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Happy 100th to America's Fastest Brand
By: Ted Curtin
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It’s a Super Bowl Sunday of sorts — a culmination of years of building, planning, trying new things, and most importantly, learning from mistakes. It’s the 100th anniversary of the famed Indianapolis 500 Mile Race — one of the world’s most famous auto races, and a chance for us to learn a thing or two about building a brand to last.

The “Indy 500,” as it is affectionately called by millions of fans across the globe, has grown into the biggest single-day spectator sporting event in the world, with permanent seating for more than a quarter of a million people and an infield that can easily hold another 125,000 Indy Fans. If you put all of the permanent seating in a row, it would stretch for nearly 100 miles. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway grounds cover 1,025 acres, and yet, the incredible size of the event is dwarfed by the power of Indy 500 Fans.

This year, fans flexed their muscles when it was announced that Donald Trump was to drive the Pace Car. When this honor was shifted away from a storied racing figure of the past (as had been tradition) and shifted to a commercial self-promoter like Trump, it didn’t sit well with fans. 18,000 "likes" on the “We don’t want Trump to drive the Indy Pace Car” Facebook page sent a resounding “You’re Fired” message to the king of “me,” and while he didn’t attribute his decision to the fan uproar, “The Donald” gracefully bowed out of this year’s festivities. Not even the Trump brand could overpower the collective ownership of the Indy 500 brand.

So what makes a brand so successful and a fan base so powerful?

1. Extended Value: Your brand is more than just a product or service. The Indy 500 is an exciting 200+ MPH race, but they realize the brand goes much further than 200 laps. You’ve got week-long festivities including concerts, race trials, parties, and new this year, the “Hot Wheels Fearless” world record car jump attempt. The public’s connection to the Indy brand extends far beyond Race day.

2. Brand Leverage: Aside from the brilliant life-size brand partnership marketing event with Hot Wheels, Indy 500 continues to team up with strategic marketing partners to increase exposure and validate their brands strength and longevity. Originally the strategic partnerships provided legitimacy to the event. At this point it’s clear that the partner brands such as Coke, Izod, Hilton, Miller, and Chevy benefit equally from their Indy 500 affiliation and connection to such a dedicated fan base.  

3. Meaningful Connections: All week, special events from parades to concerts connect on different levels with a wide range of fans. This year an “Energy Playground” offers adults a chance to play with various playground and exercise equipment while generating electricity fed right into the various consumption points of the events.

4. An Eye to the Future: While providing value and authenticity to their current customers, Indy never loses sight of tomorrow’s fans. Activities such as the Hot Wheels Fearless event and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Kid’s Club appeal to the youth market, which in turn makes for a better experience for the parent fans to stay connected and excited about the Indy 500.

Today, your customers/fans have as much to say about who or what your brand is as you do. Provide value, authenticity, and meaning across all of the points of contact with your customers and your brand will get the checkered flag. 

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About the Author
Ted Curtin is a recognized strategic marketing leader with over 22 years experience covering online and offline marketing channels. Follow him on Twitter or at TedCurtin.com
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