• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Sunday, June 20, 2010

STAY TUNED

The biggest sports story of recent weeks -- NCAA conference realignment centered on major football powerhouses and more and more money -- likely will come into play in the next round of racing TV contracts.

Although almighty Texas' decision to stay in the Big 12 (for more $) dragged the brakes on what could have been the Pac-16 and the Big 10 + ? (it will happen in future years, though), it's the promised gusher of fresh dollars for TV and new media rights that's driving all of this. Make no mistake: Big-time college football is going to get bigger as a result.

ABC/ESPN and Fox are major players in the action. Both, of course, are closely aligned with NASCAR. In the next few years, what ESPN platform will be available for Saturday Nationwide races? Meanwhile, IndyCar's partner, Versus (especially with the upcoming Comcast-NBC deal) could be in a position to pick up more of the lesser football properties.

I bet this will lead to another round of debate about condensing the Izod Series schedule, so it ends around Labor Day. Sounds good on paper, but . . . let me reminder Randy Bernard et al we at CART (when I was the communications director) tried this in the early 1980s to get away from the competition of football. It didn't last long, as opportunities for new events that needed to happen in certain months, arose. Then, a few years ago, the IRL got rolled on this concept by an ESPN exec whose agenda was to clear programming time for NASCAR (and who then left the company). With the six-month hiatus came team job losses, reduced sports marketing value for sponsors, and the series falling off the national media radar screen for half the year.

For now, just be sure of this: The rise of the Super Conferences will be a factor the next time TV deals are negotiated.


FAST LINES: Again, the new IRL PR people did the right thing last week by releasing specific findings of the investigation into the Simona De Silvestro-Texas fire fiasco. Conclusions -- a "procedural error in the packing of a fire hose" and a "breakdown in Safety Team protocol in its response to the incident." This adds credibility at an important time, as new people-in-charge try to establish themselves in these roles. Good deal . . . Anyone else notice the title sponsor of the Iowa Indy Lights race? AvoidTheStork.com. Take a guess what that's about. The site shows a copyright to the University of Iowa -- another step forward in the American educational system . . . Is it possible the BP (might-as-well stand-for Bad Publicity) senior-most executives could have played the PR game any worse? NOT LIKELY! Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg's "small people" remark -- destined-for-the-sound-bite-Hall-of-Shame (even factoring in cultural/language differences) -- only added to CEO Tony Hayward's elitist and out-of-touch image. Hayward is corporate toast -- it's a matter of when, not if . . . This is another reminder those who spout the old "Any publicity is good publicity" nonsense don't know a damn thing about PR or image management . . . This does not fall under the category of breaking news, but there certainly was media grumbling out of the Grand-Am weekend about the slow and unreliable Internet service in the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course media center. It's been that way for YEARS. Enough excuses. Fix it. Sanctioning organizations, put it into your sanction agreement . . . Don't try this at home: An Internet writer last weekend described a team's publicist as a "PR ace" -- the same day said "ace" allowed his driver to be interviewed on TV with a puke-green rag around his neck, covering sponsor logos . . . Those of you with an interest in short track racing, please read Jim Chiappelli's important column on Speed.com. Here's the link:
http://auto-racing.speedtv.com/article/chiappelli-short-track-safety/

Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:
(Show is live Wednesdays at 7 p.m. EDT, downloadable, and available on-demand at no cost. Click on TRR page logo in upper right-hand column.)

June 23 -- Newsmaker: Robin Braig (Daytona International Speedway president). Panelists: Dave Rodman, Larry Woody. Plus, Jon Beekhuis.

June 30 -- Newsmaker: Jamie Allison (Ford North America Motorsports director). Panelists: Larry Edsall, Lewis Franck. Plus, Jonathan Ingram.

July 7 -- Newsmaker: Jack Beckman. Panelists: Alan Reinhart, Stan Creekmore.

[ Robin Braig news note Thursday . . . ]