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Target plays role in Indy 500.

INDIANAPOLIS -- Just as Louisville, Ky., is linked with the Kentucky Derby, so this city is forever associated with the Indianapolis 500 auto race, even giving its name to the Indy Racing League (IRL). And since the enormous popularity of NASCAR, the stock-car racing circuit, has shown what a formidable marketing force racing can be, the IRL is gearing up to become a player in the mass market.

It has a considerable way to go, league officials acknowledge. The IRL has won some high-profile sponsors, including Target Corp., which like the association with high technology and fast cars. The speed of IRL racing meshes well with Target's motto of "fast, fun and friendly" shopping, said Chris Cook, an event-marketing specialist for Target, in a recent interview with the Indianapolis Star.

But Target does not, at present, sell any merchandise bearing the names of IRL driving. It does not sell NASCAR-themed products, either, but Cook indicated that the retailer gets nine times as many requests for products bearing one NASCAR driver's name than for both of its two sponsored IRL drivers. The IRL, he added, needs to find its niche and do a better job of marketing.

The league has moved to do just that, almost doubling its marketing staff from 16 two years ago to 31. It has also launched several licensing pacts and promotions, including two national sweepstakes.

They are part of an integrated marketing plan to increase attendance at IRL races, improve television ratings and the league's image, and raise the profile of IRL drivers to the star status of top NASCAR driver's.

The effort maybe working, since attendance at IRL events rose 11% last year. Interest should be further bolstered with the growth of licensing. The IRL now has 28 licensees that produce and distribute products carrying the league logo.

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Title Annotation:Market focus: Indianapolis; sponsorship of the Indy Racing League
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U3IN
Date:Jun 28, 2004
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