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Keeping It Off the Wall
by Ed Donath

Market Or Park It
3/9/08

Cairo, NYŚIf you have been a fan of the Champ Car World Series for any length of time, especially if you were around during the CART era, you have always known the number one reason why both the OWRS partners and the publicly-owned corporation before them were unable to survive.

Marketing. There never was any.

In Y2K I penned a rant for SeventhGear.com entitled Fantasy Racing Leagues Now Forming followed by any number of similar themes in subsequent years.

My point then and now is that there have always been so many facets of our beloved speed sport that rival and surpass the excitement and fantasy elements of any pastime you can think of -- video games, stick-and-ball sports, concerts, wining and dining, even sex -- that marketing such an all-senses entity should have been the easiest job on earth.

Not to be facetious, but any one of us with even a rudimentary ability to create a commercial story line could have put together a fantastic electronic media campaign for Champ Car racing just by letting the sound and video do the work.

  • Talk about the hometown crowd.
  • Play the driver's home nation angle when applicable.
  • Add a couple of interview sound bites from the best driver rivalries.
  • Mention the celebrities that will be in attendance.
  • Explain how the blended aromas of methanol and barbeque alone could hook you for life.
  • Stress that everyone can get a pass to meet the cars and the stars in their garage area.
  • "So don't forget to bring your camera and a Sharpie for drive photos and autographs!"
  • Wrap it up with a reminder that for a few bucks more you can visit the pits before the race.

Come to think of it, we were all qualified for that Champ Car World Series Marketing Director's job because we were constantly doing and saying all of the aforementioned things on our own without getting a big executive paycheck. WE were the only marketing brain trust in sight.

WE were the ones who put the butts in the stands by our word of mouth. And the butts were those of our relatives, co-workers, and social contacts who went on to repeat the butt multiplication exercise on all five of the world's five inhabited continents.

It was OUR fantasy racing league and it could have survived nicely in an Indy 500-free world if the suits at CART and OWRS had ever been allowed to spend -- INVEST -- a reasonable amount of money on proper media advertising and marketing.

Can you imagine what might have been if just a tenth of Gerald Forsythe's post-split capital investment had been earmarked for national radio and TV advertising? One spot during the Super Bowl each year might have done the trick all by itself.

Can you imagine if the staff that put together the Inaugural US 500 at a moment's notice and filled Michigan Speedway to capacity with over 100,000 butts had been empowered to continue their work on a race-to-race basis?

Can you imagine if, after hiring Target Stores marketing director, CART had actually allowed the guy to do what he was being paid to do instead of frustrating him with disagreeable board members and tedious meetings with bean counters? A creative man who might have made a difference was forced to leave before he ever got started.

Of course you can imagine because it was YOUR fantasy racing league. You knew all along what move needed to be made next. You knew that the lack of marketing would eventually kill the Champ Car World Series.

Unfortunately, you also knew that the only people who we would never be able to convince to do the right thing were the people who had the money to do so.

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Copyright © 2008 by Ed Donath and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

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