“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense.
Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t.
And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”
James Allen today provides a masterful attempt at parsing the much publicised recent Ecclestone interview (full transcript here) – in a positive light.
The main thrust of Allen’s treatise is because Ecclestone is talking about social media, this implies he has investigated it thoroughly even if only from the angle of its potential threat to his long running F1 business model.
Further note is made of the FOM social media department who are developing an all new F1.com website for 2015 and the F1App which has been launched.
Yet as one of the most eloquent and respected senior media individuals in Formula One, the usual ‘on the money’ Allen appears to be defending and excusing the CEO of Formula One’s attitudes and behaviour.
Ecclestone makes a convoluted attempt to demonstrate that people in fact really do want to watch Formula One and be entertained; and to do so he gives the following example.
“Entertainment is what people want to see. If you asked me to go tonight to the ballet..I would say it’s not for me. Maybe if I tried I’d love ballet. I just can’t understand why they have these girls dancing on their toes. Why don’t they get taller girls?”
“It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards”
In an attempt to belay his readers from a Vaudeville style rotten tomato and egg throwing frenzy in the comments section, Allen suggests, Mr. E’s comments regarding the ballet are a “classic example of Ecclestone’s humour and an example of why one always has to be cautious about taking things he says at face value”.
Yet the self-contradictory buffoonery which dribbles from Ecclestone’s lips in what seems to be an ever increasing frequency, is not lost on Formula One fans – and certainly NO chief executive of any other multinational business behaves in such an idiotic manner.
In fact Donald McKenzie of CVC would do well to pay more attention to how Ecclestone has been behaving this year, as CVC once again desperately look to offload their investment in Formula One. Their best hope at present would be a fire sale following the Gerald Ratner style performance Mr. E has been putting in for almost 12 months.
Gerald Ratner wiped £500 million from the value of his namesake jewellers in two sentences in 1991.
“If you drink much from a bottle marked ‘poison’ it is certain to disagree with you sooner or later.”
Ratner stated, “We also do cut-glass sherry decanters complete with six glasses on a silver-plated tray that your butler can serve you drinks on, all for £4.95. People say, ‘How can you sell this for such a low price?’ I say, because it’s total crap.”
Ratner added, that his stores’ earrings were “cheaper than an M&S prawn sandwich, but probably wouldn’t last as long”.
Then again devaluing and denigrating the sport of F1 maybe is part of an agenda.
During a one-on-one interview with Ecclestone over the Bahrain GP weekend this year, Martin Brundle interestingly enquired of Mr. E, whether his consistent criticism of Formula One was designed to “drive down the price” so he could “buy it back”.
Ecclestone denied such a thing would be of interest to him.
“I knew who I was this morning, but I’ve changed a few times since then.”
On TJ13’s podcast last week, Andrew Huntley-Jacobs challenged Oliver Weingarten, the ex- Secretary General of FOTA and now Sport’s Advisory and Marketing specialist, as to whether there was much hope of Formula One embracing the potential of the digital age so long as Ecclestone is making banal remarks about the imminent collapse of Facebook and Twitter.
Oliver remarked, “That’s just Bernie being Bernie”, which is the position James Allen adopts today.
Yet, this kind of “just try to understand him” rhetoric is for most people associated with an elder family member who should be respected face to face, but everyone realises they have lost their faculties and are as Mad as a Hatter – maybe even believing they in fact are he.
On the topic of the Formula One fans of the future, Ecclestone is clear where he stands. “I’m not interested in tweeting, Facebook and whatever this nonsense is, I tried to find out but in any case I’m too old-fashioned. I couldn’t see any value in it. And, I don’t know what the so-called ‘young generation’ of today really wants. What is it?”
Ecclestone may have tossed a token amount of dollars at tasking a couple of people to investigate social media in his so called “Social Media Department”, but he knows this is a long burn – and he doesn’t have the time or the inclination to change the way he works and the business model he has built.
“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
“Young kids will see the Rolex brand, but are they going to go and buy one? They can’t afford it. Or our other sponsor, UBS — these kids don’t care about banking. They haven’t got enough money to put in the bloody banks anyway”.
“I don’t know why people want to get to the so-called ‘young generation’. Why do they want to do that? Is it to sell them something? Most of these kids haven’t got any money.
“I’d rather get to the 70-year-old guy who’s got plenty of cash. So, there’s no point trying to reach these kids because they won’t buy any of the products here and if marketers are aiming at this audience, then maybe they should advertise with Disney.”
“The challenge is getting the audience in the first place. I say to some of these people who start this nonsense about social media, look at what tobacco companies tried to do – get people smoking their brand early on because people then continue smoking their brand forever”.
“How long is forever?
Sometimes, just one second.”
It is widely recognised Ecclestone is no visionary leader, rather a back door deal maker and arch manipulator of people to get what he wants done.
Ecclestone has no coherent view of the future for Formula One – other than to bolt on more race circuits and get more and more corrupt governments to spend the dollars with Formula One. Then bin those countries who pay the least, or whose tax payers refuse public money to be poured into Ecclestone’s coffers.
In conclusion, Ecclestone’s own words make clear his haphazard style of running the sport.
With reference to ‘the future of Formula One’, Bernie has no real plan. “I think we’ve got to wait a little bit for things to settle down. I hope it settles down and we are going to be able to retain the audience. We’re never going to grow it”.
Mr. E’s expert analysis of sport and marketing is as follows. “The only sport that’s really grown – not by marketing but through availability – is football”.
Mmm. It would be interesting to hear Peter Scudamore’s comments on this.
Formula One has no vision, no direction and lurches from one moment to the next. There is No leader capable of properly looking to the future either inside the FIA or managing the commercial rights.
“Where should I go?
That depends on where you want to end up.”
“I run the business from day to day. I get up in the morning and I don’t really know what is going to happen I’m a firefighter. When fires start, I have to put them out and we’re always having fires”.
It’s time for all those within the F1 paddock who defend Ecclestone due to their own past experience of his ‘kindness’ and ‘favour’, to WAKE UP.
Yes, let’s write a favourable obituary about the man who happened upon an opportunity and seized it for all he was worth; maybe it can be called, “From racing in fields to a fabulous fiefdom”.
But it is seriously time to get a grip, smell the roses or banish the bullshit – whichever metaphor we choose.
If we do not, the consequences will most likely be that the genuine current audience to which Ecclestone refers, will become turned off by a Red Bull – Ferrari Festival and Global Extravaganza – and bugger off too.