IRL title sponsor hunt loses power

October 17, 2008
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marcoThe Indy Racing League’s drive for a title sponsor has hit the wall.

“The economy is having a huge impact,” said Zak Brown, president of Just Marketing International, the local firm the IRL hired to sign a title sponsor.

In early September, Brown promised to land an IRL title sponsor by Jan. 1, and said an eight-figure deal “was on the doorstep.” Subway restaurants, Kodak, William Rast clothier and two technology companies comprised the short list, sources close to the negotiations told IBJ last month.

First, the negotiations were slowed when sponsors wanted questions answered about the TV partner switch from ESPN to Versus, then the wheels fell off the economy. Now Brown doubts that Jan. 1 will bring a particularly happy new year for IRL title sponsor chasers.

“Sponsorship discussions across sports have come to a screeching halt,” Brown told IBJ yesterday. “I’m less optimistic a deal can be done by the end of the year.”

Brown said now is not the time for his firm or IRL officials to push the panic button. He has implored league officials—and racing fans eager to see a deal get done—to have patience. A title sponsor is critical not only for the cash infusion it will bring the series, but also for providing marketing muscle needed to reach a broader fan base and grow the series.

“With it being a long-term agreement, the last thing you want to do is do a deal now, and regret it for many years to come if it’s not the right deal.”

Brown, whose company represents a range of sponsors in the IRL, NASCAR and Formula One, said he is only willing to consider blue-chip, Fortune 500 type companies with a major U.S. marketing presence for the IRL title sponsorship. The IRL in the past decade has been burned by title sponsorship deals gone bad with Pep Boys auto parts stores and Northern Light, a Web search engine.

One thing Brown said will not affect the title sponsorship hunt is his firm’s association with Alan Miller, the tax and legal advisor who has been implicated in Helio Castroneves’ tax evasion case.

“I have known Alan Miller for forever, and he’s done some legal work for us on sponsorship deals, but he hasn’t done any work for us in five years,” Brown said. “I’m shocked and stunned by this, but it won’t have any bearing on our company.”
  • Nice. Zak fires up the ol' earl excuse-o-matic, just like I said would likely happen months ago. Ha ha. Funny ya got the Alan Miller deal in there too Anthony, good job on that (not that much of what Zak says has any credibility, but I understand - you are reporting what he says).

    Ultimately, the 'league' should just fold. It isn't wanted, FTG has done nothing but engender ill will and outright hatred with his actions, and it has no hope of ever being successful. None. But FTG will keep this pig squealing as long as he has a cheap, lame imitation 500 to peddle to unwitting rubes.

    Another epic fail from the earl for us to point at and laugh.
  • Seriously, what company in their right mind would sponsor the EARL? How can you sell Reversus as a legitimate TV package? And I hate to tell Zak but if he hasn't found anything by now, there is nothing to find. Businesses are doing there 2009 budgets NOW.... I really think that FTG and his cronies have never taken a business class in their life. Maybe they aren't offered at Indiana State.
  • Brett and Stan:

    Rant, rant, rant - that's all you guys know how to do. Perhaps a tinge of jealousy since you don't operate s successful, muti-million dollar corporation that IS entertainment to millions of people. Your two lame voices - DISMISSED!
  • oh dear lord, it berwickguy doing his baghdad bob dealy.


    Yopu might just find that these guys are 100000000% right. The EARL is an answer to a question NOBODY asked.

    Death by tenderloin. :lol:
  • Can someone tell me what Versus is? Is that like satellite TV or something? Why did IRL move from ESPN? ESPN was great! I don't think I'm going to get a Versus to watch the races so they'll lose me as a fan.
  • Versus is the former Outdoor Life Network (OLN). They are a hunting/fishing, Ultimate Fighting, and monster truck type channel. They had about 300,000 subscribers in 2007 IIRC.
  • Cool. Vs. Vs. what?


    ok, weak attempt at humor.
  • Thanks Brett.

    And IRL dumped ESPN for Versus? What does hunting have to do with racing? I don't get this channel. Why couldn't they stay with ESPN so I could watch and enjoy races? No wonder why no sponsor wants to sign on.
  • Anthony,

    I appeal to you once again. Da Hooey ramains way over the top in his out-of-control name calling.
  • Not sure the fat lady has sung on this one. JMI has done lots of motorsports deals, and I wouldn't count them out just yet.
  • I think exchanging ideas on this site and debating controversial topics is great. And I have zero problem with honest disagreements, but please take it easy on the personal attacks and the use of objectionable language (even if you spell those words in a creative way). The last thing I want to do is pull down comments. Thanks for your consideration.
  • That's cool Anthony. Berwick is just a bit thin skinned. Where's cuC whjen we need him! :eek:

    I heard Marty the Party Roth got univited to the party next year. Any truth to this? How will the league survive without him?!
  • Da Hooey:

    Curt Cavin said he believed that the IRL hasn't said anything to Marty Roth (or anyone) except to let it be known that it's going to be more difficult to get a license in 2009. He believes Marty has taken that personally and decided to move on. He also confirmed that Barnhart & Roth confirmed that there had been no order from the league for him to leave.
  • If a tree (Marty) falls in the forrest (leaves the EARL) and nobody hears it (number of people who care about the League/Series), does it even matter? :lol:

    Answer: nope.
  • Then why in the world did you even bother to ask?
  • I enjoy watching the implosion of the great inheritor's money pit league/series. Serves him right for ruining open wheel racing.
  • Tony George wasn't alone in the dumbing down of open wheel. The CART brass made some pretty stupid moves on their own. Had they all laid aside their egos in the 90's and worked together, we wouldn't have the mess we've been left with. I agree with you in many of your assessments. The difference between you and me is that I desire to hold out hope for those still competing. There are good people involved. It's not because I am a fan of or hold Tony George in great admiration, because I don't. For the good of the teams and drivers and fans, I try to remain optimistic. Isn't that what life's expectations are, holding out hope for often seemingly insurmountable odds?

    Compare this to our country's economic situation. I am no George Bush fan, but I believe most of the blame lies with the Congress, mostly Senate, and specifically the two that have more than overstayed their welcomes, Barney Frank and Christopher Dodd. The very idea that Congress put pressure on banks to make loans in the so-called Sub-prime market in absurd. If they didn't play then they would get cut off from Fanny and Freddie. We should throw them all out and hold them responsible for the mess they've created.

    What comparison, not much, but we can only hope for the best in the future of our economy as I also do for the IRL, not for Tony George, because we can't vote him off the island, but for the teams, the drivers, mechanics, crew members, and most of all the fans

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