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Formula 1 CEO Chase Carey and Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei on CNBC

Formula 1 CEO Chase Carey highlighted some key areas for the sports growth with Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei as the two spoke on CNBC’s morning business report today.

With the past several seasons as a springboard for change in Formula 1, Carey gave credit to the newly appointed CEO Emeritus Bernie Ecclestone and outlined some areas for change.

“I think first, Bernie deserves tremendous credit for the sport that’s been built over the past decades…he should be recognized and we certainly do appreciate what he built here.  But that being said, when you look at last four or five years, the sport has really not grown to its potential.  We have an opportunity to really grow this sport in a new and exciting way, and I think there are two fundamental parts:  One, put an organization in place that lets us make these events everything they can be, [one that] reaches out across digital media that we’re not connecting to today, build[s] a marketing organization that connects to fans, enables fans to connect to the sport.  And on another level, to really build a spirit of partnership with our teams, promoters, sponsors, broadcasters that enables us to work together with a common vision.”

In the past, the sport’s deals have consistently been done over one desk, Ecclestone’s, and it’s clear the days of autocratic rule have been set aside as Formula 1’s new guard prepares it for more profitability.  The key areas of broadcasting, sponsorship and promotion were highlighted, with sponsorship front and center according to CEO Carey:

“The one that grows the fastest is probably sponsorship, realistically today we have a one man sponsorship operation.  There are many categories we’re not even selling into.  We have signage at tracks we’re not selling, so in many ways, putting an organization in place that enables us to execute on that is probably is the most immediate impact.”

In response, Liberty Media [Formula 1’s owner] President and CEO Greg Maffei added: “I know that [Major League Baseball] has something like 75 or 80 people on sponsorship, and that contrasts with you said Formula 1 having one?”

Speaking from a remote studio, Carey continued:

“We have one… In TV, there’s no question.  There’s a lot of growth there, we just did a deal recently in the UK that increased our annual revenue by more that two times.  We are not yet really even a player in the digital media landscape, so thats an opportunity for us to add some digital dimension to our traditional broadcast media.  I think for the opportunity on the events side is really creating more making our events bigger, broader, better.  I’ve talked about having 21 races, [so] we have 21 Super Bowls.  Realistically we only have one race in every country, and we should make these races week long extravaganzas, with entertainment and music…events that capture the whole city, not just events at the track, and that is an opportunity for us to really over time to continue to grow the dimension a bit.”

21 Super Bowls require some star power, so who are the stars in Formula 1, and what is the sport doing to promote itself to a wider audience?

“We have great stars…Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen was an 18 year old who broke out in a great way this year.  Today I said we have one person in sponsorship and we have zero in marketing, and we don’t have a connection on the visual media.  So we’ve got to do a better job enabling fans to connect to our stars.  We have wonderful stars, we have incredible cars, and we’ve got to create the vehicles that are available today…to enable those fans to connect to them, to understand and relate to them.”

As Formula 1 is looking for growth in the United States, so in addition to the race at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, where could the next race take place stateside?

“The US is clearly a real opportunity for us.  We didn’t acquire the business…depending on the US success, but there is a real upside for us in the US market.  What we’d like to add is a race in a destination city:  New York, L.A., Miami, Las Vegas, a space that really people would come to for a week long event that has multiple dimensions with the race at the center.”

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US Release of ‘Senna’, USGP at SXSW, and CNBC in F1

While most of the US watches news develop overseas and waits for the season opener, the award-winning documentary ‘Senna’ opened to a packed house at the SXSW festival last weekend, and on hand were the film’s director, Asif Kapadia and USGP organizer Tavo Hellmund.  Check out the Austin Grand Prix Blog for some great coverage as well as shots of the Williams FW33 that made an appearance at a reception put on by Formula One United States organizers.

Kudos there as well – a smart way to embrace the history of the sport and it’s fans, the USGP was able to capitalize on a popular film – one that sold out faster than any other in SXSW history.  The race’s success ultimately will come down to how the local community embraces Formula 1, and from all reviews, ‘Senna’ as a film looks to be regarded on par with ‘Pride of the Yankees’.  Austin’s Statesman reports that director Kapadia has hinted at a June release for the United States market.

In other US Market news, CNBC has recently signed with the Marussia Virgin F1 team as their Business Media Partner.  CNBC is in a great position to enter India and Russia when the racing there begins, as well link up with a new global audience.  A quick look ’round the net suggests that CNBC’s content partnerships are shifting away from Dow Jones and Company (now owned by News Corporation), and towards other partners in international markets.

Last year, CNN International partnered with Lotus Racing, and one of the many benefits of their  sponsorship was that it put the CNN brand squarely on an iconic British car in front of their main competition’s audience at the BBC.  In effect, the BBC paid FOM and Bernie for the right to broadcast CNN’s logo on a car watched by millions in the BBC’s home market for a historic return of the Lotus name.

Possibly in a similar fashion, CNBC could leverage their presence on the F1 platform, especially in Austin, where US broadcaster SPEED (also owned by News Corporation) will certainly have a strong media presence covering the race for their US television audience.

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