Sunday, March 13, 2011


One of the popular talking points among those yearning for a Return to Glory by the Indianapolis 500 and the IndyCar series is what a huge boost both will get from this May's 100th anniversary running of the first "Greatest Spectacle."

Don't hold your breath.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp. has had plenty of time to gear-up, from a marketing and publicity standpoint, for the 500's 100th. After all, IMS announced it would celebrate the "Centennial Era" from 2009-2011. Even with the management and staff changes and internal Hulman-George family problems, anyone with a reasonable knowledge about the Business of Racing might well have reasonably assumed firm plans -- and budgets -- had been locked-in and would be speeding along.

Looks more like a crawl to me.

I think it's fair to say even those who gulp the IMS/ICS Kool-Aid would think the Indy Centennial would be partnered by at least as many corporations as the 50th Daytona 500 was three years ago. And, one would be wrong.

Where are the tie-ins with national name-brand products? Consumer sweepstakes? Contests? Ad campaigns? Point-of-purchase displays? Packaging? Discounts? Giveaways? Coupons? Promotions? PR push? Media blitz?

The other week, an IMSer asked me to write something about 1993's Nigel "Mansell Mania" from my insider perspective, having lived that experience as the Newman/Haas Racing PR director. The "offer" came with this notation: There was no budget to pay me.

Now, there are legitimate charities that I am happy to contribute to, from a work and financial standpoint. As the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp. is not on my list of charities, I declined.

I know the bean-counter mentality has fully enveloped the Speedway, but I can assure you of this: Budget cuts have never SOLD a single ticket. Not one.

If you're in the neighborhood and in a giving mood, you might want to consider stopping by the 16th and Georgetown offices. Maybe a marketing or publicity person will be standing outside, wearing red, next to a kettle ID'd with a wheel-and-wings logo, ringing a bell.

Here's a link to my March "Drags, Dollars & Sense" column on

FAST LINES: Brian France wisely helped fill the news void of an "off" week by spending 30 minutes on a national media teleconference to tout the strong start to the NASCAR season . . . How important was it for IndyCar and its team owners to keep Bridgestone/Firestone's tire technology and marketing activation? Important enough for them to pay a lot more in fees to B/F. The power within the IndyCar industry rests with manufacturers/suppliers, not the series or team owners . . . It's long, long past due for anyone/everyone associated in any way with Toyota to stop blaming others for the problems of its own doing. Try this message instead: "We're Sorry." If I ran T, I'd call on the carpet everyone with anything to do with PR -- corporate, consumer, product and, yes, racing. It's the worst PR collective I've seen in over 40 years in the industry. And, believe me, it really takes some doing to top that Marlboro bunch . . . It's still a mystery to me, after covering the recent NASCAR events at Phoenix International Raceway: How is it possible for any so-called "PR" person to be there on-site, collecting a paycheck, and not make the rounds in the deadline media room, even if just to say "hello" and ask if any help was needed? Not even a half-dozen did so at PIR, in my experience. Shame on the team owners and sponsor managers who don't bother to understand how poorly they are represented . . . PR 101: The vast majority of media people do not want news releases that have to be downloaded. Capacity limitations at any number of tracks makes that a slow and inconvenient process. Just send the basic info as a plain E-mail . . . It was embarrassing to AMA Pro Racing that Speed's announcers felt it necessary to keep saying they were still waiting/still had no word about the status of a Daytona 200 restart after tire problems forced a long red flag. And it was wrong for Speed Center updates not to respect its viewers by giving the news of the race's results. Nobody likes to be jacked-around, and in the age of instant news, that's what Center did with this credibility-bending decision . . . How can you tell when an announcer really has nothing new to say and is just speaking to avoid dead air? "It will be interesting to see . . . " . . . A classic example of cable TV news' need to show pictures -- any pictures -- last Friday morning on CNBC as the Japan story was unfolding -- Dark video of what appeared to be debris floating in the water and this commentary, "We don't know what this is, but this is live video . . . " . . . What's the big deal about Charlie Sheen? Remember Keith Olbermann?

[ more next Monday . . . ]