May 27, 2010: On the eve of one of the biggest racing events of the year, Sunoco has signed a four-year deal with Indy Racing League to become the official fuel and convenience store of the IRL, IZOD IndyCar Series — which includes the iconic Indianapolis 500 — and Firestone Indy Lights/Road to Indy, beginning in 2011. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Sunoco's deal with IRL now gives it "official fuel" status in a majority of racing events in the U.S., having replaced Union 76 In 2004 as the official fuel of Nascar. Other IRL marketing partners include Coca-Cola, Firestone, Honda, Orbitz, Philips, Mattel and the National Guard.
According to Randy Bernard, CEO of the IRL, multi-media marketing support will include in-store and at-pump activation initiatives "to raise awareness of the IZOD Indy Car Series.”
Sunoco also said it would work with APEX-Brasil, the country's trade and investment promotion agency, and the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Assn. (UNICA) to promote the IRL and its racing series, which run almost exclusively on ethanol. UNICA has been supplying IRL with ethanol fuel since 2007.
The deal comes as UNICA, which represents the top producers of sugar and ethanol in Brazil's South-Central region, is making a strong push in the U.S. to tout the benefits of sugarcane ethanol. A national marketing campaign will be anchored by two 30-second TV spots featuring such drivers as three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, which are scheduled to break on ABC during the IZOD IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 on May 30. The spots will then air throughout the racing season. A dedicated Web site also supports.
"For the first time we are taking our message about sugarcane ethanol to national network television during one of the most prestigious sporting events in the world."
The UNICA TV spots, "I Compete" and "Ethanol Cuts Emissions," overseen and produced by APEX-Brasil and UNICA, feature several IRL drivers talking about the ecological, financial and racing benefits delivered by sugarcane ethanol. The group includes Ryan Hunter-Reay, Ana Beatriz, Takuma Sato, Davey Hamilton, E.J. Viso and Castroneves, who is the pole sitter for the 2010 Indy 500.
In his sequence, Castroneves, a native of Brazil, invokes his claim to fame as the winner of the 2007 edition of Dancing with the Stars by singing to the tune of "The Girl From Ipanema": "Fast and clean and sweet and lovely, the fuel from sugarcane goes racing." He then stops and comments, "I can dance [but] I cannot sing. But one thing we can agree: We race on ethanol."
"For the first time ever, we are taking our message about sugarcane ethanol to national network television during one of the most prestigious sporting events in the world," Joel Velasco, UNICA's chief representative in North America, said in a statement. "These commercials seek to educate American consumers about sugarcane ethanol and how it can benefit their pockets, the environment and the market, by promoting competition on and off the track."
The IRL switched to ethanol in 2007 after using methanol fuel for about 40 years. Ethanol is a clean-burning, renewable fuel produced from plants such as sugarcane that reduces air pollution; methanol is a non-renewable fossil fuel made from natural gas. The IRL actually began to transition during the the 2006 season, during which its fuel was a 90%-10% combination of methanol and ethanol.
“Indy car racing is an exciting sport with passionate fans that value innovation, technology improvements, and a green approach to renewable fuels,” Robert Owens, Sunoco’s svp-marketing, said in a statement. “We are thrilled to have the chance to supply the fuel used in one of the greatest events in motorsports – the annual Indianapolis 500. There is no better showcase of our fuel’s quality.”
According to IRL's Bernard, “We are pleased to announce this partnership with Sunoco, a company with a great deal of passion for motorsports. We feel our key brand attributes of innovation, technology and greening align well with Sunoco and will provide a great retail platform to jointly promote the sport."