New CEO says local tourism leaders ignoring Speedway

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Leonard Hoops, the new CEO of the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association, is taking a look at changing the branding strategy that drives the city’s tourism and convention initiative.

And he’s seriously considering making the Indianapolis Motor Speedway a big part of that. I interviewed Hoops at length for a recent hospitality special section for IBJ’s print edition and he had some interesting things to say.

The ICVA’s current tag line is “Raising the Game.”

“I’m not sure the brand strategy we have now meets the test that I would look at for a brand strategy that is really going to move the needle,” Hoops said. “For me, it’s important to have something that really uniquely identifies a destination where if you take the words from the destination name, and just say that brand strategy, people know the destination you’re talking about.”

Hoops, who attended his first Indianapolis 500 this May, likes the idea of using an iconic landmark in the city’s branding. Something like St. Louis’ arch. It has to be something people “get excited about,” Hoops said.

He doesn’t think the people at ICVA are getting excited enough about the Speedway, or at least aren’t using it enough in promotional materials.

“One of the things I’ve picked up on in the first month I’ve been here is we’ve had a love, not love relationship with the [Indianapolis 500] and the [Indianapolis] Motor Speedway,” Hoops said. “In our history there have been times when we’re really linked ourselves to the race, and times when we’ve really seemed to have ignored it.

“The real question is how do you leverage something that everybody knows. Sometimes we’re almost to close to it to appreciate what that kind of recognition is like.”

Hoops admits there’s some resistence to the idea of using the IMS and Indy 500 prominently in branding the city.

“But I can also understand the perspective of other stakeholders who say ‘We’re so much more than that. Don’t pigeonhole us into that,’” Hoops said. “So the real trick is to come up with a brand strategy that leverages that, and doesn’t ignore it, because I think we’re ignoring it right now, without pigeon holing ourselves behind that.”

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