Start Your Engines: What Brands Can Achieve With a Big Sporting Event Like the Indy 500

Even with COVID-19 struggles, nothing can bring audiences together quite like sports. The Indianapolis 500 is an amazing, living, breathing example of just that, despite looking extremely different from years past. 

Audiences are clamoring for sports like never before. It’s evidenced by the fact that both MLB and NBA viewership soared upon their return – an average of 4 million viewers tuned in to baseball’s opener on July 23 and the NBA’s opening doubleheader on July 30th brought in 2.112 million and 3.395 million viewers, respectively.   

With no fans allowed in attendance, there’s a sharp increase in broadcast viewership for these games. It’s a trend that WTHR, TEGNA’s NBC affiliate in Indianapolis, is expecting to continue with this year’s Indianapolis 500 race, dubbed “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” 

“Given Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s recent announcement that there will be no fans allowed at the race this year, we are anticipating viewership to be at its highest ever,” said Christine Warren, WTHR’s Director of Marketing.   

“Traditionally, the live race has been blacked out in the local television market with few exceptions. This year, the Indy 500 will air on live television for only the fourth time in the race’s history,” Warren explained. “WTHR will also be the only local station in the market to air it.” 

The Power of Sports in the Community  

Even with COVID-19 struggles, nothing can bring audiences together quite like sports, and Indianapolis is a living, breathing example of just that, despite looking extremely different from years past. 

“For the first time ever, the race won’t be in May. It won’t have spectators, and it won’t have month-long events around the city of Indianapolis leading up to the race, such as the Rev kick-off party or the mini-marathon,” Brent Denny, Director of Sales at WTHR, explained. “The celebration banquet will also be different – it will be limited to one hour and will be socially distanced.”  

These factors could be enough to deter some people from tuning in, but as Denny explained, “Everyone loves Indy car racing in Indianapolis. It’s just a part of the culture out here. It’s pretty impressive. The level of interest right now is very large.”  

As someone new to the city, Warren is learning that sentiment quickly. “From homes and businesses flying their checkered flags to Indy Car drivers sharing their favorite 500 moments and race day traditions, the passion that our local community has for ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ is just amazing!”  

What Does That Mean for Brands?  

It’s been a tough year for businesses. Brands, however, have a unique opportunity to ease some of that stress and provide some hope with their messaging. For example in the 2020 Super Bowl, Google debuted it’s Loretta ad, evoking a very strong emotional response from its viewers. In turn, it became known as “the most effective ad ever” as digital and social engagement soared. The ad not only has a lasting impact on an extremely large audience but is also delivered a high ROI on a large investment.  

What makes these types of ads so effective? “Storytelling via marketing during these high profile athletic events helps to align your brand’s values alongside that of the event and therefore make a stronger connection with the viewer,” said Jill Cain, Insights and Sponsorship Director at TEGNA affiliate 9NEWS in Denver.  

How TEGNA Marketing Solutions Can Help  

Using platforms like broadcast, OTT, and digital media with TEGNA Marketing Solutions offers a large and engaged audience, and with powerful messaging, brands can really make a big impact.  

“Even when the race was postponed from May to August due to COVID challenges, WTHR partnered with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway team to keep fans engaged and excited about the race,” said Warren.  

“Through an engaging user-generated content (UGC) promotion across all platforms, we continue to showcase fans and drivers reliving their favorite Indy 500 memories and celebratory race moments from over the years. We’re also sharing unique stories about drivers and their personal race day traditions,” she says.   

Brands looking to advertise alongside sporting events, whether it be the Indy 500, the PGA, or the Master’s, have an amazing opportunity to reach a wide and engaged audience that has been waiting for months. Click here to connect with TEGNA to get your sports strategy started.  

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