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Revealed: Why Panther’s $17m proposal to National Guard failed

Robin Miller
Date:
Tuesday, 11 February 2014
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Money wasn’t the only reason the National Guard chose Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing over Panther Racing for the 2014 IndyCar season but it damn sure was one of the determining factors. And it was nearly a $5 million difference.

In the official, five-page bid protest results posted by the National Guard and acquired on-line by RACER.com, it is revealed that team owner John Barnes and Panther Brands LLC asked for a staggering sum of $17,219,658.47 for its one-car effort and subsequent off-track programs, activations and promotions.

Bobby Rahal’s group, which was verbally awarded the contract on Sept. 27, 2013, and officially confirmed on Jan. 17, 2014, after Barnes’ protest was denied, requested a budget of $12,693,967.47 to run Graham Rahal in 2014 and provide the aforementioned off-track support.

Both are huge numbers in this day and age of dwindling sponsorships for IndyCar and six teams were solicited by Docupak (Document and Packaging Brokers, which administers the various forms of Army National Guard sponsorships on behalf of LM & O Advertising).

“The contract award would be made on a best value basis, considering pricing, added value marketing programs and anticipated return on investment,” read the background of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) protest.

Teams were also asked to: “Provide a variety of services and activities, including driver appearances, special paint schemes and an activation footprint within the IndyCar “Fan Zone” exclusive to the Army National Guard.”

David Letterman’s presence and national clout undoubtedly helped make the case for RLLR, along with the team’s history, a personable, second generation, American driver and a considerably lower budget.

In the protest, The Guard asked Docupak to evaluate five categories between the two teams and RLL was judged better in three of them. Understanding the requirements: Panther was acceptable and RLL was outstanding. Soundness of Approach: Panther was good and RLL was outstanding. Overall technical (risk): Panther was good (and a low risk) and RLL outstanding (and a low risk). They were both rated good in qualifications of personnel.

And the final category was price.

The evaluators determined that “Panther Brands had three weaknesses and concluded that Panther Brands had a weakness for failing to propose any branding or media opportunities outside IndyCar or existing military programs to expand the Army National Guard reach or cultivate a more diverse target.”

Barnes argued that Docupak improperly evaluated proposals and that Panther Brands was the only one capable of providing the Army National Guard with space in the IndyCar Fan Zone because of an exclusive agreement.

In her summation, Guard general counsel Susan Poling wrote:

“Panther Brands has not demonstrated that the agency has violated any procurement laws or regulations or otherwise acted unreasonably by accepting RLL’s proposal unequivocally committed to meeting the requirement to provide space in the IndyCar Fan Zone. Moreover, IndyCar confirmed that it would be able to provide RLL with space within The Fan Zone for 2014.

“Although Panther Brands contends that it has been prejudiced by the agency’s evaluation of a weakness for failing to propose any branding or media opportunities outside the IndyCar or existing military programs, the record does not show any reasonable possibility that this evaluated weakness affected the agency’s selection decision, given that RLL’s proposal would remain higher rated and lower priced.

“The protest is denied.”

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