One of the moves this weekend which did not attract widespread coverage in the F1 media, but which could prove significant, was the appointment by F1’s new management of US-based Creative Artists Agency to sell sponsorship rights globally.
This follows the appointment last month of Murray Barnett (ex World Rugby chief commercial officer) as head of sponsorship and former BT Sport head of research, Matthew Roberts, who became the new global head of research.
Under Bernie Ecclestone, sponsorship sales were handled by Ecclestone himself along with Alexander Wooff, who has moved out of the Princes Gate head office and is taking the experience gained over the years of processing deals, like Rolex, Emirates and Heineken, onto a new venture.
There are a number of specialist agencies in the F1 ecosystem, who have provided leads and brought brands into the sport, like JMI (now called CSM), Right Formula and Prism and these will continue to operate in the space, but the appointment of CAA shows the sport looking to reach further out to see what might be out there as well as to introduce more sophisticated ways of giving sponsors a return on investment.
According to the statement, “CAA Sports will be responsible for taking the Formula 1 brand into new markets and expanding the sponsorship portfolio to include new and innovative commercial partners.
The agency’s work will form a large part of the sport’s strategy to widen Formula 1’s appeal to new audiences across multiple platforms including a big focus on digital opportunities.”
CAA are not new to F1; they have been representing Red Bull Racing for a few years, but the bulk of their experience is in football with Barcelona and the NFL with teams like the San Francisco 49ers as well as venues like Madison Square Garden.
Like many sports, F1 is going through a process of digital transformation, which is turning the existing model of stickers on cars or trackside billboards on its head and is becoming more sophisticated and more content and consumer led. Liberty Media has made fan engagement a central pillar of its strategy and it will be relying on some of the world’s powerful brands to play their part in driving that push; creating content and experiences to engage existing fans and attract new ones.
At the same time, the new F1 management are keen to push into new markets and to broaden the range of sponsors involved in the sport. There is still a long way to go with consumer brands, but Heineken’s arrival last year and the way it goes about using F1 as a platform, is being watched closely by other consumer brands.
One area where F1 management will have to tread carefully is in the degree to which they open F1 up, which in turn diminishes the exclusivity of the rights that existing sponsors have bought, not just the sport’s Global Partners, but also the teams’ sponsors.
F1’s Chase Carey and Sean Bratches see F1 very much as a premium product, in terms of the pricing, but their strategy is to provide better value for money than previously, while making the sport more accessible.
At the same time, F1 will have to work hard to differentiate itself and make its offering attractive, as there are lots of sports properties on the market at the moment – making it something of a buyers’ market – so maintaining premium pricing for that will be a priority.
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