India: How will it go on?- Sonja Kreye

October 24, 2012

Being considered as one of the most important future markets for Formula One, the India Grand Prix still faces some problems. While the way to the race track is still edged with billboards from 2011, tickets are true shelf warmers and the Indian population does not really show big interest in the event. The race organisers furthermore see themselves in front of some bureaucratic challenges that might influence the season finale in a way that neither the teams nor the event organisers can afford.

Strict customs regulations prevent the teams of bringing the best material to the race. Additional deliveries will be avoided, as no one knows if the stuff will be arriving at the race track. And if it was to arrive, it would be unsure if it can leave the country again and be ready on time for Abu Dhabi. The president of the Indian motorsport federation has tried to get some special regulations for the race, however, the government refused to grant them as the Grand Prix is not seen as an event of national importance.

Not even a $10million donation from the event organizers to the national sports foundation helped to get these special permits. Consequently, all teams need to pay between 2 and 5 per cent of the worth of goods that they bring. In 2011 this amounted to six million Euros. Although the event organizers assure to cover this sum, it is not only customs regulations that make India a disagreeable Grand Prix. Further surprises in 2011 included an extended family „living“ in the Williams garage, damaged sanitary installations in the team houses, air conditioning that did not work, oil trails on the track and cows at the gates.

But it’s not only the Formula One circus members that are fed up with the race in India. The local population does not show any interest in the event as well. Around 95,000 people came to the inaugural race last year. This time, the event organizers calculate with 50,000. So the buzz about having a Formula One race in the country way only big enough for one year.

It seems that even the event organizers lost their enthusiasm about the race. Last year they had the grass painted in green in order to make a fresh impression. This time, they even refrained from taking on new billboards.

One thing seems true: India seems to be another country where Formula One has not been welcomed as it was planned to be. The same applies to South Korea and China, where the race managed to attract some interest in the first year, however it is doubtful whether it will manage to attract people regularly. The big problem is that there is no working motor sports industry in these countries.

Nevertheless, Bernie Ecclestone is right to expand into more Asian countries. As the successful races in Singapore, Japan and Malaysia show, it is indeed possible to make the event a regular “Must”. It is a system of trial and error, so even if Formula One loses some of the “new” races in Asia again, it will make its way into the Asian population. We’ll just need to wait and see!

Sonja Kreye is iSportconnect’s Director of German Operations.

In addition, she is a Sponsorship and PR Consultant, working with customers including tolimit Sport Marketing, Publicis Kommunikationsagentur, and Joest Racing Team. She consults her customers with regards to sponsorship concepts, sponsorship development and activation, as well as with regards to public relations and communications.

In her career, Sonja consulted and managed sponsorship concepts for brands such as DHL, Krombacher, Veltins, Sigma, Procter Gamble and many more. Prior to her current role, Sonja was Business Relations Manager at Porsche.

Furthermore, she consulted Formula One race tracks such as Hockenheim, Shanghai and Magny Cours. She is furthermore an editor to various German motor sport and motor sport business magazines.

Sonja holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Media Marketing from Steinbeis University Berlin, School of Management & Innovation.

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