Winners and Whiners
In the on-going battle between IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Tony George and his Indy Racing League, there will be no winners, only whiners. It has been said time and time again that the racing fans will ultimately decide the fate of each series. Both IndyCar and Tony George have placed considerable hope that the sentiment will fall in their favor.
Finally, the enthusiast will be heard. Through RaceStatR – Indy, the first of a two-part study of Indy racing fans, (conducted by Performance Research – a Newport, RI, sports market research firm) the racing fans get a chance to speak out.
With regards to the controversy, when asked which side or opinion they most agreed with, racing fans (47%) generally agreed with the overall position of IndyCar (27% agreed with Tony George, and 26% were undecided), yet three-fourths (75%) are still planning to watch the IRL sponsored “Indy 200” to be held in Walt Disney World, Florida.
What’s a sponsor to do?………… Fans are clearly frustrated with the situation. As an industrial designer from NJ stated, “I don’t care if they (IndyCars) are the fastest, most expensive, most advanced cars, I just want to see close racing…….. If Tony George can put on an exciting show with last year’s cars and second rate drivers, I’m gonna watch it!” Others weren’t so polite………..
“I think he’s (Tony George) a spoiled brat and completely wrong, but I’ve been following the Indy 500 since I was a kid, listening to it on the radio with my dad,……I don’t care if they (Indy 500) race teenagers in go-carts, the race is an American tradition, and I’ll still watch it.”
Apparently that’s what the majority of race fans believed. Given the choice of the Indy 500 or the CART / IndyCar USA 500 held at the same time, nearly 3 out of 5 (58%) of racing enthusiasts claim they will watch the Indy 500 regardless of what happens.
Unfortunately, all of this bickering is hurting the overall level of interest in Indy racing. In fact, while many racing fans expect to “Gain” interest in Winston Cup (48%), and SuperTruck racing (46%) in the coming year, only 26% expected to “Gain” interest in Indy type racing. In fact, almost one-third (30%) are expecting to “Lose” interest in Indy type racing in the future. (Compared to 6% for Winston Cup, 9% SuperTrucks, and 10% Formula-One)
In addition, measurements of trust and loyalty attributed to sponsors of Indy type racing are also suffering. When given the choice of two products of a similar price, 39% of Indy race fans mentioned that they would “Almost Always” or “Frequently” choose a product or service because they were a sponsor over one that is not. This represents a decline of over 29 percentage points from figures that were collected in a similar 1994 IndyCar fan study.
According to Bill Doyle, Vice President, Performance Research, “Corporate sponsors are caught in the middle. Although it’s clear that the CART / IndyCar series has a strong reputation, a following throughout the season, and a better chance of survival than the IRL series, a sponsor simply cannot afford to abandon the national attention of the Indy 500. To most race fans, this is clearly the premier motorsports showcase – nobody recalls the winning drivers or sponsors of years’ past Michigan races, but any fan can tell you the winner and his sponsor of the Indy 500………..”
“As a consultant, from a research perspective, I would strongly recommend sponsors support their IndyCar teams, yet do everything they can to ensure an IRL entry in the Indy 500.”
The data for this study was collected by telephone and on-site by Performance Research. The telephone data collection was conducted immediately after the Indianapolis 500 race broadcast and consisted of 211 random nationwide telephone interviews with NASCAR fans that watched the complete race (May 8). The on-site data collection consisted of responses from 229 fans interviewed at the Portland International Raceway, June 25, and 225 fans interviewed at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, August 13. The margin of error is less than one percent.
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