Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Audience segmentation for the largest single-day sporting event in the world

For most people living in Indiana, May in Indianapolis can only mean one thing: The Indy 500.

Great news… if you were only selling tickets to the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Not so great if you’re also trying to grow attendance for the entire month. Practice days, concerts and ancillary events happen at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway all month long.

The biggest among them is the IndyCar Grand Prix, which happens two weeks before the 500. Created in 2014 as a way to push track attendance earlier in the month, the Grand Prix had been marketed as its own distinct event. With its smaller crowds and shorter duration, it’s a memorable race experience for families, thrill seekers and entertainment-seekers looking for an alternative to the Indy 500’s race day experience, which for some, can be a bit much.

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Attendance had been acceptable, but the market seemed to lack the bandwidth to accept another race in May, and the media coverage continued to focus on the Indy 500, overlooking the Grand Prix. In fact, digital banners promoting the Grand Prix were effective at getting clicks, but those clicks ended up selling Indy 500 tickets nearly 80% of the time. The 500 is such a colossus, it’s a black hole — relentlessly pulling in all the attention.

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Mass Audience

The turnaround had to begin with a re-imagining of the positioning strategy. Instead of marketing separate events, we decided to present the entire month as one very special event.

In Indy, May is a thing. We feel it. We see it. The weather warms up. The checkered flags come out. The world leans in. There’s a parade. A mini marathon. Porch parties and picnics. People throughout the community get excited about May, whether or not they ever step foot inside the track.

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Addressable Audience

We leveraged this excitement for May to position the entire month as an extended celebration of speed, tradition, excitement and community. From 5/1 to the 500, This Is May.

A two-phased approach began with a Super Bowl commercial and a full-page manifesto ad in the local paper. Out-of-home, social and digital reminded people what makes May so special. Visuals were emotional…dreamy. Like cherished memories, the creative reignited the love of the city and its crown jewel, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The community embraced it. Journalists, drivers and civic leaders borrowed our language. Partners and sponsors adopted it. The hashtag appears tens of thousands of times on Instagram alone.

The pride throughout the city was palpable – as we all rallied around the Greatest Month in Racing.

But you can’t buy a ticket to an emotion, or even a month. So in phase two, the messaging switched gears to promote ticketed events, each one serving as yet another example of what makes May, May. We positioned the Grand Prix as Opening Weekend to May. And the practice days, qualifying weekend, Carb Day, Legends Day, the Snake Pit and of course, the 500 – these are all a part of May.

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Audience of One

The Month of May media campaign was also two-phased. Phase One’s goal was awareness and kicked off with television spots in the Super Bowl in several Indiana DMAs, as well as a corresponding social media campaign. The Indianapolis market also saw our newspaper manifesto ad the day of the Super Bowl and the following week. Television, outdoor, social and digital continued to air in the Indianapolis market throughout the months of February and March.

Phase Two’s main KPI was ticket sales. Based on IMS’s ticket sales data, we were able to plan the schedules during key sales periods. Each event, race and concert had its own specific media plan executed to reach its specific demographic and geographic target. A combination of television, radio, outdoor, social, digital (including streaming audio and connected TV), and print were utilized. MKR also worked with broadcast stations across the state of Indiana on trade, and secured over $500,000 in additional media support through trade and promotions, at a ratio of 3:1.

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Increase in overall Indy 500 revenue for Feb


Increase in year-over-year Grand Prix ticket sales (2017-2018)