INDYCAR – On Sponsorships, Cherry Picking and Penske

There has been a litany of sponsorship announcements in the last few days coming from the Penske camp. First we heard of the Shell/Penzoil deal for Helio, then comes word that Meijer had jumped ship from Andretti, and today the announcement that IZOD has joined up with the Captain. Danny Sullivan once said that “When the music stops, Roger always has a chair.” Apparently its Michael Andretti’s. One would have to wonder what the mood is like in the Andretti Autosport shop the last few weeks.

Shell/Penzoil’s return to open wheel racing is a welcome sight to long time fans. Penske of course ran that iconic sponsorship in the past with their stable of legendary names, then of course Panther ran with it for several years as well. The Shell/Penzoil deal is not for the full season as their colors will grace Helio’s ride for Indy, but other events will most likely be announced.

While Shell’s return did not occur at the expense of any other INDYCAR team, Meijer and IZOD have both been sponsors at Andretti Autosport. Meijer has been a longtime sponsor appearing at the associate level and as a sometimes primary sponsor, while IZOD was on Ryan Hunter-Reay’s car last season. Meijer and IZOD will appear as an associate sponsor on all of Roger’s, and IZOD will also serve as a primary sponsor on Briscoe’s car for at least two races in 2011.

Now the question begs to be asked, shouldn’t Roger be out looking for new or returning sponsors who are not currently associated with the series, instead of cherry picking from Andretti?

Maybe it sounds a little more ethical to say YES, Penske should understand that taking sponsors from other teams only hurts the momentum of a series that is just now announcing deal after deal with new category sponsors. But my answer is NO. Let’s look at this from Meijer and IZOD’s standpoint. Andretti is hemorrhaging sponsors right now. 7-11 has gone from a primary sponsor to an associate sponsor. Tony Kanaan is out the door. AFS has other plans for their future, which do not include continued involvement with Andretti or a rumored 4th car for AA in 2011. What remains is Danica, Marco and Ryan. While Ryan is a proven talent, Danica and Marco have not shown very well for the team, particularly last year. And Ryan’s ability to set up cars for his two teammates will be severely taxed without the help of Tony Kanaan. Andretti has continued in this position of being the 3rd best team in the series for 3 years now and does not look to be improving anytime soon. And with the loss of Tony Kanaan, we have to start wondering if 3rd place next year is realistic with Panther and Dreyer and Reinbold on their heels. I would posit that sponsors leaving AA has less to do with Roger stealing them away and more to do with IZOD and Meijer looking for a team that could more effectively market their product.

Also, before we try to throw Roger under the bus for stealing sponsors, we should recognize that Shell/Penzoil and Verizon are sponsorship deals that Roger didn’t “steal”. Further, Chevy’s return to INDYCAR would not have happened without a little “Penske musical chairs”. Further, Verizon is rumored to be the next big thing in INDYCAR category sponsors.

For what it is worth, IZOD has said that they will continue to market around Ryan Hunter-Reay, but nothing has yet been said if they will continue any sort of sponsorship with him. Some rumors have even said that RHR may have moved to Penske if Andretti did not exercise an option on his contract, though I would treat that with suspiscion.

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8 Thoughts to “INDYCAR – On Sponsorships, Cherry Picking and Penske

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by BJ (Juice) Johnson, said: New Content: IndyCar – On Sponsorships, Cherry Picking and Penske – […]

  2. Dude! Get out of my head!! You just wrote down every single thought I had on the Penske Sponsor-a-thon. Must absolutely suck to be Michael Andretti right now. I can tell you that I’m not real happy as a Andretti Autosport fan at the moment, and it appears that there will be yet ANOTHER Penske sponsor press conference tomorrow! …is that the theme music to Zero Wing I hear in the background?


  3. I am still slowly making contacts with several teams. I don’t know enough to be sure, but I have a suspicion who ever was inking sponsorship deals for Andretti Autosport may know work for Darth Penske. (I know he really is Lord Palpatine of the Series but that is too obscure of a Star Wars reference for most.)

    It would make the most sense. Who knows these people better already, and let alone who knows all the contracts that were ending at Andretti than this person or persons.

    Also maybe this is a move to kick AA down the hill before the switch in 2012 in hopes of getting a buffer should those Chevrolet engines not work so well early in 2012.

    However there can be still an upside for Andretti. It looks more and more like AA will be the top dog for Honda in 2012. Perhaps Honda may become more than just a supplier to the team. I mean Micheal sells their brand of moto bikes like hot cakes here in eastern Pennsylvania and wester New Jersey.

    I’m sure I will have more on this not only Wednesday for my Indy Hump Day Report, but tonight on The Inside Line at RaceFanRadio.Com

  4. …may now work….. wish I could edit my comment.

  5. Krist

    Those were my same thoughts too. One would automatically assume that Penske has stolen these sponsorships away from Andretti Autosports, but we don’t know if the sponsors were shopping around looking for a better investment. I also wonder if this hasn’t be a domino affect that started when 7-11 left. 7-11 sponsorship doesn’t return which leads to Tony Kanaan leaving AA. Sponsors start looking at the value of their ROI with AA. With Kanaan leaving, we’re not sure that AA will see better or even the same results as this past year. If they can spend the same dollars for a better ROI at Penske, why wouldn’t they. This is business after all. I would love to see new sponsors come to IndyCar as much as any other fan, but I’m glad to see Meijer keeping their business with the IndyCar series.

  6. The Meijer deal was a bigger surprise than the IZOD one. We’d known for a while that they weren’t coming back to RHR or Andretti, so they’ve been compensating for that over the past two months – although signing the Penske deal does run contrary to what was suggested earlier, that IZOD would be focusing on series and not car sponsorship.

    And I don’t doubt the RHR-to-Penske rumors for a second. IZOD and RHR worked together like no driver-sponsor combination we’d seen in the sport for years. Briscoe had been on the hot seat in the first place. I think Andretti simply exercised an option on RHR’s contract in order to protect himself from losing his last truly valuable commodity.

  7. Hey Doug, is that a Ford GT at the brickyard in your avatar. I saw Jackie Stewart take demonstration laps in the then brand new Ford GT before the USGP one year.

    Krist, I meant to put something in the article that talked about business to business relationships, but I forgot. So thanks for bringing that point up. Indeed, Meijer and IZOD are looking for their best possible return on investment. Andretti appears to be on a downward path, while Penske continues to be the most recognizable name in the sport with decades of proven activation and success.

    Now we wait and see what new sponsor is announced today. Some have theorized that Motorola is jumping on the Penske sponsor decathlon…. we shall see.

  8. Mike, why yes. Yes that is a Ford GT at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 😀 Have I mentioned how much I’m loving the photo features of Grand Turismo 5? I have an entire Flickr gallery devoted to it now.

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