As the off season rolls onward, I like to start posting on the ‘ol blog again. Typically, I leave the season reporting and opinionating to the ‘professional’ blogging word smiths. I always say “why put up my second best to their best efforts?” and enjoy the season. There is only so much one can write about a race and provide true insight, hence I take a back seat to my fellow bloggers.
Today, I want to begin my off season musings with a repost of an article I wrote for the current Dean of IndyCar Bloggers, George Phillips of Oilpressure Blog. A few months back he had asked me to cover an episode for him called “Brainstorming”. I had a few ideas about putting butts in seats so I decided to provide the below transcript of that post. From George’s blog dated July 27, 2015.
My first exposure to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was as an eighth grader, spending some quality time with my father on an all-day field trip. We drove from northern Indiana down to Indianapolis and the speedway that day to experience qualifications. Little did I know that seeing the wedge shaped, brilliant hot red STP turbine cars would become my version of crack. All I knew was that afterward, I had ringing ears from the screaming Novis¹, tingling fingers from gripping my seat and the aroma of high speed rated industrial lubricants swirling through my nasal passages. In short, for some reason I did not want the day to end.
Fast forward 30 years, if you will. I am pulling my 6 year old son around the speedway in his red Radio Flyer. Strolling through the newly relocated snake pit in turn 4, I realize that in a few more years the gentrification of all snake pit activities at IMS will be in full swing. One would think that my son, who now is in the sweet spot of that all-important marketing demographic, would be a bigger motor head than I. Not close, folks; not even close.
What makes up the difference between the current crop of open wheel racing fan and the ones that roamed the hallowed grounds of 16th and Georgetown back in the 70’s and 80’s? Geese, there must be a gazillion differences! Kids today (read; new millennial marketing demographic) have very little interest in anything automotive. To my point, Uber makes far more sense than car payments, insurance and ad valorem taxes. Just ask any millennial which they would prefer and be prepared to be shocked. Frankly, I am just stating the facts here. For a brief, technical info graphic on the topic of New Millennials, hit this link that is brought to you by Goldman Sachs. It is a great summary and comes off as Millennials 101.
So here is the crux of the problem; how to involve, engage and ensnare the next generation of IndyCar fans? How does one go about harvesting all that soon to be disposable cash that the largest, single generation since we baby boomers, will supposedly have? Well….I certainly have a few ideas! Let’s start with the presumption that we are not just selling the race. We are going to MARKET to this generation that couldn’t care less about cars and motor sport, and we are going to be very successful in doing so.
The Vegas Effect:
Las Vegas offers and sells one thing and one thing only; games of chance. I do not care if the gambling hall (casino) is red, purple or black; nor do I care if they are an oval casino, an urban located casino or a natural terrain casino. All a casino is offering is games of chance. In fact, the only thing Vegas really has to offer is a game of chance. Get my point? Each casino has as its manifest, the goal of separating you from your cash, because, as we all know, the only thing that stays in Vegas …..drum roll please….is YOUR MONEY.
So how do they succeed? I don’t recall much in the news lately informing me that Vegas seems to be running out of visitors. So how did they differentiate and separate from one another? As an example, the older casino, Circus Circus, pandered to people with children. An encompassing circus theme, complete with actual circus acts running 24/7 made it easier for both mommy and daddy to try their hand at games of chance, all the while making it a “family” vacation. I believe they call that marketing.
Vegas also was very successful in playing the E card; big name entertainment galore. These acts do not have their access fee rolled up into one big casino visit price tag. They are add on value to the cost of the room, which of course, is located pretty near the gaming tables. Say you get hungry while happily being parted from your money. How about we open a buffet line? Why not locate that buffet line in close proximity to the gaming tables? Yeah, let’s do that as it makes pretty good sense.
So now we have a city that offers only one true product, wrapped within several other products that contribute to the differentiation of one gaming house from the next one. As Charlie Sheen used to mumble: WINNING!
The Speedway Effect:
I want to go and see a race but my spouse and son couldn’t care less. But I DO know that my spouse is hell-bent on seeing a good DJ or nationally famous band and dancing the afternoon away. How about we set up a KILLER mosh pit with more than just one internationally famous DJ? Smoke, fire and a BIG show? Heck yeah! Park that puppy smack in the middle of the short shoot, just behind the (insert your favorite light beer brand here) Party Deck. Now, I admit that this is not a new idea. I just want to take a more aggressive approach with the musical act and the possibilities because as I have learned, these Millennials are not coming to the speedway just for the cars.
