SBJ/Nov. 11-17, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

COTA sponsor list grows by nine

Circuit of the Americas heads into its Formula One race weekend with nine more sponsors than it had for its inaugural race a year ago.

Deals with Shell, Coca-Cola, Beck’s and others have boosted total sponsorship revenue at the facility by 150 percent from a year ago. The sponsorship sales were driven by the addition of a half-dozen events this year, the opening of the amphitheater and the success of last year’s inaugural U.S. Grand Prix.

Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, will play host to its second U.S. Grand Prix on Sunday.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
Pricing of sponsorships varied, but most deals are valued in the low to mid-six figures. Annual sponsorship sales were boosted by Circuit of the Americas’ sale of an amphitheater naming-rights deal to Austin 360 valued at more than $2 million a year.

Best Buy is the only sponsor from a year ago that didn’t return and wasn’t replaced.

Sponsor rights packages vary but most include use of the COTA logo, hospitality, tickets, signage during other COTA events such as MotoGP and V8 Supercars events, and integration into the second annual fan festival in downtown Austin, Texas, during the F1 race weekend.

The track’s agreement with Formula One Management, which oversees the F1 race, prohibits track sponsors from getting camera-visible in-venue signage for the U.S. Grand Prix on Sunday. That means that sponsors won’t be visible to F1’s global audience, which averages more than 500 million viewers a race. But the fan fest gives COTA a way for sponsors to activate around the F1 race.

“It’s an important thing for us,” said Geoff Moore, COTA’s chief marketing and sales officer. “We needed something downtown to celebrate the event, and it’s become a good way to give sponsors a way to activate around the weekend as well.”

Shell, which sponsors Ferrari’s F1 team, signed on as presenting sponsor of the fan festival this year. The company will have a large display in downtown Austin with an F1 car, a Ferrari road car, the No. 22 Penske Racing stock car and information and presentations on fuel efficiency.

“We wanted to find a way to be in that market because these fans are auto enthusiasts who care about what kind of fuel and lubricants go into their vehicles, and we wanted to find a creative way to touch them,” said Heidi Massey-Bong, Shell’s senior business adviser for NASCAR. “This gets us in the market, and Austin is a fun town that’s very used to street events.”

Moore said COTA hopes to increase its sponsorship sales revenue by more than 60 percent again next year. The track will be hosting more than 30 prospective sponsors at this week’s F1 race.

“F1 is a big brand builder for us,” Moore said. “What it does for us is it builds our brand and makes us unique. It’s part of our value proposition when we talk to companies. They find value in that when you mix in the amphitheater, X Games and all these other races we host.”

Moore expects ticket sales at the F1 race to be comparable in size to a year ago. He declined to say how many tickets were sold in 2012, when the event drew 250,000 spectators over three days. COTA cut off general admission sales two weeks before that race, but this year it will be selling tickets up until the day of the event. International sales are up 5 percent from last year and ticket sales are tracking similarly to a year ago.

“We won’t know total results until the race is over, but it’s going well so far and we feel good about it,” Moore said. “We’ll have a great crowd, very similar to last year.”

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