Murto: IndyCar loses title sponsor

By Craig Murto

Izod has been the title sponsor of the IndyCar Series since 2010, but last Friday announced that it will abandon the series after the 2013 season, one year shy of its original agreement to remain until the end of 2014.

“We are proud of our partnership with Izod over the past six years and we’re grateful to PVH Corp., owner of the Izod brand, for its support, creativity and vision,” Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., the parent company of IndyCar, state in a press release. “But circumstances change and now we’re seeking new partnerships with brands looking to align with the fastest, most versatile form of racing. We are combining and strengthening our commercial functions at IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which will allow us to more aggressively pursue new opportunities for our sport.”

Izod’s parent company is Phillips-Van Heusen whose former top boss, Allen Sirken, was a fan. He got Izod involved in 2008 by sponsoring Ryan Hunter-Reay. By 2010 that developed into title sponsorship of the series, and through 2011 Izod was very active, hosting pre-race parties for fans and actively supporting IndyCar in TV commercials.

But Sirken left, and Izod became virtually absent at the track. As a result, it comes as no surprise that Izod is leaving.

“After an exciting relationship that has been as enjoyable and fast-paced as IndyCar itself, PVH Corp. has made the decision to not continue Izod’s title sponsorship with IndyCar beyond the 2013 season,” said Mike Kelly, Executive Vice President of The PVH Marketing Group. “As we and our retail partners shift the Izod brand’s product focus, we need to shift our marketing spending to complement it. We would like to thank the IndyCar community, from the amazing fans, to the incredible drivers, to the entire series, for their partnership. We wish the series all the best and we look forward to finishing out the 2013 season with much success.”

Izod got a lot out of its sponsorship when it was activated. Presence at events, association on TV — all those things help companies get the most out of their sponsorship dollars. The moment Izod quit coming to the track and stopped its IndyCar-focused TV campaign, it missed the opportunities to make the most of its sponsorship.

Sadly enough, IndyCar is having perhaps its most competitive season to date. Hopefully the series will not have to enter 2014 without a title sponsor, something the series hasn’t done since 2009.

On the opposite side of the sponsorship equation is Quicken Loans, which has had a very successful program with NASCAR driver Ryan Newman because the company is active with its sponsorship. Members of the public enter their promotional contest, and every time Newman finishes in the top 10 Quicken Loans pays the mortgages of the contest winners for one month.

The program is working so well that Quicken Loans will serve as a primary sponsor for 12 races for Ryan Newman in 2014 as the mortgage company moves with Newman from Stewart-Haas Racing to Richard Childress Racing (RCR).

Newman replaces Jeff Burton, who announced that he’s leaving RCR following this season because the team did not have full sponsorship. Caterpillar, which sponsored Burton for 24 races in 2013, will return to RCR to sponsor Newman for the same number of races. With the addition of the Quicken Loans sponsorship, Newman is nearly fully funded for 2014.

A Quicken Loans representative called it a “no-brainer” to continue to sponsor Newman after the professional way he handled himself after the Richmond debacle, which robbed him of a victory.

Following the Richmond fiasco and the penalties NASCAR served Michael Waltrip Racing for manipulating the race, it seemed rather odd that at least one of the debris cautions at Dover qualified as NASCAR’s attempt to manipulate the race.

All three debris cautions in Sunday’s race were for spring rubbers — a device that is inserted between a car’s springs coils in order to change the spring’s rating. In two of the cautions, the spring rubbers — which could cause damage if struck at speed and tossed into the air — were on the racing surface. But NASCAR called the third debris caution for a spring rubber so low on the apron of the track that it’s doubtful a car would have struck it even if it were limping around heading for the pits.

Immediately Facebook lit up with comments from fans crying foul. It seems NASCAR doesn’t like its races manipulated unless it is the one doing the manipulation.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.