I recently had the chance to take a few minutes to pick the brain of IZOD IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard. Rather than single out just a few bits and bobs for a story, I think that in this case the replies are the whole story. Bernard is quite insightful and candid in his replies as he details the trials and tribulations of rebuilding the IndyCar brand.
RB - That’s a great question.
Q: And that’s one of the problems - you’ve been complimented by the owners for your marketing savvy - but how difficult was it to translate that marketing (style) you’ve done in the past to auto racing, which is a pretty staid sport in general?
RB: What I like to go back to the foundation and develop what is most important. We knew it was called IRL when I got here, and IRL had a negative connotation with a lot of fans because of the split and the divorce. We knew that we lost 15 to 20 million fans, so we knew the first thing we had to do was change the name.
And the last was, like I said, redefining our sport.
Q: Getting into that, how has the response from sponsors and potential sponsors changed over the last year and a half?
RB: We see a tremendous amount of sponsors and manufacturers intrigued with what we're doing.
So we're making progress, we see momentum.
Q: What about some of the personalities involved? How difficult has it been; in the ownership you have guys like Eric Bachelart that are living week-to-week with their teams, then you compare that to a Roger Penske. How do you get that balance, and get those guys into some sort of consensus?
RB: That’s a phenomenal question because I ask that to a lot of people.
Q: I guess the last thing, then...this has been a whirlwind for you. You’re on a plane every day, you’re working who knows how many hours per day, where do you see yourself involved in this sport in the future? That famous interview question: where do you see yourself five years from now?
RB: Well, if we don't do a .8 at the championship, I'll be fired, I'll be quitting (laughs).
Optimistically, I think we're doing really well and I think my goal is I want to stay here another three or four years.
Q: Is it ever hard to maintain that optimism sometimes when you turn on your computer and see (media and fans) piling on? It does seem to have abated just a little bit...
RB: That's a great question. I think one day you do something and you think you have a great day and you think you're on the top of the world and your problems are behind you, then the next someone just pulls the rug right out from under your feet and you're back on your nose. Everything is so unpredictable and every decision from small to big will have a big ripple effect in this business, I think.
When I'm having a bad day, I think of the positives, and where we can be and where we are going, and the fact that we've seen our sponsorship activation continue to increase. That has to be a positive for us. The fact that we do have a new television deal.
We just have to keep focused on how we're going to grow the sport.