What excites me about the announcement is the branding that IZOD brings to IndyCar. IZOD is a brand that brings to mind words like “premium,” “high class,” and “quality.” With their investment in IndyCar, they also want it to extend to words like “youthful,” “speed,” and “sport.”
NASCAR is currently the largest racing brand anyway that you measure it (other than history). However, this hasn’t always been the case. NASCAR built that brand over the last few decades with great sponsorship and the idea that they are the “every man’s” racing league. They feature “stock” cars – lately Chevrolet Impalas, Dodge Chargers, Ford Fusions and Toyota Camrys - which (at least externally) look like those that you see driving through your neighborhood. They appeal to the blue collar market and play up their roots in the southern states. There is nothing wrong with this and it works well for NASCAR. It also leaves a wide niche that IndyCar should exploit.
That niche is people who want the ultimate in racing; people who like the fact that IndyCars are built to be speed machines, specifically, and not the “stock” car in your neighbor’s driveway. They want machines that drive 230 mph. They want quality, high class, premium racing. That is why IZOD is a great match for IndyCar.
This will turn off some IndyCar fans that would prefer that IndyCar appeal to the core NASCAR fan base. These will be the people calling into radio shows to complain about the cost of an IZOD shirt. However, I believe the potential to attract fans to a “premium” racing market is far greater than potential to convert the self-identified blue collar NASCAR fans.
I think the “premium” play is the best one for IndyCar in the long term and the sponsorship from IZOD helps establish that brand. They don’t need to be the biggest, they don’t need to be the most widespread, they simply need to be the best. It’s worked for Apple.