IRL signs major new sponsors

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Despite the down economy, the Indy Racing League sales staff is in overdrive. In the last week of March, IRL officials put the finishing touches on four sponsorship deals.

IRL officials March 26 finalized a deal with Hot Wheels. A big part of the pact was reaching distribution agreements with Wal-Mart, Target and Toys R Us to sell the IRL replica cars and track sets nationwide. Hot Wheels will make a variety of replica cars, including traditional-size Hot Wheels cars, larger 1/24th-scale cars, a car with a computerized sound chip that makes various racing noises, and IRL slot car and track sets. There will also be a special line made for collectors.

The IRL-licensed Hot Wheels products will hit the market in April, said Terry Angstadt, president of IRL’s Commercial Division, with the full line available by July. Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Indy 500-themed cars and track sets (which will include a "yard of bricks") should be available in May.

The IRL also has recently signed league-wide sponsorship deals with Chicago-based online travel agency Orbitz; DB Schenker, a California-based logistics provider; and the National Guard.

Meanwhile, the deal with Izod—to market a robust line of IRL-branded clothing—also is moving forward. On March 27, Angstadt said Indianapolis-based Vision Racing will put Izod spokesman Ryan Hunter-Reay in a car for the entire season. IRL drivers Dan Wheldon and Tony Kanaan appeared at Macy’s in Clearwater, Fla., April 1 to help roll out the Izod-IRL clothing line.

IRL sponsorship revenue is markedly up this year over last, Angstadt said. These new sponsors—Brazi-based Apex, an ethanol provider, Hot Wheels and Izod—will be three of the league’s five biggest spenders in terms of sponsorship activation, in addition to existing sponsors Honda and Firestone. Sponsorship activation means spending to promote the series through such things as billboard, print, TV and radio advertising and in-store and other promotions.

As for the title sponsor, Angstadt is optimistic an announcement will be forthcoming this season for a deal beginning in 2010.

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