Indianapolis calls out F1: Don't steal our slogan!

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Last Sunday's Miami Grand Prix sparked a bit of trademark tension between Formula 1 and IndyCar when the former boldly borrowed the latter's sacred 'Greatest Spectacle' moniker.

The slogan skirmish erupted when master of ceremony LL Cool J called Formula 1 'The Greatest Spectacle in Racing' as the rapper hyped up the crowd during the pre-race driver presentations.

That claim did not go down well with the proud owners of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The Indy 500 has long been hailed as 'The Greatest Spectacle in Racing', a title synonymous with the historic event held at the iconic Brickyard since 1911.

So when Formula 1 decided to borrow the slogan to promote the Miami Grand Prix – and not for the first time as it was also used earlier this year by Liberty Media to vaunt the merits of next November's Las Vegas Grand Prix – the owners of the Speedway were less than thrilled.


After all, this was a phrase that encapsulated the rich heritage and unparalleled excitement of the Indy 500, an event steeped in tradition and cherished by racing enthusiasts worldwide.

F1's bold appropriation of the slogan seemed like a rookie mistake, as it not only overlooked Indy's exclusive rights to the phrase but also ignited a spark of controversy.

Last March, after F1's first misstep, Mark Miles, the president and CEO of Penske Entertainment Corp., which owns and operates IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, fired off a courteous letter to Liberty, reminding F1 that some titles are simply too iconic to be borrowed without consequence.

"They said, ‘We don’t mean to be doing that to you,'" Miles said.

But Miles' eyes widened like saucers and his jaw dropped when he heard LL Cool J's vociferous declamation in Miami last Sunday.

"I heard that," Miles told IndyStar on Monday. "And my reaction was, ‘I’ll bet you race fans know that’s a crock of s**t. ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ is right here (at IMS) in May, by every measure.

"And I don’t expect (the potential trademark infringements) to continue.

"We had a little conversation with them when it was popping up around Vegas, and it was very informal and quick, so I was surprised by (Sunday). But I don’t think that’s their general modus operandi."

Miles suspected that the clumsy misstep by Formula 1 had been the work of someone sitting in the lower levels of the chain of command.

"I’m not sure who the chain of people is for writing something like that that gets said on the mic, but I don’t believe it would come from as high up as (F1 president and CEO Stefano Domenicali)," said Miles.

Speaking this week on the Best of Monday podcast, IMS president Doug Boles said that Penske Entertainment officials will again reach out to execs at Liberty Media to reiterate their concerns.

"It was really more specificlly related to Vegas, where we had the problem," said Boles. "This is the first time we’ve heard it related to Miami.

"So we will definitely be calling our friends there again.

"I haven’t seen it in their marketing materials, which they’ve agreed isn’t their mark and they’d leave it alone. So we will follow up this week.

"I’m excited that F1’s here, but go build your own IP, go build your own 114 years of existence, and not steal ours."

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