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Monday, September 13, 2010

Verizon to Expand IndyCar Commitment?

Sirius Speedway, the weekday afternoon radio show on Sirius Satellite Radio's NASCAR channel, is reporting that Verizon Wireless will leave Team Penske's NASCAR Nationwide Series team and driver Justin Allgaier in order to shift marketing funds to the IZOD IndyCar Series.

The New Jersey-based company recently signed a deal to become an official IndyCar sponsor, with the figures rumored at $1 million per year. The deal also includes branding on IndyCar's mobile website, hosted at mobile.indycar.com, and a new IndyCar application that can be downloaded to Verizon Wireless phones.

It appears that the extra money that used to go to Penske's NASCAR program will head to their IndyCar program, which currently comprises Helio Castroneves, Ryan Briscoe, and Will Power. Power's car carries Verizon primary sponsorship, while Castroneves and Briscoe carry the Verizon logo as a major associate sponsor.

Verizon's NASCAR commitment also included an unbranded sponsorship of Brad Keselowski's Sprint Cup car, inherited when the company bought out Alltel. Sprint Cup rules do not allow for other wireless companies to change logos on their car to reflect mergers and buyouts, so Verizon honored the existing contract with a basic paint scheme and the Penske logo on the car.

Verizon eventually became frustrated with their inability to activate their NASCAR sponsorship. They cannot market at Cup races using Cup drivers, which is why Keselowski's Nationwide car is not the Verizon car. Power and Allgaier were featured in a handful of commercials, but the focus after the skits has recently shifted to the IndyCar Mobile app.

With their NASCAR sponsorship contracts running out this year, they are looking to better promote the brand in the world of motorsports, and Penske's IndyCar team may be the proper outlet. Castroneves and Briscoe have driven without primary sponsorship this year, after a handful of years of unbranded Marlboro sponsorship. Similar to Verizon's NASCAR deal, Marlboro was not allowed to place their logos on the cars, and a few years of skirting the regulations by renaming the team Marlboro Team Penske came to an end. Parent company Philip Morris ended their 19-year association with Penske after last season.

Verizon sponsorship of Castroneves and Briscoe for next season would secure the sponsorship of each of the series' current top five cars, and eight of the top nine. The lone exception would be Ryan Hunter-Reay, who has done wonders as the pitchman for series sponsor IZOD but has never been covered by them for a full year, and Andretti Autosport, who already have three other fully-funded cars for next season.

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