Ruoff Home Mortgage enjoying Indy 500 sponsorship victory Mark Music’s agreement with Andretti Autosport pays off in exposure
If there is anyone smiling more than Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato this week, it may be Mark Music.
The president and CEO of Ruoff Home Mortgage based in Fort Wayne was heading home from a golf outing a few weeks ago when he checked his voicemail. Andretti Autosport was seeking a sponsor for race week for one of its cars.
Michael Andretti and Music had communicated in the past, but Music earlier this year had decided to wait one more year to join the car sponsor game.
But Andretti Autosport decided to try one more time.
“They contacted us with a last-second opportunity with Takuma,” Music said. “I already knew his skill set and knew how dominating Andretti Autosport has been (at Indianapolis).
“Couple that with the discount of coming in late and it made sense.”
Music had realistic goals for his first venture into car sponsorship. Long before the checkered flag waved for Sato on Sunday, the man responsible for over 450 employees at 28 locations, mostly in Indiana, believed that a lap or two at the front would give his company some great publicity.
“If we could be near the front for a bit and then have the engine blow up or something happen, I would have been thrilled with the exposure,” Music said.
Turns out, Music got that and much more. When Sato passed Helio Castroneves on Lap 195 and held off the three-time Indy 500 champion over the final few laps, it gave Ruoff Home Mortgage a victory in the biggest race in the world in its first-ever appearance as a car sponsor.
How’s that for a debut?
“Can you believe it?” asked Music. “The first time out and we win the crown jewel of motorsports. Absolutely phenomenal.”
Music drifted between Ruoff’s suite and trackside for much of the race, but as the laps counted down was told he may want to head down to the pits and stay there.
“I watched the last 18-20 laps from the pits, watching on the jumbotron and listening to the radio,” Music said. “I had to stand at the end of pit lane and be by myself (during the final few laps). I couldn’t think. I couldn’t breathe. It is so surreal even now.”
Ruoff Home Mortgage is no stranger to sponsorship at sporting events. As the company has grown under Music in his decade at the helm, the marketing footprint has expanded. Ruoff has been a visible presence at Indianapolis Colts and Indiana Pacers games, as well as at Indiana University, Butler University and the Fort Wayne TinCaps.
The company is also the title sponsor for this year’s Three Rivers Festival.
After jumping on board Sato’s car after qualifying weekend, many believed that the deal between Ruoff and Andretti was a last-second deal, but in reality, the two entities had been working on something for awhile.
Music has talked with team owner Michael Andretti for the last few years as he considered sponsorship. During that time, Music and others from Ruoff were invited to a few races as guests of the team, further cultivating the relationship.
“We knew that based on the IndyCar schedule, the Indy 500 was the only one that made sense to us (geographically),” Music said.
But that could be changing. Ruoff is preparing to expand its reach significantly into Michigan and Ohio in the coming 12-18 months. Music said that Ruoff will have a presence with Sato at this week’s pair of races at Detroit and may look at doing something at the IndyCar event at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in late July.
“We are going to have an associate sponsor arrangement at Detroit as a way to say thank you,” Music said. “We got the better end of the deal with the way it turned out.”
Being the sponsor of the Indianapolis 500-winning car can do a lot for your brand, said Music. Not only does it get your company into the public eye, it also turns the heads of prospective talent that Ruoff is looking to recruit as it expands.
It also galvanizes current employees who not only see that the company is on good enough financial ground to be expanding its sponsorship, but also that Music is committed to growing the company and putting more eyes on the product.
When it comes to advertising your brand, it does not get much better than having your name plastered all over the planet – from countless pictures of the car during the post-race celebration to Sato appearing on CNBC and opening up trade on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday with the Ruoff logo on his shirt.
For Music, it has been a whirlwind few days.
“When we were in Victory Lane I asked Michael Andretti, ‘How in the world do I ever top this?'” Music said. “In all the hugging and screaming he stopped and said with a straight face, ‘Win two of them.'”