Lance Armstrong boosting IRL

July 6, 2009
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armstrongLance Armstrong could give the Indy Racing League a big boost this month.

Versus is the TV home of the Tour de France in the U.S. And when Armstrong rides the three-week-long race, the telecasts routinely reach more than 1 million TV households nationwide on a daily basis. Versus’ biggest ratings numbers ever came during Armstrong’s reign as Tour de France champion, and his return to the Tour after a three-year retirement is sure to get stronger than normal ratings.

Versus, which is in its first year of airing IRL races, is using July to heavily promote the open-wheel racing series and its drivers during its amped up Tour coverage.

Versus says 33 million viewers in 2008 watched some of the cycling event, and there was an 80 percent increase in the number of male viewers ages 18 to 34, a demographic that should be attractive to IRL marketers. This year, TV analysts think more than 40 million viewers will tune in.

It’s important to note that Versus has significantly more subscribers now than in the previous years Armstrong was racing, so its viewership should be up from the last time the Texan drove ratings up.  Versus will air the Tour live every morning and telecast a prime-time race show every evening.

Versus officials project improving its Internet activities for this year’s Tour too. Last year, Versus’ Web site,, streamed 6.5 million video views—almost double its 3.4 million views in 2007. This year, that number could ebb toward 10 million.

While cycling isn’t a huge spectator sport in central Indiana, it scores strong ratings in cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, Denver, Chicago, New York and Philadelphia. Those are markets—certainly in size—IRL marketers ought to be interested in.

Versus officials seem to get the picture. Viewers couldn’t watch 15 minutes of Tour coverage during the opening July 4 weekend without seeing an IRL commercial. And we’re not just talking about 10-second spots. The 30- and 60-second spots feature the likes of Graham Rahal and Tony Kanaan giving their unique take on the sport. IRL marketers must be hoping Versus rolls out other drivers during the Tour telecasts in July. The series' July 26 race in Edmonton also is getting heavy promotion.

While the two sports might not seem particularly related, the types of enthusiasts who like watching riders ride bicycles down the French Alps at 60 miles an hour, are often the same types of people who like watching other thrill-seeking sports. And people who like racing … well, they like racing … whether bicycles, cars or just about anything else on wheels.

What the IRL is getting virtually free, other corporate sponsors are paying big bucks for. American Honda, Cadillac, General Mills, Nike and Hampton Inn Hotels are making big ad buys during Versus’ Tour coverage, which includes 250 hours in high-definition.

Versus will air the final seven IRL races this season.

To follow The Score on Twitter:
  • the garbage product is still garbage, no matter how it is promoted
  • and hopefully, more people will get to see irl drivers apologizing for the product
  • I think its GRATE that this blog has turned into IRL central.

    Anthony, are you a fan of racing in general, or just a fan of the IRL?
  • It's a big jump to assume that high ratings for the tour will do much for the IRL. Now,
    getting a car sponsored or owned by Armstrong in the IRL? Now there's an interesting
  • Dahooey still questions Anthony's motives. Guess what, his blog, his choice of subjects. That said, look at what gets comments. Pacers? Colts? Fever? Golf? No, the IRL. Because there are so many here who hate the IRL so much, and have no interest in the product, that they have to repeatedly have to post about how much they hate the product and do not care about it.
  • I have no issue with answering coverage questions. The reason I cover auto racing in general and the Indy Racing League in particular is pretty straight-forward. First, I'm a sports business reporter. The IRL is based in Indianapolis, and a lot of residents in central Indiana either work in or follow the sport or both. Even those that aren't particularly fans of the series seem to find happenings revolving around the series (particularly these days) to be pretty compelling to read about. Second, it only makes sense (to me anyway) that coverage of auto racing and the IRL will be heavier during the racing season. You'll notice, if you scroll through The Score content by month (look at monthly tabs on the left side of this page) during the fall and winter, I cover the Colts more heavily. During the late fall, winter and early spring, I cover the Pacers more heavily. During the spring and summer, the Indians and Fever get more mentions. It's a simple following of the seasons. I also have the benefit of reviewing this site's viewer statistics. That data shows me who is coming to the site, where they're coming from and what they're looking at. That data helps me determine demand. And content, as any news vet would (or should) tell you always follows demand. We are after all, a for-profit enterprise. Thanks, as always, for reading.
  • Lance Armstrong? Lance Armstrong than would have been a good advertisement 5 years ago! Who's next the Osbornes? The back street girls? Man are these gomers are desperate for attention.
  • Fair enough Anthony, fair enough. And indyman, shut your pie hole. :lol: Didn't you get the message that free speech is allowed here in America?

    I think the IRL of late makes interesting reading as this blog (and many other sites) are following the business lesson that is Open Wheel in North America. To understand just how F'd up it is, go back and trace the movements of Tony George over the last 14 years. He started off with what I thought was uctually a decent idea (ovals, gomers in cars, only US, no engine leases etc etc) but could not keep his eyes off the beauty that was CART. With the magic of the Internet, it is now possible to take a clear retrospective view on what NOT to do when it comes to running a racing series. Now, none of them is perfect (ALMS, F1, NASCAR) all have their problems, but they actually have survived, even thrived in the same environment IRL has. What was the difference? Tony George. This guy took the BS from IRL and the STINK from CART and built a series that fails on so many different levels. One big giant stinkball. :lol:

    I think Tony could have made it with his original vi$ion$, but he got fascinated with the big boys @ CART and deviated from his goal. That is unless his goal all along was to seize control of CART and/or kill it off, which is what he did....somehow. But anyway, to be able to go back and look at every misstep and miscue, as Anthony provides here, is well worth its weight in gold.

