May 28, 2021
It’s that time again when dozens of the American Championship Car racing elite will take to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) for the 105th Indianapolis 500. While this year will only see the IMS at 40% capacity, or some 135,000 race fans, last year’s mid-pandemic race had no fan attendance whatsoever.
Though last year’s race only averaged a 2.3 rating and 3.67 million viewers on NBC (the lowest rating and viewership in the history of the race), it was also moved from its traditional Memorial Day slot to the middle of August as a result of the pandemic. With the event back to its normal weekend, sponsors are back to have their brands associated with whoever wins the Borg-Warner Trophy. Sponsorship is a huge part of the auto racing sport. Businesses that sponsor drivers pay money or provide free (or discounted) parts for these high-performance – and costly – machines. In exchange, the companies expect a return on that investment through advertising and national broadcast exposure.
Here is a look at a few of this year’s teams and their sponsors.
Danish multinational pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk A/S (Tii:NVO) may seem an odd fit for a U.S. sporting event, but with the CDC reporting that 34.2 million Americans – or just over 1 in 10 –suffering from diabetes, the fit becomes less odd. Novo Nordisk has developed a series of diabetes treatments marketed in the U.S. under the brand names Ozempic and Victoza, to name a few. The pharma giant joins Chevrolet, a subsidiary of General Motors Company (Tii:GM), and Sherwin-Williams Coil Coatings, a business unit of paint and coating manufacturer The Sherwin-Williams Company (Tii:SHW), in sponsoring A. J. Foyt Enterprises.
Led and owned by Michael Andretti, one of the most successful drivers in the history of American open-wheel car racing, Andretti Autosport has won the Indianapolis 500 five times. With a history of wins, it’s unsurprising that brands are lined up to sponsor the team. Among them is retailer NAPA Auto Parts, a subsidiary of Genuine Parts Company (Tii:GPC), pre-owned auto retailer AutoNation, Inc. (Tii:AN), and satellite radio broadcaster Sirius XM (Tii:SIRI), which is also the Official Satellite Radio Partner of INDYCAR.
Together with its affiliated teams, Chip Ganassi Racing has racked up numerous wins, including four Indianapolis 500s. Online auto retailer Carvana Co. (Tii:CVNA), which is backing Chip Ganassi Racing’s Honda Indy car, created an interactive marketing campaign around the sponsorship. The company allowed fans to visit its website and vote on the paint scheme for the competing Chip Ganassi Racing Indy car. Owned by legendary auto racer and businessman Roger Penske, Penske Racing has the most Indianapolis 500 victories of any team in auto-racing history with 18 victories. The team, which can trace its origins back to 1968, will again be sponsored by wireless network operator Verizon Communications Inc. (Tii:VZ).
Co-owned by 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal, former television talk show host David Letterman, and businessman Mike Lanigan, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing sponsors include United Rentals, Inc. (Tii:URI). The world’s largest equipment rental company entered into a new multi-year agreement with the team last year, and in February, the team unveiled its new liveries (or paint schemes) that it will run as part of its 30th season of competition.
While the drivers are competing to win the Indy 500, there are publicly traded companies vying behind the scenes to sponsor next season’s winner and have their brands associated with sweet victory.