoming races. While NASCAR hasn’t had the greatest TV ratings in the world, the numbers have been increasing and its 2013 promos have drawn critical acclaim.

To provide more impetus and incentive for all teams, it was suggested that The Leader’s Circle funding be eliminated, with all the money going into higher purses for all races – except the Indianapolis 500 race – which has a huge purse for everyone, especially the winner.

The dialogue was open, frank and productive. IndyCar staff promised to consider all that was said and revisit the issue Thursday afternoon of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in mid-April.