Helping Sponsors Helps IndyCar

On Saturday, I went grocery shopping and loaded up my basket with cokes. If you’ll notice, I didn’t capitalize the “c” in cokes. You see, in the south – the word coke is a generic term to mean soft drinks. We use the term coke, like other parts of the country will use “pop” or “soda”. I’ll never forget in the eighties, I was at a weeklong corporate training session in Chicago, when a few of us made a run to the store. A co-worker from New Jersey gave me some money to get her a six-pack of soda. Imagine her shock when I showed up with a six-pack of Schweppes Soda Water. In the south, when someone asks if they can have a coke, you ask them what kind of coke they want – Coke, Seven-Up or Pepsi? It’s all a coke.

Well Saturday, the type of coke I loaded my basket with was RC and Sun Drop. Why? First of all, Kroger had them on sale; four twelve-packs for twelve dollars. You can’t beat that. But Coca-Cola, my brand that I am steadfastly loyal to, was also on sale for the same price. So why did I deviate? Because those two brands – RC and Sun Drop – show up on sidepods in the IZOD IndyCar Series.

Most that know me, know that I despise change. I live by the mantra that change is bad. I enjoy nothing like a good rut. It takes an act of congress for me to change my routine. This has nothing to do with my advancing age, mind you. I was this way when I was eighteen. Just ask Susan Scruggs, who dated me in college. That trait of mine irritated her then, just as it does now.

A result of this trait is that I am very brand loyal. No recession or hard times will ever make me buy anything other than Charmin toilet paper. The same goes for Campbell Soups, French’s mustard, Hellmann’s mayonnaise and Tropicana orange juice – just to name a few of my brands.

But my loyalties can be bought. Step up and support an IndyCar team and my loyalties change in a heartbeat. I won’t say that I’ll completely leave my established brands. I’ll confess that I bought some Coca-Cola on Saturday, as well. They are, in fact, an associate sponsor for Team Penske. But I never would have even considered buying RC or Sun Drop without their commitment to the IZOD IndyCar Series.

I actually grew up liking RC – or Royal Crown Cola, as it was known in the sixties. My family all drank Coca-Cola, but being a semi-rebellious ten year-old, I always bought RC out of a coke machine whenever possible. Somewhere along the way, as I morphed into an adult – I sort of forgot about RC, as it fell into obscurity. When I popped one open this weekend, the distinct taste took me back to my childhood days. I think RC will now become a regular in my fridge.

This is why companies sponsor teams and drivers – to get the name of their product out there. It’s all about brand-awareness. I guess RC has been under my nose all along, but I never paid them any mind until they joined the IZOD IndyCar Series as a primary sponsor. I went through the same ordeal last year when Sun Drop became a sponsor.

One thing about IndyCar fans is that we are all very loyal. We may gripe and grumble about a new rule or a perceived slight towards a driver, but most of us are united in wanting to see the series grow. What better way to grow the series than to give undying support to the companies that invest their money into the teams that run in it?

I can’t support every sponsor. It’s unlikely that I’ll ever need a giant crane, but if I do – I will make sure it comes from Mi-Jack, whose name appears on Takuma Sato’s sidepod. Likewise – if I were ever in Brazil and needed to rent some heavy construction equipment, it would be through BMC, who happens to sponsor driver Rubens Barrichello.

The newest PC in my house, along with my printer, is an HP. Why? Because they have sponsored Davey Hamilton for the past several years and now sponsor the team he co-owns with Sam Schmidt. I always choose Target because of their more than twenty-year association with Chip Ganassi. GEICO now handles my auto insurance. Although it rankles my politics, I use Citgo gas – plus it helps my wallet. Whenever my current iPhone dies, I’ll make the jump from AT&T to Verizon. I can’t now, because it’s the first generation iPhone and it’s not compatible with Verizon – and I’m not getting a new phone until I have to. Remember how I feel about change? Oh, and by the way – I bought a new Honda last month.

Of course, my sponsorship loyalties usually end when a sponsor leaves the series. McDonald’s has never been my favorite choice for fast food, but I begrudgingly ate there when they were a Newman/Haas sponsor. When they left, I quickly gave up any inclination to eat there. After Valvoline gave notice that they would no longer sponsor Derrick Walker’s CART team, I made sure they never got my business when I needed an oil change. I never liked shopping in a Nashville-based Dollar General store, but I went there strictly out of support for Sarah Fisher. Since they left the series last fall, I have not darkened their doors. Consequently, if Walgreen’s ever signs the deal to sponsor Josef Newgarden in the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing entry – they will become my pharmacy of choice.

I’ve never hidden the fact that I’m a big fan of driver Pippa Mann. She is a fan-favorite and I consider her to be one of IndyCar’s best ambassadors. Her search for sponsorship for the Indianapolis 500 and beyond has been well-chronicled on Twitter. I can assure any sponsor that would be considering her efforts; they would be paid back in droves by fans clamoring to support any company that supported her.

A longtime friend to this site and to IndyCar, Megan Bickel (aka Bickelmom) has gone to the trouble to create a website dedicated to current IndyCar sponsors. Megan gets it. She knows that the sponsors are the lifeblood of this sport. She has done the sponsors and fans a great service by creating an easy to find, comprehensive list so that we can all thank as many sponsors as we can by using their products. By thanking them and helping them, you are ultimately helping IndyCar.

So, pop open a cold RC or Sun Drop. Sit down at your HP, while eating a sandwich from Sonny’s Barbeque. Or maybe find a deal at Target through your Verizon phone. Then that evening, make yourself an adult beverage (or two) using Fuzzy’s Vodka. You’ll enjoy it more knowing you’re helping out the series.

Do any of these sponsors feel a ripple when I give or withhold my patronage? Hardly. But if enough of us hard-core fans of the IZOD IndyCar Series make a concerted effort to shift our buying habits to support the sponsors whenever we can – maybe, just maybe, it might create enough of a surge to convince other sponsors to take the plunge. That’s how the series will grow. That, and TV ratings – but that’s another post for another day.

George Phillips

22 Responses to “Helping Sponsors Helps IndyCar”

  1. Steve K Says:

    Oh how I miss the old days. A Marlboro Cigarette and an MGD.

  2. This is why my wife rolled her eyes when I bought a set of Firestone Firehawk Indy500 tires for my Mazda. The previous set of Kumho’s I had on the Mazda 3 were great tires, and I loved them, but sponsor loyalty won out.

    That’s why I was thrilled to see RC Cola on the side pod of Marco’s car this spring. I’ve always loved RC, and now I have a another reason to buy it.

    Still, I have to confess, as much as I support Indycar sponsors, no way was I buying a can of “Venom”, or purchasing a URL from Go Daddy.

    • I know the feeling. My local tire man ordered Firestone Firehawks for me for my dearly departed Ford Fusion. They were more expensive, and not the brand they promote at the local shop. He’s an Indycar fan, though, and asked if I wanted “reds” or “blacks.” I told him that I had to stick with blacks because it was for my wife’s car and needed the durability.
      Firestone (and the local tire shop) have a fan for life.
      Plus, Firestone had that awesome “How do I love you?” commercial before the 500 that rocks my world. They get it.

  3. I have my second set of Firestone Destination LE tires on my Explorer and I couldn’t be happier. I also drink Coke whenever I want one and I am secure with that choice because Coca-Cola is a proud sponser of the Indianapolis 500 and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Yes, I enjoy the products from the fine sponsers of all things INDY!! Good one George.

  4. Ron Ford Says:

    I downloaded Megan’s list and try to buy from those sponsors. However, like Tom G., I will not be buying any “Venom” and such anytime soon. You can’t go wrong with Fuzzy’s vodka. In moderation, of course. (and why can’t Dario get Glenlivet or Chivas Regal to pop for a few bucks? A nice single malt scotch on the side of a car would look mighty fine to me)

    Good and helpful advice for open wheel fans George, but let me just say this: You southern folks are certainly quirky if not outright wierd. All cokes are sodas??!!