    Anthony, do you think you can get an interview with Tony? Man that wood be grate.
  • I feel sick doing so, but I'll give a thumbs up to DaHooey's last post. It lacked the rhetoric and mockery of so many others and made a clear point. Can't argue with that.
  • In response to AAARRRGGGHH!, are you really questioning Lance Armstrong and his popularity? If so you are a bit out of touch and obviously not a cycling fan. Lance's return to professional bicycle racing with team Astana has greatly increased the profile and interest in racing here in the US and in Europe. His first race back at the Tour Down Under earlier this year brought the biggest crowds that race had ever seen. His presence at the Tour of California brought huge crowds to that race. He did a small race in California right before leaving for France and announced he would be racing via Twitter a few days before the race and the crowds that turned out were huge to see Lance and his two of his Astana teammates. What I believe AAARRRGGGHH! really doesn’t get is Lance’s popularity and inspiration as a cancer survivor first and his appeal to those touched by cancer in some way. Look around at all the folks still wearing those yellow Livestrong bracelets and most of those folks are not cyclists. Look at Lance’s Twitter page and see all his followers, many of those will follow the Tour coverage on Versus. No not everyone who watches will want to watch open wheel racing but those IRL promos may generate some interest and that certainly can’t hurt.
  • You do have to love the hypocrisy of Dahooey. He tells me shut my pie hole and then in the next sentence talks about freedom of speech. I guess freedom of speech is allowed as long as it is what he wants said. I do not think I have ever told someone to shut their pie hole or any other type of hole. Oh well, kind of what we expect from Dahooey.

    Again, same question as always. why did this success that some here seem to think cart was fail with the loss of one race? Really a simple question. If it had the cars and stars, the big name tracks (minus one), the big name teams, the big name sponsors, what happened?
  • LOL, Indyman, on your point of DaHooey's hypocrisy! As JoBu so well pointed out, that is the best, fluent post I've ever seen come from the HooeyMan. But he tarnished it by the freedom of speech/shut your pie hole comments.

    Ain't it GRATE?
  • Again, same question as always. why did this success that some here seem to think cart was fail with the loss of one race?

    Way to stay on topic, you cart-obsessed Hulmanista loser psycho! :lol:
  • DaHooey is here for your reading enjoyment, thanks for all the support.

    Indyman - the Shut your pie hole was a funny. You know, a haha moment. Axe Berwickguy what its all about. It took his a couple months to figger me out, maybe you can learned some more.
  • Da Hooey:

    I appoint you as the Counselor Extraordinaire for his Excellency, Anthony George. Perhaps he will need your couch to lay on and your shoulder to cry on. And perhaps you can lead him to the oval promised land. As Bi Girl Fan would say: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
  • It si good to be loved. :lol:

    anthony - how about that 1 on 1 interview with Tony George. You could beat Robin to the punch! :eek:
  • Funny or not, it is ironic that the two comments followed each other. Especially since you accused me of somehow infringing on freedom of speech when I have never done any such thing.


    You seem to pretend that the IRL situation exists in a vacuum. The IRL was created in response to abuses or perceived abuses by cart. Everyone claims cart was so well run and the greatest thing to the second coming of Michael Jackson (sorry, some guy keeps giving me updates on the MJ memorial and I do not care). So again, if it was so well run, and so great how did it go into bankruptcy three times in 15 years? If the IRL was not created, then would it have somehow miraculously survived and thrived? Did the loss of one track doom an other wise well run business? You can keep sticking your head in the sand and claim cart has no point in these discussions, but it very much does. It would be what we would have now, or probably more likely not have now if the IRL was not formed.
  • CART had 3 bankruptcies in 15 years? Really? Please post one shred of evidence to support this.If you really believe this then you really have no clue.
  • My bad, I was off slightly. They came close, but did not declare in '01. They were able to muddle through their losses until the 2004 season. Then again in 2008. It just seemed like they were always in bankruptcy. Point still stands, how did a series that many claim was wonderfully run and the greatest thing since sliced bread go through TWO bankruptcies in less than 15 years? Come on IRL haters, I am sure you have a reason for it, or do you just blindly hate the IRL?
  • Cause Penske, Ganassi, and Hass were involved? :lol:

    can't have it both ways now can ya?
  • They were cart, so if you are saying they were the cause, then cart was not such a great thing. Lets connect the dots. They were in charge of cart and it failed, repeatedly. They are not in charge of the IRL and it is still in business. See a trend here? This is what I have been saying. cart was doomed to failure because of its leadership. Without the IRL, it would have taken all of US OW with it. Dahooey, you just proved my point. Thanks.
  • For the record, CART had one bankruptcy and CCWS had a liquidation. So your statement that CART had three bankruptcies in 15 years means that you are either a liar or stupid, or both.
  • Iman, you mean without the family treasure chest, TOney wouldn't have been able to run OWR into the ground. shill. shill. shill
  • Hello. I am very glad to see so much interest in Le Tour de France. I know this may sound like an over-ambitious goal, but I want to win this incredible bike race. I am only 16 so I have a while to train and get some quality gear together. However, I really need the support of others, like you, in order to complete such a task. On my blog, , you can follow my journey from a mere student to the winner of Le Tour de France. The blog isn’t much as of now, but I will post daily, and you will no doubt see dramatic improvements. Thank you for taking the time to read this post!

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