Would I Pay to Watch Motorsport? – Brian Sims

May 21, 2013

Having spent most of my life in motorsport, I’m often asked if I’d pay to go and watch a motorsport event and if so, which one would it be.  It happened again this week and for some reason got me thinking quite seriously about how I should respond. I’d like to share my conclusion with you and explain my thinking behind it.

The question came about when I was sitting chatting with a few friends last weekend. We touched on the subject of Formula 1 and in particular the increasingly farcical tyre situation that we’re now witnessing. One of the group commented that if he’d paid over a hundred quid to watch a Grand Prix in which drivers were told by their engineers not to race cars trying to overtake them, he’d ask for his money back.  I understood exactly what he meant.

For those of you who missed watching the Spanish F1 Grand Prix, let me bring you up to speed. Within a few laps of the start, we were experiencing the ridiculous sight of quite a few F1 cars becoming almost un-driveable, due to the tyres losing virtually all of their grip.  This was in the dry, incidentally. As the race went on, the situation deteriorated further.

Millions of global TV viewers then heard the current World Champion, Sebastian Vettel, being told by his race engineer not to try and race other cars that were attempting to overtake him, as his tyres wouldn’t last if he did. As if that wasn’t bad enough, we then had Lewis Hamilton being asked to slow down for similar reasons. His reply was surprisingly informative, telling his race engineer that he couldn’t go any slower if he tried!

My friends and I continued chatting for a while about the events that took place in Spain, then the question was eventually put to me as to whether or not I would pay good money to attend a motorsport event. Bearing in mind that I’ve been lucky enough to go to hundreds of races during my career, I took a couple of minutes to consider the question carefully. It wasn’t something that I’d really given  a lot of thought to before. However, it rather surprised me just how quickly and easily    I was able to come up with my reply.

Yes, I told the group, I would pay to go and watch a motorsport event, but perhaps surprisingly it wouldn’t be F1. So what would warrant not only the purchase of a ticket, but would also motivate me enough to want to watch an event live, as opposed to sitting comfortably in front of my TV, a glass of wine in my hand?

The answer that I then gave to my friend’s question was far from what was expected.

I explained that the event I would pay good money to watch would be the British Speedway Grand Prix at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.  It normally attracts an annual spectator attendance of well over 45,000. That’s half as many people who will be at Silverstone for the British F1 Grand Prix. Surprising for a much less famous event? Yes, very much so.

So why would I choose to attend that event and what attracts so many people to it?

I suppose the primary reason is that the event itself is non-stop action for three hours. I’ve always enjoyed Speedway, but since former World Champion Ole Olsen launched this new exciting Grand Prix format, it has become so professional that it’s now right up there on a par with Moto GP.   It’s exciting, colourful, fast-paced and dangerous. Yes, you heard right…dangerous.  It’s also very convenient, starting early evening and finishing around 10.00 p.m. Also, being in the centre of a vibrant city, it’s easy to be sitting in one of the numerous restaurants within minutes of the end of the event.

Each one of the 12 Rounds of the Grand Prix series comprises 23 races, of which the last three heats constitute two semi-finals and the final itself. Best of all, there are only two minutes between each heat, so none of the interminable hanging around that seems to be par for the course at so many motor racing events. The series visits 10 different countries, including the UK, New Zealand, Italy and Sweden

Best of all for me is that you can enjoy all of the race action whilst sitting comfortably in one of the most well equipped, modern sports stadiums in Britain. I’m sorry if I’m beginning to sound like a Cardiff tourist guide, it’s just that the prospect of a weekend away, centred around, but not dominated by a great sporting event, is the sort of event that I enjoy. I can’t honestly say the same about many other motorsport events, unless I’m invited as a guest of a team, whereby I can be at the heart of the action, which I must admit is very different from being a straightforward paying spectator.

Another reason I enjoy the Speedway Grand Prix is the unique atmosphere that you experience amongst the thousands of spectators. It’s an extraordinary sight, with supporters of the various competing riders arriving from all over the world, waving national flags and mixing without any signs of trouble in the bars and restaurants, prior to the evening’s racing.

What makes the racing so special is that wherever you sit in the stadium you can watch every inch of the action, unlike the situation at many race circuits where you end up watching 80% of the racing  on big screens, wondering why you didn’t stay at home and watch it all on the TV in the first place.

I recall that in many ways, I experienced similar enjoyment of an event when I went to quite a few Indycar races some years ago, whilst working for Lola Race Cars in America. Many UK motor racing enthusiasts turn their noses up at oval track racing. I don’t know why. I’ve witnessed some of the most exciting races ever at oval tracks such as Milwaukee, Nazareth and Michegan. The big difference to lengthy road circuits is that you can watch the entire field circulating, strategies begin to unfold and rarely miss an incident, all from one seat in the stands. So I have to say that if I couldn’t watch the British Speedway Grand Prix as my favoured event, my next best choice would have to be the fabulous Indy 500.

About Brian Sims:

Brian Sims is one of international motorsport’s most experienced and successful sales exponents, securing over £60 million of sponsorship deals at all levels of the sport.

He is the author of a highly acclaimed book on the subject of securing sports sponsorship, the second edition of which was published in October 2011.

His career in sport included 11 years as a championship-winning professional racing driver, in the UK and in South Africa.  He also spent some years as the Marketing Director of the Kyalami F1 Grand Prix Circuit in South Africa.

On returning to England, he established the Motorsport Industry Association (MIA), securing sponsorship from Andersen Consulting, Hewlett Packard and Ford Motor Company.  This was the first trade association established to represent the British motorsport industry.

After three years as CEO of the MIA, Brian became Head of Motorsport for the international API Agency who represented the Benetton F1 Team. Brian secured over $14,000,000 of sponsorship for the Team subsequently becoming the Benetton F1 Team Commercial Director.

Brian then spent four years in South Africa, establishing the South African Motorsport Industry Association. In August 2010 he stood down as its CEO, to allow a South African to take over.

His latest major sponsorship acquisition deal is a three-year agreement with specialist insurance group, HISCOX, on behalf of the Official Aston Martin Racing Team, Jota.

Brian’s isportconnect-profile-widget
{jcomments on}