F1 CEO Chase Carey Says Potential For Circuit's Global Growth Is 'Enormous'
Formula 1 CEO Chase Carey emphasized the sport’s untapped potential throughout an interview with Intersport Founder, Chair & CEO Charlie Besser at the ’17 Intersport Brand Engagement Summit. F1, which was led by Bernie Ecclestone until Liberty Media’s $8B acquisition of the sport in January, was not, in Carey’s words, “achieving what we think is possible,” particularly over the last half dozen years. One of the biggest priorities for Carey will be beefing up F1 from an organizational standpoint. “A large part of the transition is, in some ways, it’s an organizational startup," he said. "There wasn’t an operating group to drive the business forward. When I first went in the fall, essentially, my dining room table was my office and I would walk the streets of London for meetings. We’re moving into offices where we can properly put the organization in place. We need to support it.”
THINKING BIG: Carey wants each race -- this year’s calendar features 20 and next year’s will have 21 -- to be a massive event for fans, sponsors and promoters. He has said he wants each race to feel like a Super Bowl. He elaborated on that on Thursday. “We’ve talked broadly about 21 Super Bowls," Carey said. "And people will say, ‘Well, you’ve got 21, and there’s only one Super Bowl.’ The analogy can get carried too far, but realistically, we’re only in each country once, so there is a uniqueness to each one. What we really meant by that is, we want this to be -- and it should be -- an event that sort of captures the city for the week we’re there, that you know you’re in a Formula 1 city; and there’s stuff going on on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The race is the pinnacle of the weekend, but there’s an energy and an excitement and a breadth of events. It transcends sports; food, entertainment, music, exhibitions.”
U.S. GROWTH: The U.S., where Austin, Texas, is currently the only city that hosts a race, offers a number of interesting potential destinations for Carey and Co. He said that several cities in the States have expressed interest in hosting races. “We believe there’s an enormous opportunity here for us," he said. "I think there is a large fan base that’s never really had the opportunity to connect with the sport. Historically, it’s probably where the deal-making and lack of resources sort of hurt our ability to develop new markets. … If you’re going to develop markets like China and the U.S., we have to have the ability to be more engaged in developing that opportunity. We’ll do it in steps. Initially the two things we’re focused on are adding a race -- the race in Austin is great, and we’re proud of it and look to continue to build it -- but a race in what I call a destination city -- like New York, Miami or Las Vegas -- where you’d have a race that captures the world’s imagination. A race that truly defines the word event. If you’re in that city, you’re going to know that week that Formula 1 has come to town.”
Carey also addressed a wide range of other issues.
On the current season: “To date, we’ve been thrilled by the reaction through six races. I think every one of them has had a very tangible positive uplift. We’ve gotten great reactions from drivers like [Mercedes’] Lewis Hamilton arriving in Barcelona and saying he hasn’t seen positive energy like this in 10 years. Early days, but we’ve got a lot going.”
On the dominance of Mercedes and balancing technology and competitiveness: “These are very smart guys. They recognize that if you’re a sport first and foremost, competition, excitement and the underdog having a chance to win are important. Yes, there’s a side to you that says, ‘I want to win, how do I create advantages to win.’ It’s to some degree protecting you from yourself."
On changing the perception of exclusivity: “In the last half dozen years, there’s a misperception that the sport was somehow trying to find its path to being attractive to stars and high-end customers. Bernie [Ecclestone] had a statement early on. He said, ‘I don’t care about the 20-year-olds, because the 60-year-olds have money.’ … Getting access to the paddock became increasingly frustrating, difficult and almost painful. The view would be, ‘That’s how you make it exclusive.’ … What we view is, you don’t need to preclude others. You can still be exclusive, but be fun and enjoyable. It doesn’t have to be painful, frustrating and agonizing to get into the paddock.”
On his message to sponsors: “This is a truly unique sport. … There’s a large block of fans that are uniquely attached to this. It’s an incredibly attractive group of fans in a sport that is nowhere near what it will be and can be. Anybody who looks at it even superficially would recognize what has not been done. Again, I don’t want to turn this into criticism of past management, because we’ve clearly given Bernie [Ecclestone] credit for what was built. But in the last 10 years, we just haven’t marketed the sport, we haven’t connected with fans.”