An exploratory phone call blossomed into a new title sponsorship for the IndyCar series.
It was a few days before the season finale at Sonoma last September when Jay Frye received a call from Ganassi Racing’s Doug Duchardt, who suggested that IndyCar’s president of competition ring up NTT DATA’s chief financial officer David Croxville because the sponsor of Chip Ganassi’s No. 10 car might be looking to do more in 2019.
“I spoke with David and he had some interest in some of the things we had in the works, but no mention of the title sponsorship initially,” recalled Frye. “That call turned into a meeting in Sonoma, and a subsequent meeting the day of our banquet. That’s when it all took off and then the parent company – NTT – got engaged.”
Nippon Telegraph and Telephone is a major communications company in Japan that owns NTT DATA and grosses nearly $110 billion annually.
After Verizon ended its title sponsorship last year, IndyCar was looking for a replacement, but it was already the fall and budgets are usually set by then. And things weren’t looking very promising for 2019. Frye was ecstatic that NTT was interested, but didn’t want to step on one of his team’s sponsors.
“We wouldn’t talk to anyone’s sponsor without the team’s knowledge, and we weren’t going to take a sponsor from a team,” continued Frye, who was promoted to IndyCar’s president a few weeks ago and also oversees marketing and public relations. “They assured us that wasn’t the case, and NTT DATA really helped streamline everything.
“Mark Miles (Hulman & Company CEO), Mark Sibla (IndyCar’s chief of staff) and myself went to Japan in November, and Takuma (Sato) came with us and talked up the series to the CEO of NTT. It’s a very impressive company and it has a huge global platform, but it wants to become more prominent in North America and feels like IndyCar can be a good ambassador.”
Frye, who began his IndyCar career as chief revenue officer in 2013, is quite familiar with sponsorships since he ran his own NASCAR team under the auspices of Red Bull, and was blown away by the negotiations.
“The whole thing only took three months, and that just never happens,” he said. “There are a lot of people to thank for moving this along so quickly. NTT DATA Chairman John McCain has always been a big supporter of IndyCar, while Mona Charif (NTT DATA CMO) and Margo Cooke (NTT DATA VP of Marketing) were instrumental and did an incredible job of bringing it all together.
“Mark Sibla also did a great job, and Doug’s call got the whole thing started.”