Liberty Media are about change in F1. The next question is what can they change?
Certainly making changes in F1 is hard and after an entire year running the sport, we now see that actually they can change very little, for now. In no small part due to the way decisions are made within the sport with the big teams say so, but also the sporting rules are decided by the FIA, not the commercial owners Liberty. One thing they can change more easily is the peripheral ‘fluff’ that surrounds a Grand Prix weekend. Early on in their tenure, Liberty said that they “wanted to turn each Grand Prix into a Superbowl”. The fact that such a statement was issued should sound off huge warning bells in the ears of F1 fans worldwide. The simple fact is that a significant majority of F1 fans around the world have not got a clue what such a statement really means. Apart from those who live on the North American continent, most outside of that bubble haven’t even watched a Superbowl let alone have a clue of what an F1 weekend Superbowl like event would look like.
Liberty Media have also made changes internally, effectively splitting up the role a certain Bernard Charles Ecclestone previous did. One such role is that of managing the sports sponsorship and attracting new partners into the sport. This new position is covered by Murray Barnett, with the fanciful title – head of global sponsorship & commercial partnerships, and boy he has an unusual view of what to offer GP visitors in the future.
“The way I see it, a GP visitor should be able to spend nine hours on the track, without even having seen a bit of racing, and still be entertained. That’s what I always say to the brand manager, “explains Murray Barnett, who has been looking after the global sponsors of Formula 1 since last March.
“I do not want to talk too much about the work of former Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, but we try to deal with to adopt a more positive approach to sponsors. ”
“Instead of saying no to sponsors, now we want to say ‘why not?’. If, for example, one of our partners wants to run a fashion show during a GP, we make sure that it can happen instead of rejecting the idea, ”
Of course Mr Barnett is merely stating an extreme example to emphasise F1 is now being open to ideas. Rather confusingly he does continue to say “As a brand, we have brought the fan and his interests back to the center.” – clearly F1 fans enjoy the odd Fashion Show then? We all know a certain driver who is rather partial…
Looking for sponsors today is a lot more difficult than it was in the old days, Barnett says: “You have to work harder to prove to lenders that they get something in return. Previously, it was just a matter of placing some paddock cards or writing on the car. Meanwhile, the sponsors want to be properly involved in the sport. Of course, it takes a lot more time and effort to get it done. ”
“We see ourselves as one of 31 partners in Formula 1. There are 10 teams, 20 track operators and us as an umbrella brand,” Barnett continues. “When we meet our commercial partners, we also offer them the opportunity to get involved with the teams or drivers should this form of sponsorship fit better. Because if one of us grows, the whole sport profits from it. “.
Noble intentions indeed but the question must be raised. Do these new people actually understand what F1 is to it’s core audience, the global fan? So far the evidence is worryingly disconcerting.