I watched a great show in Indy the other night. It was a motor sport series with rabid fans, multiple manufacturers, a support/ladder series, activated sponsors, articulate racers, and a young, edgy vibe. I only wish it was IndyCar. The show I saw had edge-of-your-seat passing, a mad dash to turn 1 at the start, and all the danger and excitement you can handle. That’s right, folks. I saw the Supercross race at Lucas Oil Stadium. And you can quote me here: WOW! How does this series do it? I’ve got a few thoughts.
I have to give IndyCar and Randy Bernard credit: the animated movie Turbo is a HUGE step in the right direction to engage and activate a demographic that up until now was given the option of a die-cast IndyCar or nothing. It’s time to trend young. And Supercross has already cut a pretty big piece of that pie.
The leg up with Supercross (or any motorcycle series) is that you can go buy the product and run it on the street. Advantage to the two wheelers. They sell the product they race. At the MotoGP race in Indy, every manufacturer and vendor was activated. From the grid girls for every product to the three and four year old kids in racing suits tooling around a small track, there was something for everyone. That dynamic is absolutely missing in IndyCar. The MotoGP vendors are not just trying to make a sale today, they are trying to create a consumer for life. IndyCar and its sponsors need to take a lesson.
We tend to gravitate to those who resemble us. IndyCar is getting that, moving to young drivers like James Hinchcliffe , Josef Newgarden, and Marco Andretti. We need the youth. Supercross racers are all young, or at least they look and act like it. Let’s face it, IndyCar drivers are more like a college fraternity: cool and stylish. The Supercross riders are the hell-raisers that flunked out after the first semester of college. They were having too much fun to worry about class. Honestly, kids dig that vibe. The term is “edgy.”
Supercross owns Saturday night on Speed TV. All the races are televised. You know where to find them. While IndyCar struggles to find a time where they are not competing with NASCAR and football, Supercross carved out a niche. And like IndyCar, Supercross is a niche series. They just do it better than IndyCar. Their 17 week season runs from January in the warm weather outdoor stadiums, through the indoor football stadiums, to the main stretch at Daytona, and to the last race at Las Vegas in May. I am not suggesting that IndyCar follow this same schedule. It’s impossible to do so. But IndyCar does need to start its season earlier in the year and find times and dates when they are the only show in town.
Supercross is not without its controversy. There is conflict between the stadium circus and the summer circuit, particularly when it comes to sponsorship dollars. It’s worth noting that Monster Energy is the title sponsor for Supercross and Lucas Oil products, along with Red Bull, are the primary sponsors of the summer series. It would be nice to have those big boys doing some of the heavy lifting in IndyCar, wouldn’t it? And the demographics of the series are why we don’t. Old guys like me don’t drink enough Monster or Red Bull. I do wear IZOD sport shirts, shorts, khakis, and socks, though. That just screams PARTY!
Supercross has figured out its people. They are young and Supercross markets to them. They connect. I have a strong belief that the marketing department at IndyCar is figuring out a way to connect with that young audience. I guess a speedy snail is a good start.