A Spectator Sport
By Melissa Donovan
One of the great American and Canadian pastimes is Indy car racing. A fast-paced, eye-opening sport, race teams and fans live for the chase.
Sponsorship has always played a large part in the world of racing. Race teams are generally sponsored by one or more large corporations every year. Brand logos and colors outfit a team’s uniforms from pit mechanics to car drivers. The vehicles themselves are also a big draw when it comes to sponsorship. Decals were and still are a popular choice, but as the physical composition of media materials advance more race teams are turning to full vehicle wraps.
Seasoned DesignsAndretti Green Racing (AGR), based in Indianapolis, IN, formed in 2002 and immediately began using vinyl films to decorate its team cars, garage, and pit areas, but mostly in “basic, flat applications,” according to Mike McClelland, creative director, AGR.
The team fully wrapped their first race car in 2006 for the American Le Mans Series—a sports car series based in the U.S. and Canada that consists of endurance and sprint racing.
AGR is owned and operated by Michael Andretti, Kim Green, and Kevin Savoree. To date, the family of companies includes AGR; Andretti Green A1, the latest addition to the group that campaigns for the AIGP World Cup of Motorsport; Andretti Green Canada (AGC); Andretti Green Promotions, which owns and operates the annual IndyCar Series Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg event; and Andretti Green Toronto (AGT), a wholly-owned subsidiary of AGC.
To meet sponsors’ promotional needs AGR turns to vehicle wraps. According to McClelland, racing is driven by sponsor dollars and sponsors want to experience the highest return on investment (ROI) possible. That ROI is based on brand exposure. “Printed wraps open up the ability to offer complex designs that include textures, gradients, and shadows. Also, wraps have a relatively quick turnaround time,” he adds. Wraps allow AGR to present a different brand to thousands of spectators.
AGR participates in three racing series—the IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights, and A1GP. This equates to roughly 40 races. And due to the list of drivers associated within the Andretti Green family—Marco Andretti, Tony Kanaan, Hideki Mutoh, Danica Patrick, J.R. Hildebrand, and Sebastian Saavedra—this sometimes means up to six cars participating in one race weekend.
McClelland shares that over the last few seasons, the team has encountered four to six scheme changes per year, which require race cars, pit equipment, transporters, and tool boxes to be wrapped. Designs are often race specific, so after an event the car is typically stripped of its vinyl. The longest a wrap has been on an Andretti Green car is six races.
Although AGR outsources printing, design and installation is handled at the team’s 70,000 square foot location. McClelland’s media of choice is Oracal USA, a vinyl he used prior to joining AGR full time back in 2004. “When it came to choosing a product that best fit the needs of the team, I felt that Oracal was the most effective. The guys from Oracal came to visit the race shop and they were genuinely interested in our opinions,” he explains.
In 2008, based on the success of the media, the two companies formed a partnership that led to AGR exclusively using Oracal products.
“When we formalized our relationship as the Official Graphic Media Supplier for AGR in 2008, we saw a great opportunity to work with one of the most successful teams in Indy car racing. In addition to being a lot of fun to work with, the AGR team provided us with a lot of valuable product feedback and key business introductions to other team sponsors,” shares David Grant, VP of marketing, Oracal.
Living the Pure LifeOne of the divisions of AGR, AGT, owns and operates the Honda Indy Toronto; an IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights event run annually on a temporary street circuit in Toronto, ON, Canada. For the 2009 race, held in July, AGR re-wrapped the #11 Team 7-Eleven car into a promotional scheme for NestlŽ Pure Life.
NestlŽ is usually present on the 7-Eleven car at what AGR refers to as an “associate” level or secondary sponsor. This usually means a decal of some sort is placed on the race car. As part of NestlŽ’s 2009 contract with Andretti Green and 7-Eleven, they received primary status on the #11 car at an event of their choosing. Becoming a primary sponsor excited the client, and presented an excellent opportunity for maximum exposure.
In January 2009 McClelland and his team drew up the initial concept of the car. Physical work involving print and install didn’t occur until June. It took around 20 hours to brainstorm concepts, design, print, and install. The wrap was created with Oracal ORAJET 3951RA Professional Wrapping Film with Rapid Air Technology and ORAGUARD 290 Premium Cast PVC Laminating Film.
AGR was not able to print the entire wrap at the same time, which led to the team being forced to use more than one printer to create the final output. This resulted in a noticeable color shift once the two prints were placed next to each other. The difference did not affect the final outcome.
Other than sponsor updates, the only other reason to take a wrap off a car is due to damages. That is unfortunately what happened with the NestlŽ Pure Life car. During practice runs and qualifying rounds, the car experienced multiple accidents that resulted in a damaged wrap. The added repairs meant extra material—something McClelland stresses you should always have on hand.
Race OverWinning a race in any series is challenging, and requires a team to produce the fastest car possible. Aerodynamics require lightweight materials to help a car cross the finish line first. A full vehicle wrap generally sports many seams, which can weigh a car down.
McClelland says his team constantly searches for ways to limit the amount of seams in a wrap and where those seams fall. “One good thing about race cars is they are designed to come apart in pieces, which makes it easier to wrap the parts separately. This means the car has so many seams itself, it eliminates the print seams,” he explains.
Full wraps have matured with advances in material composition. Now vehicles can fully promote a sponsor with end-to-end, eye-catching graphics. With an in-house design and install team AGR succeeds in creating promotional vehicle wraps for an entire fleet of vehicles.
Editor’s NoteAt press time, shareholders of AGR—Andretti, Green, and Savoree—signed a letter of intent to split off Andretti Green Promotions and AGT into a separate company from AGR. The close date was slated for October 2009. Upon the close of the transaction, Andretti will wholly own and operate AGR and Green and Savoree will wholly own and operate the promotions business.
"Since becoming partners in 2002, we have been fortunate to see our companies expand and diversify quickly and successfully. All of us believe that this decision will maximize the potential of both companies in the future," comment shareholders Andretti, Green, and Savoree in a joint statement.
Nov2009, Digital Output