IndyCar sees data-content opportunities as NTT becomes title sponsor
NTT-Data, the Japanese IT corporation, has been installed as the new title sponsor of US motor racing’s IndyCar Series ahead of the 2019 season.
As expected, NTT, which is already a sponsor of the series’ Chip Ganassi Racing, the team of five-time champion Scott Dixon of New Zealand, is replacing Verizon, the US telecoms group, which decided not to extend its agreement beyond 2018, after five years in the role.
The new multi-year deal was announced at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Tuesday, but the length and financial terms have not been disclosed.
It was reported 12 months ago that IndyCar was targeting an annual fee of between $10 million and $15 million from a new sponsor that would be willing to spend a further $15 million a year to promote the series.
NTT’s expanded commitment includes serving as the official technology partner of IndyCar, the IndyCar Series, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the showpiece Indianapolis 500 and Nascar’s Brickyard 400 held at IMS.
Mark Miles, the president and chief executive of IndyCar parent Hulman & Co., can see further opportunities to exploit data through the new title sponsor.
He said: “I think this relationship is perfect. We are a global brand, and when I think about racing, I think we're international, so you think about the team owners, you think about drivers from all over the world. I'm sure that was part of how NTT saw us, but we see them as a giant technology and communications company.
“When I think about the future growth of IndyCar, what's more important than developing technology? It drives our racing, our teams. Everybody in the paddock needs data in useable form to improve.
“We take 50 million data records off the cars in an average two-hour race. To me, that's content. With NTT, we can make that usable and compelling content for fans that will continue to grow the sport and attract younger fans.”
Verizon, which was paying around $10 million per year, had announced its intention to withdraw as title sponsor in 2017, and IndyCar president Jay Frye and chief of staff Mark Sibla initiated talks with NTT last September, subsequently travelling to Tokyo in November to finalise the deal, accompanied by Takuma Sato who, two years ago, became the first Japanese winner of the Indy 500.
The 2019 NTT IndyCar Series starts with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in Florida on 10 March.
US national network NBC is to show eight of the 17 races, including the Indy 500, on its main channel, and others on cable channel NBCSN, having assumed exclusive live coverage in a three-year deal that signalled the end of rival ABC's long relationship with the series.