My son is pretty geeked about virtual reality. I have discovered that Millennials tend to shun reality anyway! That being the case, consider fulfilling one of his wants. He wants to try his hand at competing with the cars on the track and the drivers IN REAL TIME. After all, life is one big virtual reality to the Millennials anyway. I will bet you lunch every Monday for a year that Verizon could “hook him up” with the technology in a tent somewhere on the premises, for a value added on fee of course!
I have a friend that is interested in cars but not all that much in watching them go around in circles all day. I do know he and his spouse are back to nature types that love being outdoors and camping. His wife is not all that rustic a camper (actually her idea of the wilderness is a paved parking lot without any lines painted on it yet). However, they are intrigued with Glamping, but without all that glam. Stick them on the golf course, out of sight of the glamorous campers, but do not deny them the experience. Don’t relegate them to the Coke lot with all the crazies! They have cash to spend so…..
Everybody I come into contact with that discovers I have, in a previous life, been involved in the television production of motorsport mistakenly believe that that must have been a glamorous activity. To a man and woman, they are smitten with the idea of behind the scenes access. This is the last commodity that has not really been exploited with the exception of the Bronze Badge program. I can take that one step further and for no more capital outlay, you grant access to true behind the scenes locations. Why not open a viewing window next to Race Control so the masses can see the decision makers hard at work? I would consider going even further. Open the side of one of the television broadcast control trailers in the TV compound and include that on the tour called “Behind the Scenes at Indy”. Send folks up the pagoda to enjoy the magnificent view next to the team spotters. Then, enter a chance to win and be present at Victory Lane at the end of the race. Exploit, Exploit, EXPLOIT!
Since the Millennials are bane to drive, let alone own an automobile, how would they even get to the track? Not to answer a question with a question but; how come there are not any Uber or Lyft lines and designated drop off points? Stage them in the north lot since the number of cars coming to the speedway should, in theory at least, be diminishing over time. Refer back to the infographic if this point seems fuzzy.
The Food Effect:
Last but not least, I like food. I mean, I really, REALLY like food. Keep your current line-up of tenderloin fry houses sprinkled about the hallowed grounds. Give up on the caterer brought in to give Jugs a run for their money, charging out-of-sight prices for a very average tenderloin. I WANT TO SEE A BUFFET LINE, centrally located and opened from sun-up to sun-down. Make the hungry masses come to you and just keep changing out the hotel pans on the hot line. I would venture an uneducated guess that Jonathan Byrd and family would like a piece of that action. I would just advise a menu slated towards the highbrow Millennial taste buds.
I would like to end this tirade of mine with a question to the other tracks and events out there. Why did it take the promotional arm of the Andretti organization several years to put a beer garden inside of the fairgrounds facility in Milwaukee during race weekend? Do you think it was well received this year? Do you think any of these ideas have validity? I certainly do. So hey Mr. Miles, got a minute? I have an idea…..
In consultation with an acquaintance of mine it was discovered that there were not any Novi’s at Indy in 1968. Specifically, he wrote the following when being given an opportunity to review my draft. Chuck Walden wrote:
A technical point that I must point out as I’m sure some of your readers will know this: there were no Novis at the track in 1968. The last Novi to lap the hallowed course did so in 1966 with Greg Weld at the wheel. When he hit the wall on the final day of ‘66 quals, Andy Granatelli was already planning/building the first turbine which appeared in 1967 and he reluctantly moth-balled the Novi. However, there were a variety of engines in 1968 to make your ears ring: Turbocharged Offenhausers, Turbocharged Fords, Normally aspirated racing Fords and Offys, Stock block Fords, Repco powered Brabhams, and I think there may have been a stock block Chevy or two on the entry list as well. And of course, Granatelli had his turbines and the Shelby turbines were there as well (at least briefly.) 1968 was one of the most varied entry lists in the history of IMS in terms of equipment. Unfortunately, just no Novis.
So, having said all of that, as always thanks for stopping by! Lots to go over this off season so let’s make it appoint to talk to you next time!