IndyCar—which oversees the open-wheel racing series that includes the Indianapolis 500—has inked a deal with Japanese technology company NTT to become its next title sponsor. The company, formally named Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation, replaces Verizon, which bowed out of its deal last year after singing on in 2014.
The 17-race series will be renamed the NTT IndyCar Series as part of the deal. IndyCar did not reveal financial terms or the exact length of the pact, other than to describe it as a multi-year deal.
NTT started as a phone company but has grown into a $106 billion technologies services giant whose business includes consulting, cloud, networking and systems integration. One of its divisions, NTT Data—whose U.S. office is in Plano, Texas— has an existing sponsorship deal with Chip Ganassi Racing. One of the team's members, Swedish driver Felix Rosenqvist, will drive an NTT Data branded car this upcoming season, which begins March 10 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
The new series-wide sponsorship comes as NTT tries to elevate its brand as it grows its U.S. business. "NTT is proud to be associated with IndyCar and accelerate the future of smart racing. Technological innovations have the potential to change the sport and fan experience drastically," Jun Sawada, president and CEO of NTT, stated in a press release.
The deal also makes NTT "the official technology partner of IndyCar."
Mark Miles, president and CEO of Hulman & Company, which owns IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, stated that "having a strong technology partner is critically important to IndyCar's continued growth."
The sponsorship comes as IndyCar begins a new three-year deal with NBC Sports, which will air all IndyCar races in 2019, including the Indianapolis 500, on NBC and its cable-sports network, NBCSN. IndyCar's previous deal was split between NBCSN and ABC, which had carried the Indy 500 since 1965. IndyCar execs are banking on the new TV deal to bring more continuity and boost ratings.
Last year the Indianapolis 500—by far the biggest attraction of the season—saw its viewership drop 10 percent to 4.91 million viewers.