The close of RACER’s two-part pre-season conversation with Verizon IndyCar Series CEO Mark Miles covers the searches for a new title sponsor and new engine manufacturers to join Chevy and Honda.
With Verizon’s time as IndyCar’s primary sponsor set to end later this year, Miles has been actively pursuing a replacement for the telecommunications giant. Following yesterday’s discussion on IndyCar’s similar hunt for new TV and streaming contracts, Miles sees the two as interlinked tasks.
Considering how some former series sponsors – mostly during the Indy Racing League era – were far from household names, attracting another Verizon-level backer would make a valuable statement regarding IndyCar’s momentum.
“Well, I think we’re in a place where we have a much better possibility of attracting the kind of brands, like Verizon, that say something, in and of itself, about the series,” he said. “It’s too early to tell where it will end up with respect to a title, but what we need to really be successful in the pursuit of a new title [sponsor] is a continuing growth story, so we’d like to be able to say that for linear [TV], here’s the math, and we expect that we will grow the audience. We think there’s important dynamics that will make that possible on which we’ve talked about probably a year ago.”
Adding to the TV thread, Miles believes that after years of presenting IndyCar across two network/cable solutions with ABC/ESPN and NBC/NBCSN, consolidating its next TV contract with a single TV home will help in its quest to sign a lucrative title sponsorship deal.
“It’s probably better to have one linear partner, even if it could be a mix with that partner of what we think of as free-to-air or broadcast coverage of events and cable, but what’s that mix look like and can we improve that mix so that we’re sure that the audience will continue to grow for the length of that contract with respect to linear distribution,” he added.
“And then we’ve got to have a good story about over-the-top (streaming) so that people know we get it and we do have an aggressive, early but aggressive, opportunity under contract to grow that approach to the sport and to younger audiences. I think we’re going to have that, and I’m hopeful that we’ll end up in a really good place with the title [sponsor].”
Shifting to engine supplier talks, Miles was visibly enthused while describing the progress taking place behind the scenes between manufacturers and IndyCar competition president Jay Frye (pictured above with Miles). Converting those conversations into action, however, remains the same formidable hurdle to clear.
“It’s all talk until we have the result, but people are taking the calls,” he said. “There were at least half a dozen international calls after [the] Sonoma [season finale in September] and to this point. A couple of those are still ongoing sort of developmental conversations, so that’s encouraging, and that doesn’t include domestic manufacturers, where there’s some activity, so we remain optimistic.
“And I think Jay’s done a great job of treating those prospects, the broader pool, as though they were already in with respect to our future plans. The right people and those companies know what we’re thinking about next for the next engine. They know what we’re thinking about in terms of cycles and the future for the next car, and the feedback from all of them that are in any way meaningful prospects for us was really positive with the direction that Jay will be talking more about before too long.”
Bringing a third or fourth manufacturer into the series is also tied to keystone items like future engine rules and timing for the successor to the aged Dallara DW12 chassis.
“I think at this point, when we sign in the next [manufacturer], we’ll have something to say about when we do go to the next part of the program, so 2020 is possible,” Miles continued. “2021 is the next opportunity, and we can assess as we go and pushback a change if that’s helpful or move earlier to the earliest possibility to accommodate somebody new, if we have that opportunity.”
Catch the full discussions with Miles below: