Friday, December 25, 2009

Great Book for Christmas

Merry Christmas from the Indy Idea.

My favorite gift that I received this morning is the book, "More than a Game," by Michael MacCambridge. The author tells the story of pro football's rapid ascent to Number One among U.S. spectator sports.

Everyone who makes decisions for the Indy Racing League should be required to read this book. The rise of the NFL in the television era was no accident. The process was planned and managed by the great commissioner, Pete Rozelle.

I'll stop there because Little Roggespierre is requesting that I put batteries in his new R-C Hot Wheels Team 7-Eleven Indy car.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Comcast to take control of NBC Universal

The worst kept secret in media M&A is finally confirmed. Comcast will purchase a majority stake in NBC Universal.

This is very good news for the IRL because it virtually ensures that Versus will be carried everywhere and by everyone (including DirecTV). Comcast will bundle Versus with more popular cable networks such as USA, CNBC and MSNBC. DirecTV can not seriously consider removing those channels from its lineup. Therefore, it will be forced not only to carry Versus, but also to assign the IRL's fledgling cable partner a decent channel number.

Translation: Comcast is prepared to spend $13.75 billion in order to acquire bargaining power with regards to negotiations with its customers and suppliers. Conversely, the IRL is preparing to select yet another single IndyCar chassis, thereby forfeiting its own bargaining power and that of its teams. The IRL will likely make the same mistake with regards to engine selection.

The IRL could learn something from its television partner. Regrettably, history suggests strongly that it will not.


Monday, November 30, 2009

Edmonton IndyCar event loses $3.9 million

This can not bode well for temporary racing circuits in the IndyCar Series. According to the CBC, the 2009 Rexall Edmonton Indy lost $3.9 million. The good news is that this is an improvement compared with 2008, when the Edmonton IndyCar event lost $5.2 million.

For those who are keeping score, that's $9.1 million in government funds that have been flushed down the toilet in just two years. If IndyCar were to attract a substantial television audience, then the money might be justified as an investment.

Unfortunately, that is not the case. The Edmonton Indy earned a 0.4 cable rating on ESPN in 2008 and a .24 cable rating on Versus in 2009.

U.S. television viewers have spoken. There is very little demand for this event.

The math is not difficult. The municipal and provincial governments have backstopped $9.1 million in exchange for a grand total of approximately 700,000 U.S. television viewers over two years. That's $13 per viewer.

If Edmonton were a profit-seeking enterprise, then it would have no choice but to follow Richmond out the door. When the contract expires following the 2010 Edmonton Indy, I suspect that we should anticipate the same conclusion.


Lack of U.S. Stars Killing Indy Event

The problem is not unique to IndyCar racing.

Mark Ambrogi of the Indianapolis Star reports that the city will likely lose its professional tennis tournament. Declining crowds, a dearth of sponsorship, and little hope for a television deal are the proximate causes.

But the real culprit is a lack of star U.S. competitors.

I vividly recall attending this event when it was the U.S. Clay Court Championships. I joined thousands of fans that crowded their way into an outer court to watch Jimmy Connors take on a brash but promising young American, John McEnroe.

Unfortunately, history alone can not sustain the event. Middle American tennis fans have determined that the present-day value proposition is irrelevant.

The two most recent champions of the Indianapolis Event are Gilles Simon and Robby Ginepri. Apparently, fans greeted these undoubtedly highly skilled competitors with a collective shrug.

Sound familiar?

The not-for-profit promoter of the Indianapolis tennis tournament is powerless to affect change. The same can not be said for IRL Management. It has chosen to abandon the non-technical aspects of product development.

The IMS Board and its chosen managers will have only themselves to blame both if and when a similar story is written about another once-great institution.


Monday, November 23, 2009

IndyCar's Griffin takes own head

The Indy Racing League has lost another experienced, talented professional. It appears as if Public Relations Chief John Griffin decided to take his talents elsewhere.

Who can blame him, given that his boss effectively called Griffin out for failing to promote the IRL's roster of unwanted "stars". Never mind that Angstadt, Barnhart and Cotman gave Griffin Goulash and expected him to compete with cheeseburgers for sales to U.S. racing fans.

Public Relations can not make people like the food. And John Griffin did not forget how to do his job when he left NASCAR to work for the IRL.

I like and respect John Griffin. He did his job well. It is regrettable that his bosses did not and do not understand exactly what that job entails (and what it does not).

The not-so-widely released press release is below in blue.


For Immediate Release


INDIANAPOLIS (Nov. 20, 2009) - Indy Racing League Vice President of Public Relations John Griffin has submitted his resignation, effective Dec. 18.

"John has been a valued part of our organization and he will be missed," said Terry Angstadt, president of the commercial division of the Indy Racing League. "His creativity and passion for the sport brought publicity for the IZOD IndyCar Series to a whole new level. We wish him the best of luck."

Griffin joined the Indy Racing League as vice president in 2002, overseeing all aspects of the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights public and media relations program as well as strategic communication. During his tenure, Griffin developed and implemented public relations strategies for several historic events including the unification of open-wheel racing, Danica Patrick's first win and the series IZOD entitlement announcement earlier this month.

"I appreciate my time here at the Indy Racing League where I have made many great friends and want to thank Terry (Angstadt) and Brian (Barnhart) for the opportunity," said Griffin. "I really think the time is right for me to entertain a new challenge, particularly something that would allow me more quality time with my kids."

Before joining the Indy Racing League, Griffin worked for NASCAR with his professional career also including stops with World Cup USA 1994 and the Major Indoor Soccer League.

A replacement for Griffin has not been selected.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

GEICO gets hip to Versus

Back in mid-season, Paul Tracy told Robin Miller that GEICO was not hip to Versus.

Apparently, the truth is that GEICO is not hip to the IRL on Versus. When the cable carrier has programming that its exclusively U.S.-based audience wants to watch, then GEICO is very hip to Versus.

Case in point: Versus is televising The Big Game - Cal at Stanford - tonight. Promos throughout the first half have encouraged college football viewers to stick around for the GEICO Halftime Show.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cryptic IMS Leaks are Cause for IndyCar Concern

The headline atop the latest motorsports entry by enigmatic Indianapolis Business Journal blogger Anthony Schoettle is ominous.

Speedway CEO about the get down and dirty

Apparently, laying off more than 13 percent of its staff was only the beginning of budget cuts at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It seems that CEO Jeff Belskus has hinted to Schoettle that additional and, perhaps, more substantial cuts are in the pipeline.

Schoettle indicates that both the Brickyard 400 and the MotoGP race are potential casualties. Not surprisingly, he also suggests that the Month of May could be primed for a haircut.

Not a TEAM Player?

Most important to IndyCar Series fans, Belskus is apparently considering either reducing IndyCar TEAM payments or scuttling the appearance money program altogether. Schoettle also mentioned that Belskus might alter the IndyCar Series schedule, focusing on more profitable (read: publicly subsidized) road and street races in lieu of oval tracks.

In my view, that these items are under consideration demonstrates the severity of the financial difficulties that imperil this unwanted product. Belskus is reputed to be a fine accountant. I do not doubt his qualifications with regards to reshaping the projected 2010 IMS Income Statement.

The question is whether or not he is capable of making strategically advantageous decisions. For example, if Belskus were to reconfigure the ridiculously wasteful IndyCar TEAM program, then I would be the first to applaud his efforts. Similarly, I would not shed a tear upon learning that the Brickyard 400 and the MotoGP race are not part of the long-term IMS operating strategy.

Shortening the Month of May would be a mistake, in my assessment. The 500 is a declining event by any objective measure. Whittling away at its edges would not create efficiency, but rather it would only hasten the event's plunge toward irrelevance and, ultimately, annihilation.

Conversely, ending the non-IndyCar escapades at Indianapolis might just make trips to the IMS seem special again. Re-establishing scarcity could be a first step toward restoring the mystique of the Greatest Race in the World.

I will likely have much more to say whenever Belskus chooses to take definitive action. For now, there is a specter that hangs over the hallowed ground of the World's Greatest Race Course. Is Belskus a workouts and turnarounds guy, or is he merely a manager of the downward spiral.

We shall soon know the answer.


IndyCar Product Development Map

Several contributors have suggested that I provide a visual aid that maps where we are and where we are going with regards to IndyCar Product Development.

Drafting the document was not difficult. Figuring out how and where to post it so that everyone can see it was more challenging. Fortunately, BC has provided the space and posted it at the link below.

New Day Rising: IndyCar Product Development

I encourage everyone to review it, read the text, and provide commentary.

Along the way, please keep in mind the following stipulations.

1. The IndyCar Product shall consist of all rules and technical specifications.
2. The number of possible Product Attributes is at present undetermined and unlimited.
3. Each Customer Job to get Done will correspond with at least one of the Core Benefits that we have already established. I imagine that several Jobs will correspond with more than one Core Benefit.

My preference is that we work now to determine some core Customer Jobs to get Done and link them to the appropriate Core Benefits.

We shall then begin to develop Product Attributes that shall provide those Core Benefits that enable Customers to get those jobs done.

As always, I welcome your suggestions.

Thanks again to BC for solving the technical challenges.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

IndyCar Supply Chain Follies

IndyCar fans and journalists appear to be hopeful that Tony Cotman will solve many of the problems that imperil the IndyCar Series. Regrettably, the evidence suggests otherwise.

Like Brian Barnhart, Cotman is apparently determined to dictate the IndyCar supply chain from above. Supporting evidence is provided by Marshall Pruett at

Supply Chain Economics

The practice of dictating the supply chain is one that has to go. Tony George did this initially to ensure that the IRL would have sufficient supply in 1997. It was a short-term solution that somehow became a long-term policy. Cotman then adopted it when he oversaw development of the DP01 for ChampCar. So it would seem that the decision-makers at the IRL now share a bias in favor of micromanaging the supply chain. This is a huge mistake, in my view.

An efficient supply chain must develop organically. Vendors must compete to maximize quality and minimize cost. Teams must be allowed to manage their own product life cycles and spend what they determine they can afford.

When a single vendor is chosen and a maximum price is dictated, that price becomes the effective minimum price because there is no market competition. Costs are artificially increased and an unnatural barrier to prospective new entrants is created. This practice also increases the amount of compensation that the league must provide to teams in order to ensure that enough of them show up to race.

Dictating the supply chain is costing the IRL millions each year, in my view. The decision that Barnhart and Cotman are about the make will certainly cost the IMS more than Ron Green ever did. It is interesting that a sole-source supply chain likely makes technical enforcement much easier than it would be if teams were to choose from multiple options offered by an unlimited number of vendors. Perhaps this is coincidence.

A Better Way

Barnhart and Cotman should be in the business of telling the teams what they may not do. Technical rules are best when they are composed of constraints that evolve in correlation with technologies and economies. Right now IRL management is picking economic winners and losers. This creates gross inefficiencies throughout the IndyCar economic universe.

Recall the USSR. It didn't work there, either.

For example, an economist would not be surprised to learn that the 2010 Honda engine lease is ridiculously overpriced. After all, without Honda, there would be no supply of IndyCar engines. The IRL has therefore surrendered all of its bargaining power to Honda.

In addition, the lease price that is incurred by the teams includes the St. Pete Tax, the Toronto Tax, and the Mid-Ohio Tax. Therefore, the teams and the IRL, via IndyCar TEAM, are sponsoring those three races. That the money is laundered (legally) through Honda does not change the ultimate direction of the cash flows.

Thus, we can conclude that much of the cost of IRL engines in 2010 will have absolutely zero to do with engines. Such is the cost of incompetent management.

Microeconomics 101

Establishing a middle ground between open competition and managed competition is undoubtedly difficult. But I would argue that IndyCar's core economic problems are far more elementary and not at all exclusive to the business of racing. Unfortunately, it seems that the IRL lacks managers who understand basic microeconomics well enough to devise a cost-effective solution.

The lack of sufficiently sophisticated strategic managers is costing good and loyal people their jobs at the World's Greatest Race Course.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Board of Directors can and must do better.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

IndyCar: Heads still Rolling at IMS

A good person and employee has been deemed expendable by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation.
According to Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star, IMS Director of Public Relations Ron Green was one of several staffers who lost their jobs Tuesday.

In a previous life, I worked directly with Ron Green on many occasions. He was always professional and accommodating. Like me, Green was then a true believer in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in its past, present and future permutations.

His ouster leaves me sad and angry. Ron Green did his job well. The same can not be said of those who make strategic business decisions at the IMS and IRL offices.

I remind you that this is an organization that has demonstrated zero understanding of the differences between media relations and promotions, corporate sales and product marketing, supply chain management and product development.

Fred Nation, Green's former supervisor at the IMS, issued a statement in which he predictably blamed the economy for the latest round of layoffs.

I consider Fred a friend. In this case, he is wrong. Green and the others lost their jobs because they happen to have worked for a company that is very poorly managed. They are paying the price for decisions that were made by others.

Barring significant and unanticipated upgrades in management talent at the IMS and IRL, Green and his cohorts will certainly not be the last to go.

Green's dismissal reminds us of the reality that has befallen IndyCar racing. Masquerading an intellectual property licensing agreement as Title Sponsorship does not change that reality.


Core Benefit: Community

Our final proposed Core Benefit to Customers is that of Community. In many ways, it is derived from the Core Benefits that have already been discussed: Aggrandizement, Intrigue, Thrill, and Affirmation.

There are many types of communities. They can be either formal or informal. All are based on something that is shared: location, socioeconomic status, occupation, security, faith, race, ethnicity, language, age. Often, sub-communities emerge from within larger communities.

For those who are interested, I will suggest reading the following staples of MBA level analysis of what academics have called "collective action" and "spontaneous sociability".

Mancur Olson: "The Logic of Collective Action"

Robert Putnam: "Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community"

IndyCar Community

It would seem that the IndyCar Community, writ large, should be a spontaneous and voluntary association that is based on the shared interests of those who choose to participate. There is no default membership requirement such as race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.

Therefore, people join the IndyCar Community for its own sake. This can be both good and bad for the marketers who make product development decisions.

That's us, by the way.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Core Benefit: Affirmation

People like it when their beliefs and opinions are proven to be correct. You don't have to be a horse to want to be Affirmed.

In my opinion, Affirmation is the Core Benefit that accounts for much of NASCAR's rise in the marketplace. NASCAR focused on attracting fans who typically believed that certain things were good and right.

1. Southern Regionalism
2. Rural Lifestyles
3. Working Class Values
4. White People

The last of these is controversial. However, I continue to believe that a segregated marketplace is central to NASCAR's marketability.

Incidentally, I do not propose that IndyCar copy the NASCAR model. That particular market segment has a product that it likes, namely NASCAR Cup.

In addition, I think that NASCAR has strayed from its core Affirmations and that its departure has led to a decline in popularity. One could argue that NASCAR traded Southern Regionalism and Rural Lifestyles for Nationalism. It forfeited Working Class Values and became primarily an exercise in product marketing and corporate sales. NASCAR drivers have been transformed from Working Class Heroes into Product Hucksters.

The values that a product Affirms must remain consistent. The prospect of growth can tempt organizations into sacrificing their founding Affirmations. This is a monumental mistake.

IndyCar Affirmations

I would like to see IndyCar build on the traditional Affirmations of the Indy 500.

1. Entrepreneurship
2. Independence
3. Progress
4. Automotive Leadership

These are not slogans. They are demonstrable activities.

They draw from traditions that were established and sustained by Carl Fisher, the rearview mirror, the Duesenberg Brothers, the Straight 8, Tony Hulman, Harry Miller, the Offenhauser and A.J. Watson. They allow for participation by both Roger Penske and Roger Rager, the super-secret Mercedes Ilmor and the converted school bus engine.

Fans therefore have reasons for their fandom. They have interesting stories to tell. Better yet, those stories provide confirmation of widely held values and Affirmation to those who believe in those values. That kind of promotion can not be bought.

I welcome your thoughts.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

IZOD IndyCar Series Announcement Thursday

*See New Info in Red Below*

The Indy Racing League will announce Thursday that IZOD has stepped up to become title sponsor of the IndyCar Series. Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star first reported the story in Gannett sister publication USA Today.

Cavin reports that the "asking price" was $10 million per season for a duration of at least five seasons. It is interesting that the money will be distributed to:

1. The IRL

2. IndyCar television partners

3. IZOD's activation campaign

Terry Angstadt should be congratulated. He is indeed a fine salesman.
The question that I would askis this: how much of this is "new money"? IZOD already had a multi-year deal in place with the IRL. We can probably assume that some of the new money came from IZOD's reduced payment for 2010 naming rights of the former Continental Airlines Arena in New Jersey. The New Jersey Nets will move out of that facility in the near future.

Core Benefit: Thrill

At its best, auto racing is the more thrilling than any other sport. It features a unique combination of sights and sounds. There is no halftime; racing is perpetual motion.

How best to craft a racing product that attracts fans? Visitors and contributors here are fully qualified to answer that question.

What are the most aspects of racing that you find most thrilling? I ask that you be mindful of the nature of this phenomenon. To be thrilled is not a long-term state of being. It is emotional and fleeting. I shall provide an example.

For me, the greatest thrill in racing was always the start of the Indianapolis 500. Unfortunately, race control has seen fit to allow the field to scatter prior to the green flag in recent years. Much of the thrill has therefore been extracted in the name of safety. As a fan, I would like to see the field aligned in eleven rows of three when it takes the green. Perhaps other variables might be adjusted if safety is in fact a legitimate issue.

I invite you to share the elements of IndyCar that might thrill you.


Monday, November 2, 2009

Core Benefit: Intrigue

We have established that Aggrandizement shall be one of the Core Benefits that IndyCar affords its customers. It is clear that hashing out the details will require significant time and effort. However, I think that we all generally agree that IndyCar customers should be made to feel as if they are superior to other groups.

And so we move on.

The second Core Benefit that I have proposed is that of Intrigue. Some notions that might fit within this category include the following.

  • Anticipation
  • Innovation
  • Suspense

When I think of Intrigue, I think of that which is either new or unknown.

I welcome your thoughts on this Core Benefit.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Core Benefit: Customer Aggrandizement

The need to feel important is universal. When it is satisfied via rational and healthy means, it is called self-esteem. But sports fandom is inherently irrational. There is no evidence to suggest that the success of favored teams and competitors is in any way correlated with the relative social desirability of their fans.

Social psychologists refer to self-aggrandizement as illusory superiority, a distorted opinion of one's social standing.

I happen to be a fan of the Indianapolis Colts. If the Colts should win the Super Bowl this season, then I will likely feel a sense of aggrandizement, as if I had something to do with the team's achievement. The illusion is one that I will be happy to indulge. The academic literature suggests that I am not alone.

The Jersey Effect

Don't bother looking up the name of this particular affliction; I made it up.

The Jersey Effect is the term that I use to describe the inherent marketing advantage that is enjoyed by sports in which the participants represent either a community or an institution.

For example, I do not identify myself as an NFL fan, but rather as an Indianapolis Colts fan. The NFL does not have to compete for my allegiance because it is effectively an economic cartel, a monopolistic Not-for-Profit institution that operates for the benefit of its 32 member franchises. Economists have reached the same conclusion regarding Major League Baseball, the NBA, the NHL, and the NCAA.

Fans of sports that are sanctioned by those organizations tend to be devoted to a single member franchise or institution. They identify not with the economic institution, but rather with the Jersey of a single competitive entity. These fans are aggrandized when the guys (or gals) in their favorite jersey are successful.

In my opinion, there is but one example of The Jersey Effect in all of motorsports. That, of course, is the Prancing Horse of Scuderia Ferrari. A good number of Formula 1 fans are in fact Ferrari fans. That the vast majority of those fans will never own a Ferrari is evidence of the inherent irrationality of their fandom. Ferraris are the fast and sexy trophies of the elite. Scuderia Ferrari therefore offers the many who are not elite a parasocial connection to the few who are.

Of course the connection is an illusion. But that does not make it any less real to those who choose to indulge themselves.

The Sanctioning Body Effect

Citizen John provided a comment in this space some time ago that really got me thinking. He noted that U.S. auto racing fans have traditionally demonstrated a strange and disproportionately strong connection to one sanctioning body or another. Having given the matter much thought, I tend to agree.

Might it be that the Sanctioning Body Effect is to racing what The Jersey Effect is to other sports? Is this the foundation upon which fans base their self-aggrandizement? I believe that a very compelling case can be made.

It's where the Big Boys race. NASCAR Fan is cool because his sanctioning body is by far the most popular in the United States. It's where all of the best American drivers go to prove themselves. The cars are heavy, have skinny tires, and are difficult to drive. It's macho and nostalgic. The fact that the fancy-shmancy folks in New York and San Francisco don't like it is only further proof that it's the best.

It's only for the smart, sophisticated and successful. ALMS Fan is cool because he likes what the socioeconomic winners like. NASCAR is the WWE and Wal-Mart. ALMS is the PGA and Saks. The cars are expensive, technologically advanced, and they race on road and street courses. Some events are even in major cities. It's for the hip, urban and successful. The fact that ALMS has a very small fan base is only further proof that it is superior. You can't be better than the crowd if you are the crowd, you know?

The IRL Effect

If there is such a thing as The IRL Effect, then we can say with certainty that it is not a source of aggrandizement. NASCAR has the best and most popular U.S. drivers and teams. Formula 1 has the best and most popular international drivers and teams. The cars are neither technologically interesting nor particularly difficult to drive. They are also essentially the same, the lone exception being that cars that are better financed are consistently faster than the others. The series appears to race wherever it can collect a check that is large enough to cover its costs. IndyCar is a relic, a once mighty warship that was decommissioned long ago.

The IRL Customer is aggrandized only at the Indianapolis 500, a storied institution that has managed to retain some luster despite its obvious decline in popularity. The market has made clear that the season championship is irrelevant. The few who continue to follow the sport do so primarily because they continue to associate themselves with the perception of a glorious past.

Aggrandizement: Core Benefit and Job to Get Done

IndyCar must become a source of aggrandizement to those who follow it. Watching an IndyCar race must indicate something - something that is irrationally great and desirable - about those who choose to either attend or watch on television. Every human being wants to feel that he or she is better than others. IndyCar needs to help some of them get that job done.

We should note that, although it is true the hunger for aggrandizement is universal, it is also true that not all people are satisfied by the same foods. Therefore, IndyCar must choose. It can not be everything to everyone, but it must be something to someone. Serving one market will likely require that we not serve others.

IndyCar must assist customers with the job of self-aggrandizement. It must give them reason to feel bigger, more important, and superior in some way. But how?

Which product attributes will help IndyCar customers get the job of self-aggrandizement done?

I look forward to reading your comments.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Proposition of IndyCar Racing Core Benefits

"Our sports heroes are our warriors. This is not some light diversion to be enjoyed for its inherent grace and harmony. The self is centrally involved in the outcome of the event. Whoever you root for represents you."
Those words were spoken by Arizona State University Professor of Marketing and Psychology Robert Cialdini, a research pioneer in the field of sports fandom. You can read the entire New York Times article here.

Spectating is a discretionary activity that fans elect to do in lieu of many other entertainment alternatives. Consumers are permitted to indulge all of their biases, prejudices, insecurities, and fantasies when they choose to become fans. They can choose the sports, teams, competitors, and events that appeal to them. In other words, fans are permitted to have their reasons and to keep them to themselves.

Those reasons are what we call Core Benefits. I have adapted the prospective Core Benefits below from definitions provided by I believe that these are the kinds of "Jobs" that IndyCar must empower its customers to get done.

Prospective IndyCar Jobs

Aggrandize - to make the individual feel greater in power, wealth, rank or honor

Intrigue - to arouse curiosity or interest of the individual via unusual, new, or otherwise fascinating or compelling qualities; appeal strongly to; captivate

Thrill - to cause a sudden wave of heightened emotion or excitement, as to produce a tremor or tingling sensation through the body

Affirm or Validate - to substantiate or confirm an individual's belief that something is true, good, important, and morally right

Participate and/or Belong - to take part or share, as with other like-minded individuals

I believe that these words encompass most if not all of our previous suggestions. I have intentionally chosen words that are deeply personal. Choosing one activity rather than another is, after all, a personal choice. Again, people have their reasons. Frequently, they have something to do with at least one of the definitions above.

As always, I invite and encourage you to submit your thoughts, opinions and constructive criticisms.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Defining the Core IndyCar Product

Frequent visitors to this site tend to be serious about IndyCar racing. One might imagine that we have a solid understanding of the core benefits that consumers can and should expect to extract from the IndyCar product.

Perhaps, like me, you are more than a little surprised by the difficulty of the task.


Several posters have suggested that "entertainment" is one of the primary jobs that IndyCar consumers are trying to get done. I tend to agree.

However, channeling my inner Socrates, I then ask myself: What is entertainment? Is entertainment really a job? Would we not be more accurate if we were to determine that entertainment is a category that encompasses many different and highly variable jobs that consumers are trying to get done?

The following definitions are from
Entertainment - 1. the act of entertaining; agreeable occupation of the mind; diversion; amusement. 2. something affording pleasure, diversion, or amusement, especially a performance of some kind.
I did not find these definitions to be particularly helpful. Once again, we are dealing with proximate categories, namely diversion, amusement, and pleasure. Our task requires more granularity.

The Law recognizes the differences between proximate causes and direct causes. We should do so, as well.

First, we must identify core "jobs" that enable us to be diverted, amused and pleased. Then, we can determine which of those "jobs" IndyCar might enable its customers to accomplish.

Daredevil Drivers & Harrowing Escapes
For example, prewar Indy competitors were promoted as "Daredevil Drivers." The notion of overcoming perceived physical limitations and danger was a strong driver of "entertainment" at that time

Frank Lockhart, the 1926 Indianapolis 500 winner, is considered by many to have been the dominant U.S. racing driver of his era. The preeminent escape artist of the same era was Harry Houdini. Might these two heroes of the Roaring 20s have been popular for similar reasons? I will argue that, indeed, they were.

Both were confessed mere mortals who appeared to have mastered the complex machines of their time. Neither Lockhart nor Houdini claimed to possess any mystical power to manipulate nature. They amazed and astonished consumers because they were ordinary men appeared to cheat death as a matter of course.

The Jobs

It is clear that both Frank Lockhart and Harry Houdini successfully "entertained" their customers. The relevant question, then, is: What were the "jobs" that Lockhart and Houdini enabled consumers to accomplish?
I believe that the answers to this question are very important. The Spectator Sports Industry was in its nascent stages in the 1920s and 30s. Houdini was a throwback, a legacy act that was derived from traveling circuses, minstrel shows and religious revivalism.

Conversely, racing, boxing and baseball were just beginning to replace those types of acts as staples of the spectator-supported events industry. AM radio, the disruptive mass communications technology of the era, unleashed abundant pent-up demand for entertainment that was based on athletic and sporting competition. In 1939, the NCAA, heretofore a small rule-making committee for intercollegiate athletics, entered the event promotion business with its inaugural men's basketball National Championship.

Level of Analysis

This is the type of analysis that I believe we must produce. We must ask "what" and "why" - the two interrogative forms that can not be answered with a yes or a no. The challenge is daunting.

And, so, we begin.

What do we mean when we say that IndyCar must "entertain" its customers?

I look forward to reading your answers.


Wheldon back with Panther Racing in 2010

According to Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star, 2005 Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon will return to Panther Racing in 2010.

The Englishman, a former IndyCar Series champion, and the team led by John Barnes will join forces once again despite having had a very disappointing 2009 season. Their undisputed highlight together came at Indianapolis, where they finished second to Helio Castroneves and Team Penske.

Wheldon had hinted that he would be exploring other options for 2010. However, fans should recall that IndyCar is a sport in which teams generate approximately $.25 of market value for every $1.00 of operating costs incurred. It is therefore likely that Wheldon's other options were in fact slim and none.

Monday, October 26, 2009

IndyCar: The Core Product

Understanding the core product of IndyCar racing is paramount if we are to determine parameters of the whole product.
A marketing professor at the University of Delaware was kind enough to post some helpful class notes on the web. They include a succinct explanation of how to determine the core product that corresponds with our guiding Maxim - jobs that customers want to get done.

Core Product - marketers must first define the core BENEFITS that the product will provide to the customer.

Therefore, the Core Product (or service) is that which generates the core benefits that enable customers to complete the jobs that they want to get done.

Our Task

We need to brainstorm.

I ask that readers and contributors submit two lists.

  1. Elements of the IndyCar product that generate core benefits to customers.

  2. Jobs that those elements enable customers to get done.

Those who are new to this process are advised to read IndyCar Maxim #4. In addition, I have discussed the "jobs" approach to product development in this entry.

Please submit your lists in the comments section below. I will then organize them and bring them to the top of the next post so that we might give them all due consideration before we make our initial selections.


Friday, October 23, 2009

IndyCar Marketing: Jobs of the Whole Product

This is an important crossroads in the New Day Rising Project for IndyCar racing. We are ready to commence discussion of our Marketing Plan. My purpose in writing this article is to provide a framework within which we might consider the issues regarding Product, Place, Price and Promotion.

In addition to the 4 Ps model, I plan to use "whole product" and "jobs-based" approaches to Product Development, Channel (Place) Selection, Pricing Considerations, and Promotional Strategy.

The Whole Product Concept

This Whole Product approach to product development is the brainchild of technology marketing guru Regis McKenna.
Recall the days when personal computers were little more than glorified word processors. That core product - the PC - remains today much as it was back then, albeit with increased and accelerated processing capabilities.
The early PC was disruptive technology insofar as it effectively eliminated the market for electric typewriters. Some suspected that handheld calculators might also be threatened. But that, really, was it.

Connectivity proved to be far more disruptive. Networked PCs provide a good example of a whole product. They would not be possible if not for the core product, the personal computer. But they are much more than mere word processors and calculators.
Connected PCs have disrupted myriad industries: travel agents, television networks, newspapers, bookstores, photo film manufacturers, and many more. Networked PCs continue to disrupt new and diverse markets because they afford consumers and businesses an ever expanding range of attributes and capabilities.

The whole product is the sum of all of those product attributes that increase the value that accrues to customers.

Product "Jobs"

This concept originated with Professor Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School. It is the subject of my IndyCar Maxim #4. Let us again use the PC as our example.

Previously, we recalled that early PCs were little more than word processors and calculators. Think of all of the "jobs" that we can "get done" today, thanks to the whole product that is the networked personal computer. Think of the various industries that have been disrupted - music and video retailers, photo finishers, pornography publishers, the U.S. Post Office - because a better alternative is now available via the PC.

The PC whole product empowers users to get lots of jobs done.

IndyCar: Trade offs Required

Selecting the optimal combination of attributes for incorporation into the IndyCar racing whole product is paramount to our task. It is also likely to be a challenging and, at times, frustrating proposition.

The PC is fairly thought to be a Utopian whole product because it is capable of doing different jobs for different users at different times. For example, it is entirely conceivable that one PC might be used as a substitute for both Hustler magazine and the land line phone that the kids used to call Grandma. However, that PC is unlikely to be used for both "jobs" at the same time. Personal computers offer users a flexible, either/or job orientation.

The IRL is not so fortunate. Racing is temporal - it must occur at specific times and in specific places. Years ago, one might not have been surprised to see Grandma sitting next to a guy reading Hustler at the Indianapolis 500. But those days have gradually faded away as consumers of all types have been afforded more and better alternatives. Such is the nature of market competition in the digital age.

Therefore, we must: 1) identify an attractive market, 2) determine the jobs that individuals in that market want to get done and 3) develop an IndyCar whole product that is unequaled with regards to helping customers get those jobs done.

Market selection is Job #1. Our target market will have little to do with demographic categories. Instead, we shall seek individuals who are looking to get the similar "jobs" done.


Marlboro Tix Nix: Another Drag on IndyCar

Perhaps we now know why Richmond is not on the 2010 IndyCar schedule.

According to Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star, Phillip Morris USA will not continue its free ticket voucher program at IndyCar races in 2010.

No wonder Terry Angstadt has become so fond of promoters that are subsidized by governments.

It is difficult to imagine that IndyCar will return to Kansas Speedway after 2010 unless more than 50,000 Middle Americans suddenly determine that what they really want to watch at the Kansas oval is an international road racing series. The Kansas IndyCar race was supported not only by the Marlboro ticket program, but also by NASCAR fans who were forced to buy bundled tickets.

Now, both subsidies are gone.

Phillip Morris USA will continue to sponsor Team Penske - for 2010, at least. But perhaps we now are better able to understand why Tim Cindric has become so keen to bring star NASCAR drivers to Indy next year in order to increase television ratings.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Working Mission Statement

Enough, already! We have bandied back and forth, to and fro, so that we might devise a Mission Statement for a revamped IndyCar Series. It is clear to me that we must arrive at a consensus with regards to multiple key issues before we can clearly define our Mission.

Therefore, let us use GreyMouser's 3-sentence adaptation of the original submissions from Citizen John and TC.

(Working) Mission Statement

1. We are committed to working with our partners to provide a superior auto racing product for the avid and casual fan alike that is compelling, entertaining and fun to watch.

2. We are committed to providing leadership that allows competitors to test new technologies and refined applications to answer the challenges of the 21st Century and beyond.

3. Every interaction a fan or partner has with our organization must be exciting, enjoyable and memorable.

Product Development Preparation

We shall use the Working Mission Statement above to organize development of our Marketing Plan. The 4 Ps model - Product, Place, Price, Promotion (in that order) - will lend structure to our Plan.

After we establish plans for each of the four Ps, we will return to the Mission Statement. Please note that the first P, Product, will likely require a good deal of time and consideration. The IndyCar product is much more than cars and engines.

Before we commence the process of Product Development, I ask that you go back and read the following Maxims. Each considers an argument regarding product development. I admit that my various positions tend to fluctuate and are often contradictory with one another.

Maxim #5

Maxim #2

Maxim #1

Maxim #4

Maxim #6

I will introduce our first Product Development issue in the next entry.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

IndyCar: IRL US F2000 Series Misses the Mark

It is no secret that Tony Cotman wants to revamp the IndyCar ladder system. To that end, Andersen Promotions, an offshoot of Andersen Racing, is planning to add a retooled U.S. F2000 National Championship to the 2010 schedule. The Indy Racing League will sanction the new entry-level series.
You can read the entire story at Racer.

My criticism has little to do with the US F2000 announcement. In that regard, I have only two relatively minor concerns.

The first is that drivers who are not yet 18 years old would seem to be natural targets for the new series but for the presence of Phillip Morris USA. Because the marketer of Marlboro participates in the IRL, drivers who are not yet legal adults are not permitted to drive in IRL sanctioned events. That one of the IRL's biggest sponsors works against the interests of the new entry level series strikes me as being a bit odd.

Second, I wish that F2000 would embrace ovals. Racer reports that two ovals are under consideration for 2010, but that most if not all of the schedule will be composed of road and street races. Is this supposed to be a proving ground for drivers who wish to participate in the Indianapolis 500? I guess not.

Another Bottleneck

One can sense that IRL management is trying to attract young American drivers who might some day revive the IndyCar Series. For this, I commend Angstadt, Barnhart and Cotman.

However, I would also suggest that the new Indy Lights feeder series will do little if anything to actually solve the problem. There are and have been plenty of talented young Americans who would have liked to have been IndyCar drivers. That they did not achieve their dreams is not due to a lack of viable feeder series.

Drivers such as Robbie Pecorari, Cole Morgan, and Kevin Swindell fell from the IndyCar ladder because the cost of operating a team at the top rung is five times greater than that team's market value. Put another way, if the IndyCar Series can not afford to keep 2004 Indianapolis 500 Champion Buddy Rice, then it can not afford to attract Pecorari, Morgan and Swindell.

The new U.S. F2000 National Championship might become a fine lower level formula championship. Regrettably, it is also likely to create yet another bottleneck of drivers whose accomplishments warrant an upgrade in competition that their personal resources and connections can not purchase.


Thinking IndyCar Innovation

Many of us believe that Innovation should have a role in the Mission of IndyCar racing. The details will require compromise.

Let us examine our proposed Mission Statement, courtesy of Citizen John.

Mission Statement

IndyCar exists to provide a superior auto racing product for the avid and casual fan alike that is compelling, entertaining and fun to watch. IndyCar is committed to making every interaction a fan has with IndyCar an exciting, enjoyable and memorable experience.

Innovation & Leadership: Comments and Suggestions

Mr. Cooper

"The role of leadership in testing automotive technology is essential. It is part of the value of the brand dating back to Carl Fisher. Without it, your Mission Statement would have no teeth. It is not unique in the marketplace. If it is not more than entertaining - which it needs to be - it is a drop in the sea with nothing special to merit attention."

Mr. Cooper suggests that we add to the Mission Statement, "...provides leadership in testing 21st Century automotive solutions."

Citizen John

"I'm having a hard time translating innovation into increased fan interest. Sure, there would be some interest, but as to substantial interest 'because of' innovation, I don't know. Fan interest in sports seems to center around skill and strategy of the participants... how many people will watch IndyCar 'because' it is the leader in testing automotive solutions for 21st Century needs?"

Dave NJ

"This is great in theory, but it seems to me that the tech challenges for transportation in the 21st Century are about energy efficiency. It certainly isn't speed and power, except within the constraints of energy efficiency. I'm not convinced that you can create a compelling racing product around what amounts to a fuel economy run."

BC has suggested that we "uphold the heritage" of the Indy 500, which he believes would provide an implicit tip of the cap to "a strong tradition of innovation."


"Since every era brings new ideas, 'innovation' means not only new ideas, but also adapting to and improving the ideas that are already available."


"Innovation will always initially be limited to the race track early on and then move from there with public demand and interest, assuming that you have a testing ground for that sort of thing. Nothing wrong with that."

GreyMouser noted that he likes the idea of adding innovation to the Mission Statement because it would provide IndyCar a clear point of product differentiation with regards to NASCAR. He also believes that innovation would provide IndyCar a market space to which no other sanctioning body has laid claim.

Roggespierre's Review

I tend to believe that Innovation must be central to our Mission. Like new contributor IndyIan, I also believe that innovation must evolve from the lowest points on the supply chain. This might enable IndyCar teams to augment their own brands in the marketplace. Ultimately, that would be a good thing for IndyCar racing.

Mr. Cooper's word, "leadership," is, I think, an underrated and essential element of his suggestion. IndyCar lacks identity at present in part because it does not lead the auto racing market in any area.

Furthermore, I do believe that energy efficiency and fuel consumption can be made to be both interesting and entertaining. This issue is one that I fully intend to discuss thoroughly when we consider our "whole product" offering.

Request for Proposals

So, allow me to issue an RFP to all readers of and contributors to The Indy Idea. Please submit the language that you would use in the Mission Statement to denote Leadership in Relevant Automotive Innovation.

We shall then discuss and determine the optimal solution for the time being. Rest assured that we will revisit the Mission Statement after we complete the Product phase of our Marketing Plan.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Slogging toward a New IndyCar Mission

Conventional wisdom holds that somebody once said that it is easier to tear down than to build up.

That guy was right.

After much discussion, disagreement and digression, we still have not established a Mission Statement that might bring about a New Day Rising in IndyCar racing.

Our most comprehensive effort to date came from the keypad of Citizen John. Let us review his submission.

"IndyCar exists to provide a superior auto racing product for the avid and casual fan alike that is compelling, entertaining and fun to watch. IndyCar is committed to making every interaction a fan has with IndyCar an exciting, enjoyable and memorable experience."

Recall that the Mission Statement should explain why the firm should exist. More specifically, it should broadly state what the organization must do consistently if it is to achieve its Vision. Our Vision Statement is below.

"IndyCar shall be the clear number-one choice among auto racing consumers in the United States. At its core is the Indianapolis 500, an iconic American institution that shall transcend the sport of racing and be a worldwide automotive celebration."

Can we assume that if we were to achieve the Mission that John has proposed, we could then expect IndyCar to become "the number-one choice among auto racing consumers in the United States?"

I am skeptical. I believe that IndyCar must do more. For example, I like the addition that was proposed by Mr. Cooper.

"...leadership in testing automotive solutions for 21st Century needs."

This might lend relevance and technological intrigue to IndyCar racing that would differentiate it from NASCAR. Here, we could rearrange the playing field, adding real significance to the product so that we might avoid competing head-to-head with NASCAR in the racingtainment market. Innovation also speaks to our Vision of the Indy 500 transcending the sport to become a worldwide automotive celebration.

BC wrote that IndyCar should 1) serve fans and 2) "honor and build upon the heritage" of the Indy 500 and championship racing. I think that Mr. Cooper's suggestion would help us to accomplish both of those tasks.

Ground Rules

I think that we are close to resolution. However, certain asides continue to foil our efforts. Therefore, as we attempt to finalize our Mission Statement, let us not raise any one of the following subjects.
  1. The name of either the series or the sanctioning body
  2. Specific attributes of the cars, drivers and tracks
  3. Costs

We will discuss each of those issues and many more in due time.

For now, let us consider Citizen John's proposed Mission Statement. Does it contain redundancies that should be eliminated? Have we omitted anything that is essential to IndyCar's existence?

Let's get moving and wrap this up.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

IndyCar Mission Refocus

I appreciate the following admonishment from Osca, a frequent and valued contributor.
"Roggespierre--please don’t lose focus..."
Thank you, Osca. We shall press on in search of a Mission for IndyCar racing.

Citizen John has proposed one that is worthy of our attention.
Mission Statement:
IndyCar exists to provide a superior auto racing product for the avid and casual fan alike that is compelling, entertaining and fun to watch. IndyCar is committed to making every interaction a fan has with IndyCar an exciting, enjoyable and memorable experience.
I notice the following core components.
  • Market Segmentation: avid fan vs. casual fan
  • Customer Focus: compelling, entertaining, fun to watch
  • Reciprocal relationship between buyer and seller: exciting, enjoyable, memorable experience
Recall that our Mission Statement should indicate both why and for whom IndyCar shall exist. For guidance, we would do well to refer to our Vision Statement.

Vision Statement:
IndyCar shall be the clear number-one choice among auto racing consumers in the United States. At its core is the Indianapolis 500, an iconic American institution that shall transcend the sport of racing and be a worldwide automotive celebration.
In my opinion, Citizen John's proposal effectively addresses the goal of becoming "the clear number-one choice among auto racing consumers in the United States," insofar as it focuses on customers first.

Both Citizen John and BC have addressed the issue of psychological benefit to customers. Specifically, the pursuit of speed records has historically been a major selling point of the Indianapolis 500. Physical limitations being what they are, IndyCar is unlikely to have that particular inherent advantage going forward.

Therefore, I ask the following question. Was it really speed records that so intrigued Indy 500 fans? Maybe, but maybe not.

Might it have been the parallel notions of progress and human achievement that really drove the intrigue? These are powerful forces in the history of American Thought.

I would suggest that speed records were much more than mere thrill shows; they were a source of pride because they seemed to confirm what so many postwar Americans were inclined to believe was good and right.

Our Mission Statement should speak to the base passions, prejudices and values of "auto racing consumers in the United States." We should value innovation because it not only appeals to customers' passions, but also because it might enable the 500 to "transcend the sport of racing and be a worldwide automotive celebration."

Innovation can mean more than just spending money to go faster.



Friday, October 16, 2009

IndyCar: Seeking a worthy Mission

We seek a Mission Statement for the series that shall compete at the Indianapolis 500. The task of linking the existential (Vision) with the phenomenological (Action or Mission) is extremely difficult.

For example, it is one thing to write that, "We hold these truths to be self-evident..." It is quite another to incorporate those assumed truths into actionable law that is intended to govern present and future behavior.

That is why it is my humble opinion that Gouverneur Morris is among the more underrated Founding Fathers of the United States. He drafted one of the most meaningful and eloquent Mission Statements that I have had the privilege to have read.

John Locke and Thomas Paine provided the Founders an idealistic conception of what they wanted the United States of America to be; Morris brilliantly prescribed what it was that the new nation would do. Equally important, he did so without imposing his own prejudices on future actors.

Let us review his masterpiece and observe the ways in which he crafted a Mission Statement that was both meaningful and flexible. Let us also admire the central position that he bestowed upon customers - The People.

I shall present Morris's words line-by-line so that the profound impact of each point might be better observed.
  • "We the People of the United States
  • in Order to form a more perfect Union
  • establish Justice
  • insure domestic Tranquility
  • provide for the common defence
  • promote the general Welfare
  • and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity
  • do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America.

Mission: The Who and Why

Morris made clear that it was The People who possessed the moral authority to act. We, too, must make clear that it is The People - customers - who shall empower IndyCar to do whatever it is that it shall do.

Morris presented six reasons that explained why The People acted as they did in 1789. What are the reasons that explain why our IndyCar Series will act as it will? Moreover, why should this organization exist at all? Why will "auto racing consumers in the United States" be better off for having watched or attended an IndyCar Series event? What benefits shall they glean?

Our intent is not to establish a National Constitution, but rather to create a National Racing Series that supports and augments an "iconic American institution." What are the base activities that we must always do - what must we consistently deliver - if we are to achieve our Vision? What are the values that shall guide us?

Product: The What and How

Our Mission is not our product; it is why our organization exists.

For example, we might all agree that IndyCar needs to bring back innovation. The question, then, is why? How might innovation benefit customers - The People?

This article is intended to provide clarification as we challenge ourselves to achieve a difficult task. I promise that we shall discuss specific product attributes very soon.

Human action is preceded by Will. We know why before we determine how. This exercise is no different. That is why we need a Mission Statement and, perhaps, a Values Statement.

I look forward to reading your comments and suggestions.


IndyCar: The Road Ahead - Mission Possible!

Congratulations! We have taken the first step toward reinventing IndyCar to achieve mass market acceptance. Please read our completed Vision Statement below and take a moment to think about its implications. Keep in mind that "IndyCar" is a working title for the series that competes at Indianapolis in May.

"IndyCar shall be the clear number-one choice among auto racing consumers in the United States. At its core is the Indianapolis 500, an iconic American institution that shall transcend the sport of racing and be a worldwide automotive celebration."

Mission Possible

We must now forge a Mission Statement. This is the first derivative of our vision; it describes the activities that must be done at all times if we are to activate our Vision and inspire a New Day Rising for IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500.

Again, I refer you to this concise summary of the difference between Vision and Mission from the Minnesota Department of Health. I suggest that we begin by proposing words that convey what IndyCar must do in order to be the "number-one choice among auto racing consumers in the United States." We do not need great detail with regards to product attributes. Those issues will be addressed soon enough, when we establish our Product, Place, and Price offerings in our Marketing Plan.

Mission is about core organizational purpose. We might also want to incorporate a Values Statement with our Mission. Management Consultant Carter McNamara provides a brief synopsis of Vision, Mission and Values here.

Allow me to present a few words that might get us started.
  • Innovation
  • Competition
  • Entertainment
  • Value
  • Unique
  • Efficient
  • Profit
We need not use all of the words above. They are merely a starting point for discussion.

The words that we choose to incorporate in our Mission and, possibly, Values Statements shall be central to our next task, the Marketing Plan. It is there that we shall begin to attack the details. Therefore, I ask that you present not only the essential words, but also the underlying ideas that make those words important.



Thursday, October 15, 2009

IndyCar: Completing the Vision

Our Vision for a New Day Rising in IndyCar racing is nearly complete. However, one final issue must be resolved. The Vision Statement is presented below.

IndyCar shall be the clear number-one choice among auto racing consumers in the United States. At its core is the Indianapolis 500, an iconic American institution that shall transcend the sport of racing and be a worldwide automotive celebration.
Muskie has suggested that we insert "...featuring open wheel race cars designed for competition at the Indianapolis 500...".

Should we incorporate this language? I am tempted, albeit with some reservations.

First, we might determine that the sanctioning body should enter forms of racing that do not include open-wheel cars. However, we have identified the series and not the sanctioning body in our Vision Statement. Therefore, I think that Muskie's suggestion could fit.
Second, we have had much discussion about the relationship between the 500 and the series. I quote VirtualBalboa.

"For a series to work and grow and prosper, the races must stand on their own."

I tend to agree. This leads me to suspect that to identify a singular purpose - that of being "designed for competition in the Indianapolis 500" - for our as yet undetermined product might be a tad premature

Rocketman53 believes that the Indianapolis 500 should stand above all else. Conversely, Trick Dickle believes that a strong link to the 500 is essential if the series is to succeed.

Might they both be correct? I think so. That is why I would be satisfied to leave the " its core..." phrase, also suggested by Muskie, intact.

What do you think?


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

IndyCar New Day Rising: Vision and Mission

Previously, I proposed a Vision Statement that might guide us as we seek a New Day Rising for IndyCar racing. The iteration below contains some cosmetic edits.

"IndyCar shall be the clear number-one choice among auto racing consumers in the United States. At its core is the Indianapolis 500, an iconic American institution that shall transcend the sport of racing and be a worldwide automotive celebration."

Yea or Nay?

This is the time to suggest changes and/or additions. If I do not receive any further suggestions in the next few hours, then I will proceed and use the Vision Statement above.

"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does." - William James

I anticipate seeking suggestions for our New Day Rising IndyCar Mission Statement very soon. Some contributions to the Vision Statement discussion should be revisited when we attempt to hash out our Mission Statement.

If you would like to prepare, then I suggest that you read this very brief explanation of the difference between a Vision Statement and a Mission Statement. It was published by the Minnesota Department of Health. I appreciated its brevity.

In summary, a Vision Statement is a conception of the optimal state of being. A Mission Statement identifies those Big Picture Activities that must be done consistently in order to realize and sustain the Vision. The Mission should not be highly detailed, but it should be actionable.

And so, we press on "As If" what we do makes a difference. Let us hope that Mr. James was right.


TV Viewers tune out IndyCar Championship

Allow me to interrupt the New Day Rising project for just a moment.

The television ratings for the penultimate IndyCar race of the season are in. The number is consistent with the others from the second half of the 2009 season on Versus.

Sports Media Watch has the complete story.

Here is how IndyCar racing compared with other Versus offerings of the past week.
  • Capital/Bruins NHL game = 405,000 viewers
  • IndyCar at Homestead-Miami Speedway = 268,000 viewers
  • UFL (new pro football league) 1st game = 205,000 viewers

The numbers provide still more reason to undertake the New Day Rising project. The IndyCar Championship race barely topped a start-up league.

We now turn our attention back to completing our New Vision for the sport.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

IndyCar Vision: It's Tougher than it Looks

Less than 24 hours into our New Day Rising Project, we have discovered that defining a comprehensive vision for the IndyCar Series is every bit as difficult as we had suspected.

I thought that the Vision should answer two questions.

1. What is the best that IndyCar can be?
2. How will we know when IndyCar is successful?

Readers and contributors have provided thoughtful and highly varied responses. Let's see whether or not we can establish some common themes.

Citizen John
"To be the premier auto racing series in the U.S. with the Indy 500 being the preeminent auto race in the country."


"To provide racing fans with the best possible open wheel racing in the United States.

To be the best possible open wheel racing means we will offer a varied visual and audio experience provided by a product that is affordable, attractive and available to fans at venues that encourage attendance in person and enhance the TV experience."

Roggespierre Commentary

Citizen John's submission is succinct and ambitious. I like it. Osca takes into account a very important constituency that has too often been ignored by IndyCar participants. That would be customers, racing fans.

I suggest that we combine these two submissions.

"IndyCar shall be the clear number-one choice among auto racing consumers in the United States. The Indianapolis 500 is an iconic American institution that shall transcend racing and become a worldwide automotive celebration."

There are good reasons to use the "number-one choice" language. First, why would a series that includes the Indy 500 aim for anything less? Second, we want demonstrable evidence of success that can be measured; "number-one" serves that purpose. Third, "choice" implies that we understand that the market is competitive. Customers have many events and television programs from which to choose. We must be their first choice.

Notice, too, that I chose to use "auto racing consumers in the United States" in this portion of the Vision Statement. This is important, I think, because the attributes that appeal to people in one culture are not necessarily the attributes that appeal to people in another culture. Because IndyCar is based in the United States, it must focus on cultivating latent demand in the U.S.

In addition, there are many, many people who will never like racing. Those people will do nothing to help IndyCar become number-one. I suggest that we forget about them for eleven months each year. That is why I focus on "auto racing consumers." However, we shall open our doors to the others in May.

Trick Dickle

"Your sport and series have EVERYTHING to do with the Indianapolis 500."

Mr. Dickle is right. But this creates a tricky proposition. Specifically, how do we retain and improve the "special" status of the 500 without making the rest of the schedule appear irrelevant?
That speaks to my final second sentence above.

"The Indianapolis 500 is an iconic American institution that shall transcend racing and become a worldwide automotive celebration."
Many people who like cars do not necessarily like racing. The Indy 500 is both a race and a spectacle that must once again be about cars, both those on the track and those in the Coke Lot. Indy must draw spectators, primarily from Middle America, for three weeks. A three week celebration of automotive innovation, technology and competition is therefore what I have in mind. Indy will be made special by activities both on and off the track.

The balance of the series schedule must be merely the "clear number-one choice among auto racing consumers in the United States."


Vision Statements come in all shapes and sizes. Two sentences might not be enough. Those that I have proposed might not be the right sentences.

We are not done with the Vision portion of your strategic IndyCar plan. There is more to consider in the Comments section below this article.
I welcome your feedback and additional suggestions.