Racers in the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby are going to get a bit of bling this year.
The Indianapolis-based open-wheel racing organization, best-known for the famed Indianapolis 500, is entering a formal, multi-year marketing partnership with the Akron-based Derby.
And just in time for the start of Derby Race Week, the agreement will place the IndyCar logo on Derby cars this year in Akron and spread from there in 2014. IndyCar will also promote and display the Derby logo.
“We’ve got a great announcement. This is one of the biggest steps for the Derby,” said Joe Mazur, president of the downhill race organization. The cross-promotion agreement does not bring in money to the Derby but will give the nonprofit program significant brand exposure, he said.
“We’re both working together to help both organizations,” Mazur said. “This is another great direction the Derby is going in.”
The Derby board approved the agreement on Thursday. IndyCar declined to comment until its executives formally sign off, a move expected no later than Monday, according to a spokesman in Indianapolis.
Mazur said one of his priorities when he became Derby president in 2011 and was charged with turning it around from its near-death was to partner with IndyCar. The Derby is now much more financially strong, Mazur said.
The Derby will be promoted in 30-second commercials on giant video screens at IndyCar racetracks, on the IndyCar website and through other measures, Mazur said. IndyCar also is agreeing to invite local Derby race champions to two of its races, he said.
Derby race wheels this year will get IndyCar stickers, he said.
“The [IndyCar] logo will be on every car next year throughout the world,” he said.
This year’s Race Week starts Sunday with a 5K run/walk and other events at Derby Downs. Trials start on Tuesday, with the 76th championship races July 27 at Derby Downs.
At least one IndyCar open-wheel racer will be transported from the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington and displayed at Derby Downs next week as part of the new partnership, Mazur said.
There’s more to come from the Derby in terms of innovation, promotion and partnerships, Mazur said.
“Three years from now, people will be blown away,” he said.
Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or firstname.lastname@example.org