When the ball dropped in New York’s Times Square on Dec. 31, it signaled the end of the year. It also marked the curtain coming down on Verizon’s entitlement sponsorship of the IndyCar Series.
And what a ride it has been for the wireless communications leader and sanctioning body INDYCAR. The IndyCar Series has grown tremendously since the title sponsorship was announced in March 2014. As Verizon bows out, there are more cars on the grid, more teams in the paddock, higher television viewership numbers and more attention and focus placed on Indy car racing than when the agreement began.
Mark Miles, president and CEO of Hulman & Company that owns INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, has seen his term guiding the series since December 2012 and Verizon’s sponsorship virtually coincide. He appreciates the efforts Verizon has made to elevate interest in the IndyCar Series, dating to when it began as a sponsor on Will Power’s Team Penske car in 2010.
“They were with Team Penske before I got here, but Verizon was one of our first deals that we got done,” Miles said. “They are high-quality people and a high-quality company. We’ve dealt with each other honorably and in good faith, and we never really had a big dispute. That is unusual when you have two organizations involved to implement a major sponsorship. I can’t really say enough about the quality of the people and the company.
“They loved racing, so their involvement with the teams and the Verizon P1 Award and their serious work to bring their big customers to the track and expose them to racing was important to us.
“They also advertised on our (race) telecasts. They helped develop our app that the race fans liked.”
Verizon technology also brought improved communication in Race Control and on pit lane.
“They helped us improve connectivity and the flow of data, the collection of data in the pits that helped teams, and in Race Control and timing and scoring,” Miles said. “That eventually gets to the fans. The connectivity improvement was important for the fans with improved Wi-Fi connectivity at a lot of our tracks, especially at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“And they were good promotional partners. They were heavily involved in our ABC or NBCSN broadcast as an advertiser. They promoted us in USA Today and other major national media as well.”
Miles indicated in recent media reports that INDYCAR may be near signing a replacement as the series' entitlement sponsor. Meanwhile, Verizon will remain part of the IndyCar Series this year as primary sponsor on the No. 12 Chevrolet driven by reigning Indy 500 champion Power.
“I’m so glad they are staying with INDYCAR, they will be involved with us and Team Penske,” Miles said. “I have nothing but great feelings about our relationship.”
Changing business relationships often see sponsors come and go, but Miles emphasizes how long Verizon was part of INDYCAR as a sign of the commitment.
“I think it is a natural, constant dynamic in sports marketing,” Miles said. “A five-year run (as title sponsor) is pretty good. The fact they are staying involved with us is terrific. A five-year run is a positive thing and has really helped us in planning for our next step.”
The 2019 IndyCar Series season opens with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 10.