  5. billytheskink Says:

    The funny thing with RC Cola is, for me, that I’ve been a fan of it for as long as I’ve been a fan of racing and I wind up rooting for the drivers they sponsor rather than buying RC because they sponsor racing.
    This led to me rooting for Jeremy Mayfield and Stacy Compton, even after RC stopped sponsoring their NASCAR efforts. It also led to the rare case of me rooting for an Andretti, both this year and when RC chipped in with KMart at Newman-Haas back in 96 and 97 (before being replaced by Coca-Cola).

    I try to support other sponsors too, but more than anything, I try to thank the companies that I prefer when they sponsor IndyCar. This includes RC, Valvoline (associate on Graham Rahal), and, every year at the auto show, Mazda.

  6. I’ve never known such brand support among racing fans as exists among IndyCar fans, and that probably applies across other sports too.

    I try to support brands which back racing where I can. I wish I could support IndyCar brands but it seems so few of them operate outside the US or North America these days. Many of those that do are products or services I just don’t need. I do intend that my next printer is an HP.
    Since I couldn’t afford Michelins, Bridgestones or Firestones (suppliers at the time involved with F1, IndyCar, Le Mans) I went for a set of Kumhos. They are one of the official supplier of the various Formula 3 series so I didn’t feel too bad about it and they’ve turned out to be just fine.

    In the UK we call any cola a ‘coke’, whether it be Coke or Pepsi or whatever. Sounds a bit odd to call a 7-Up or a a coke though! Soda means the same, soda water. When I grew up in the 80s it was all called ‘fizzy drink’, decades ago it was ‘pop’ but nobody says that now.

    I was glad when Dr. Pepper pitched up on the sides of Andretti’s cars as that drink is a favourite of mine and I felt that gave me an excuse to buy more, although I have a feeling they are owned by different companies in different locations.

    When Fuzzy’s reaches here – and I’m convinced it will be ‘when’, not ‘if’ – I will be buying a bottle or two. I do like a company so popular they can’t expand fast enough to keep up!
    Conversely, one of my pet hates is a company which sticks their logo on the side of a race car yet never tells us what the product or service actually is.

  7. Filipe Dias Says:

    I’m from Brazil, and I have the same thought of you. For example, all the servers of the institutions that I work are from Locaweb, that sponsors Rubens and TK. I buy some RC Cola when possible (my state doesn’t have it, but my father’s state has), I always put gas on my car at Ipiranga (Bia’s sponsor), or Shell (Helio’s sponsor). Although I prefer Bud or Heineken, I always make an effort to drink Itaipava (another TK sponsor, and my dad’s favorite beer). I bought my first car, and it was a Chevrolet. And so on.

    Sponsors make the thing run. If there’s support, there’s return. And I think that Indy Car fans are crazy at this point, to give up of something they like to buy something that can return to the series.

  8. On a related note, the Spotter’s Guides from Indy, 2010 and Milwaukee, 2011 are on my cubicle wall. More than once my eyes have scanned the sidepods of those drawings, making observations. Tobacco products are obviously gone. But so are beer companies. As mentioned above, the occasional premium liqour shows up. Oil companies are nowhere to be found. I can support many of the products, but many I can’t because the product is useless, unavailable, or unknown to me. What is “Guidepoint”? “Sprott”? “Ipiranga”? “PDVSA”? I had to look up what Bowers & Wilkins and William Rast were. Telemundo isn’t much use to me. Venom tastes nasty (yes, I tried it because they sponsor Marco). Citgo, Geico, and the BSA offend my personal sensibilities. And I doubt the National Guard would want me. I shop at Target at least weekly and go to NTB when possible. I’ll also probably avail myself of GoDaddy’s product, even if it makes me feel dirty.

    I had a point I was working towards, but I think I lost it… I guess it would be nice if more of the series’ sponsors were usable, relatable products I could patronize.

