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IndyCar Series makes deal with popular Facebook game

April 25, 2011

The IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway have signed a licensing deal with California-based Cie Games to have the open-wheel racing cars and drivers featured in the popular Facebook game “Car Town.”

Financial terms of the deal made earlier this month were not released, but the marketing bounce for the series could be substantial.

Car Town, launched in August 2010, attracts 8 million players, with 46 percent of its gamers playing at least once every three days, making it one of the most in-demand games available on Facebook, according to officials of the social network.

IndyCar Series officials said they were drawn to the deal with Cie Games and Facebook by the game’s growing following and demographics. Eighty percent of Car Town players are 35 or younger, according to Cie officials.

The deal could also lead the IndyCar Series to partnerships with Car Town’s growing list of sponsors, including Honda Motor Co. and State Farm Insurance Co., among others.

The licensing agreement gives the IndyCar Series its first gaming partner in more than three years, series officials said. It represents Cie Games' second major motorsports deal this year. It signed a deal with NASCAR in February.

The game gives players an opportunity to build garages and buy and race cars against other players.

Car Town this month started showcasing several IndyCar-branded features and drivers.

Car Town users can enter the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s Gasoline Alley and garage area where they can select a car driven by IndyCar Series drivers and complete the Indy 500 Challenge with the help of a pit crew they select from among their Facebook friends or by spending in-game points. Players can also race against the clock and compete against other Car Town pit crews, striving to top the Indy Pit Stop Challenge leader board.

The game will feature the cars of 13 IndyCar drivers, including Danica Patrick, Dario Franchitti, Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal, and the 2011 Indianapolis 500 Event Car, which honors the 100th anniversary of the first Indianapolis 500.

“We’re only scratching the surface in terms of the ways the virtual world of social gaming can bring new experiences to players and new marketing opportunities to companies and brands across the spectrum,” said Cie Games Chief Creative Officer Dennis Suggs in a prepared statement. “We think the sky’s the limit in terms of the creative executions brands can deploy to break through to new audiences using social media and social games.”

Additional IndyCar features are scheduled for release throughout the 2011 Izod IndyCar Series season, Suggs said.

IndyCar officials said the Car Town deal marks the beginning in a new era of marketing for the series.

“Car Town is not the end of our push into gaming,” said Casey Kohler, IndyCar Series marketing director.

The game was attractive to the series’ marketing efforts, Kohler said, because it offers a cost-effective way to tap a fast-growing media vehicle with a built-in automotive fan base.

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