The folks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway recently commissioned the Boston Consulting Group to evaluate and offer recommendations to Hulman and Company with regard to business operations throughout the enterprise. Hopefully it did not cost them much money. Based upon snippets of information that found its way into the mainstream a couple of things are clear. BCG has little cognizance of Indy Car history, either past or recent. Some might argue that is a good thing.
What about some of the basic ideas?
-A 15-race IndyCar schedule in major American cities held over 19 weeks and off season forays into distant lands for no points. I say make it 16 to 18 in North America over 20 weeks and we have a decent domestic schedule. Hopefully by ‘major cities’ they do not mean God-forsaken temporary circuits. Many large metropolitan areas have perfectly good ovals; e.g., Chicago, Phoenix, etc. This would also be a great chance to make schedule balance an actual reality. Four or five (or more) international events in the domestic off-season is also a great idea. They could even concoct an ‘international’ championship. It would keep teams busy and the sport in the public eye.
-A three race playoff. Wasn’t Randy Bernard dumped partially because he was talking playoffs? And have the fans not spoken when Mark Miles floated such an idea? How would it be formatted?
-A season finale at the IMS road course. Bad idea. It would dilute the product and not really attract anyone from outside the immediate area. Other venues are more suited to a finale. Any IndyCar event at IMS other than the 500 would damage the product.
-A new marketing strategy promoting IndyCar’s daredevil drivers. Everyone agrees a comprehensive marketing approach is wise, but they need to be careful playing up the danger aspects. And if there is even one word anywhere in the report about marketing to OTTs/Millenials and maximizing use of all online channels it has not been made public. They do say a new website is needed, but duh. Strong emphasis on personalities IS the right choice, but they need captivating personalities. Josef Newgarden, RHR and Hinch can only go so far.
-Use just one U.S. television partner, with intimation they should try to get out of the NBCSN deal. Yeah, how is that going to work? ESPN is over-saturated, and it is unlikely every IndyCar race can be on ABC. What about other networks? Why stick with ESPN on ABC for the 500? ESPN has done IndyCar no favors, and I believe has actively damaged the brand since the 1990s. They are the least deserving ‘partners’ ever. And what is wrong with NBCSN? Yeah, they are enamored of F-1 and covet NASCAR, but could that not potentially enhance IndyCar if promoted correctly? Perhaps IndyCar should concentrate on enforcement of their deal with NBCSN.
-Decreased TEAM payouts and increase purses. Good idea, but also might be a good idea to allow some innovation among teams (unique aero kits, for example) and also reduce the Dallara vig for spare parts or eliminate by allowing fabrication by teams.
-Change the ticket pricing model by increasing Indy 500 tickets and reducing BY400 and MotoGP prices. Good in theory, but the amount of increase for the 500 is insane. $50 per ticket higher? That would ensure wide swaths of aluminum. A more prudent approach is to raise prices for the seats that sell out (but not $50 each) and leave the others alone. IMS has already raised the price creatively by assessing annoying nickel-and-dime ‘convenience’ charges.
-Do not sell the Speedway or IndyCar. Good idea. Let us reserve judgment for the day we get our mitts on the entire study. Based on the bullet points IMS may have been taken for a bit of a ride.