MARTIN: Networking Led To IndyCar Sponsorship

Bruce Martin

DETROIT — In business, never underestimate the value of networking.

IndyCar officials know that, as personal relationships and networking helped them find the sanctioning body’s new title sponsor — NTT.

It began with a telephone call from Chip Ganassi Racing President Doug Duchardt, who called IndyCar President Jay Frye with a business lead. Frye managed several NASCAR teams before moving to IndyCar and Duchardt was once the head of Chevrolet’s racing division.

Duchardt told Frye that NTT Data was interested in expanding its interest in the IndyCar Series. The company already sponsored the No. 10 Honda Indy car for Chip Ganassi Racing and had enjoyed success with such drivers as Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan. NTT Data’s parent company is Japan-based NTT, a huge tech­nology company that owns among other things, the largest wireless provider in Japan, DoCoMo.

NTT may be the biggest company you’ve never heard of.
“They have 80 percent of the global Fortune 500 companies as customers,” said IndyCar CEO Mark Miles. “If you take AT&T and merged it with Verizon, you still wouldn’t have a company as big as NTT.

“They are based in Japan and are a household name around the world. The operation has a number of companies in Japan and around the world. When you travel to Japan and get off the plane and turn on your cell phone, it switches to a provider called DoCoMo, and that is a company fully owned by NTT. You see DoCoMo stores in Japan like you do Verizon or AT&T Stores in this country.

“In the United States, their biggest operating company is NTT Data. They are a very large, widely capable, IT innovation company.”

Frye took Duchardt’s call before the IndyCar Series season finale at California’s Sonoma Raceway in September. He met with NTT Data officials the weekend of the race and arranged another meeting a week later.

The company was very interested in IndyCar. It used its team sponsorship as a “business-to-business” platform to connect corporations and potential business partners. Guests would attend races with NTT Data and the next day were so excited about what they witnessed, it led to more business for NTT.

“In no time at all, led by Jay Frye on our team and Mark Sibla, who engaged directly with NTT Data, soon we were invited to Tokyo, and there we had a meeting together which I’ll never forget,” Miles recalled. “Takuma Sato, one of our best-known drivers and champions who happens to be a hero in Japan, was with us, and by the end of that discussion, we said, ‘Let’s get this done.’

“We talked about the timing and we said, ‘Well, look, you’ve got to be on the fire suits and the cars and everything by our first open test, which is coming up in the middle of February. Let’s announce it in Detroit at the Auto Show. It’s the perfect place,’ and so it got done.”

The multi-year sponsorship announcement was made Jan. 15 during the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Center in Detroit.

NTT is a vast international technology company that is involved with many of the world’s largest companies and corporations.

NTT is an integrated technology, networking and innovation services leader that helps enterprises exceed their digital transformation goals.

More than 80 percent of Fortune 100 companies trust NTT for security expertise and world-class services, including consulting, cloud, networking and systems integration. Significant ongoing investments in R&D reinforce the company’s foundation in digital and cutting-edge technologies, including AI, IoT, and quantum computing.

NTT companies, including NTT Data, NTT Communications, Dimension Data and NTT Security, generate more than $106 billion in annual revenue worldwide by providing new and highly valued ways of serving clients and society as one NTT.

“We are very excited to be here and to be a partner for the IndyCar,” said Tsunehisa Okuno, NTT’s executive vice president, head of global business. “Indy car racing is getting more popular also in the Japan market mainly thanks to the Japanese driver Takuma Sato, who won the Indy 500 two years ago. There was a special TV program in Japan and I clearly remember during the program Mr. Sato, Takuma Sato, impressed us by saying that he saw something very special, very different after he became the champion of Indy 500.

“I personally expect to see something very different through the cooperation with the IndyCar and the other partners, and the entity would like to bring something very exciting to the fans.

“NTT, our total revenue is more than $100 billion U.S. dollars, and every year we are spending $4 billion for R&D, and NTT Data has a very close relationship with Chip Ganassi and we are already the technology partner for the Tour de France, for example, the bikes. We are very excited to be here and to offer many things very exciting, right.

“I hope our relationship with IndyCar and the other partners will last forever.”

It all began with a phone call from Duchardt to Frye, continuing a business relationship and friendship that began years ago.

Never underestimate the importance of personal networking when it comes to business.