  9. Chris Lukens Says:

    Your comment about colloquialisms made me smile. When my family moved to Wyoming in the early 1960’s, people there would take a break to drink a Dr Pepper coke. Also the little compartment in the dash where you kept your speeding tickets was the “cubyhole”, and of course when you wanted the car to go faster you pressed down on the “footfeed” ( as opposed to the handfeed that was found on the John Deere ).

    I do try to support the sponsors, but sometimes fall short.

  10. I give racing sponsors a try. We tried Fuzzy’s after lat years 500 and have bought refills since. We tried and like Grime Boss after the Vegas event.
    We’ve switched to Energizer from duracell, switched to Tums from mylanta, switched to Verizon from at&t.
    I started using K&N filters and Lucas oil from their off road & NHRA sponsorship.
    Had been looking at FBI & US Steel for a new farm building. Now including Rigid Steel after seeing their Indy sponsorship.
    Looking at Comfort Revolution for a new pillow after seeing their Road to Indy series sponsorship.
    Meijer has become our primary department store.
    Have been using Dell, Lexar, McAfee, Microsoft, Mouser Electronics, Discover, and Reese’s for a while. And both sons graduated from Purdue.
    I support companies that sponsor youth sports, Indycar, NHRA, off road racing and my church.

  11. Megan K. Bickel Says:

    Thanks for this one, George! Not just because you mentioned my little labor-of-love, but because I truly feel it is essential to the growth of the sport. Sponsors keep it going!

    I also wanted to let folks know that I’m happy to get suggestions for improvement of the sponsor site. I want to make it as easy as possible for people to find sponsor info!

  12. “Do any of these sponsors feel a ripple when I” buy their offerings? No, but I’ve patronized sponsors of my favored racers since the 1990s because it seems to be the right thing to do. For instance, I’ve bought Mobil 1 for a long time, bought Shell gasoline because I was grateful that it sponsored Team Rahal. then bought Chevron gasoline when it backed da Matta, and I’ve gone back to Penske sponsor Shell. Bought an HP printer. I’ve bought Bridgestone and Firestone tires in gratitude for support of Champ Car and IndyCar. I have goodwill toward Honda and would consider a Honda lawnmower or passenger car or generator.

  13. JHall14 Says:

    Received 70,000 miles on a set of Goodyear tires which came on my new 2007 Tahoe. Went and purchased 4 Firestones to replace them with. I also sent a note to Firestone as to why I had made the purchase, due to Firestone being a loyal sponsor of IndyCar Racing. So when you purchase out of loyalty, those sponsors also need to know why you made the purchase.

    • The sponsors could use a little common sense gauging the effect of their sponsorship.

      Few years ago in Joliet, some teenagers were doing a visual survey for Firestone of tire brands in the parking lot while we were tailgating.

      They took an indifferent gander at my Bridgestone Dueler AT Revos.

      I pointed out that 1) Bridgestone is the parent company of Firestone, 2) Bridgestone (at the time) was the sole tire supplier of F1, 3) Bridgestone supplied Champ Car, 4) I’ve toured a plant 100 miles away that makes very expensive Bridgestone AND Firestone off road tires under the same roof for my very large corporation 5) I bought my Bridgestone tires at a Firestone store.

      The “head” teenager said ‘they didn’t tell us anything about Bridgestones’.

  14. I’ve been driving past CVS to go to Walgreen’s ever since Sarah F. started courting them.

    And I grew up in Indiana, George, but in my family we called sodas
    “cokes ” too. “You want a coke?” “Sure.” “Grape or Seven-

  15. Bent Wickerbill Says:

    Give it a minute or two to get to the vocal……

  16. LurkingKiwi Says:

    Here in New Zealand, lemonade tends to mean “whatever comes out of your post-mix gun”, but in general Sprite, 7-Up, Schweppes etc. I was surprised the first time I visited the US to be told “we don’t have lemonade” at an eatery, and had to try some brand names. Not having learned the lesson, the 2nd time I asked I got something home-made-looking with real lemon bits 🙂
    While I’m here I must say that I enjoy reading Oilpressure, it seems to have become the only racing blog I follow (except Scott Dixon of course :-).

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