In MotoGP, Sport Sponsorship

In the past days RTR Sports Marketing have been interviewed by a prestigious sports magazine about the future of MotoGP sponsorship. Amidst the uncertainties raised in the sports industry by the COVID-19 pandemic and the rapid changes dictated by technology, the sponsorship arena is rapidly evolving. It was the opportunity to sit back and reflect on a revolutionized connection between brands and properties in the pinnacle of two-wheel racing and on how MotoGP is forging the path to a modern idea of global sponsorship. We are happy to share the answers to these questions with you.

  • What are the assets brands are most interested in when considering MotoGP sponsorship?
  • Which markets can MotoGP offer brands exposure in?
  • Can you identify any notable changes in the MotoGP sponsorship market in recent years?
  • How much is fan data utilised in the sport to give brands a clear picture of how sponsorship can be of benefit to them?
  • How important is sustainability to sponsors? How significant is the MotoE series in relation to this?
  • How can the sport develop its sponsorship offering further?

What are the assets brands are most interested in when considering MotoGP sponsorship?

Things are rapidly changing. Once, you’d have brands looking for the biggest logo on the bike they could get. In the days of free-to-air television, visibility was everything: the bigger the sticker on the fairings the stronger your sponsorship program.

Of course this is no longer the case. Brands today are looking for properties that can effectively portray their value system and they use MotoGP as a global marketing platform to boost their existing communication assets.

Some brands are not even asking for visibility anymore: they need social media support, B2B opportunities within the paddock, access to riders and management to embed them in their storytelling strategies. They need a different angle to approach their customer base: straight-as-an-arrow brand exposure just isn’t key anymore. Experiential marketing is where it’s at at the moment.

Take hospitality services, for instance. For a large part of the MotoGP Teams, hospitality revenues mean 30% of the grand total. This figure grows, obviously, with Moto2 and Moto3. 

Which markets can MotoGP offer brands exposure in?

With more than 200 countries receiving the MotoGP live TV Signal and 55 countries represented by media personnel, MotoGP is truly a global sport. Some riders, like Valentino Rossi or Marc Marquez are both icons and legends. It’s fair to say they are familiar to Billions.

Geographically speaking, the MotoGP Championship visits 16 Countries in four continents with 19 Grands Prix in a Season. Again, this is a key element, because the series is a moving marketing platform really, and is able to engage with local fans, sponsors and stakeholders on the ground.

It should come as no surprise then that the series has been adding more and more rounds to the calendar in the past few years, with Finland being the latest addition. Without the COVID-19 pandemic, we would have witnessed a 20-round Season in 2020, the longest Championship in world motorcycle racing history.

Apart from the traditional European Countries, the championship is well established everywhere, from Australia to South America. In the last few years South-East Asia, in particular, is proving a very interesting market for both MotoGP and the two-wheel industry. Countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand (where bikes and mopeds represent the main mean of transport for a large part of the population) have a deep love for bike racing and a true passion for MotoGP riders. These vast, young and loyal audiences are pivotal for the future of the series (the Thai GP is the most attended race of the year), and so are the growing economies of these countries.

Finally, MotoGP is pushing to expand its digital boundaries. Online and social media are front and center in the evolution of the sport and both the teams and the organization have been pushing hard to make MotoGP the strongest motorsport property when it comes to social and web.

Can you identify any notable changes in the MotoGP sponsorship market in recent years?

As mentioned, the increasing role of experiential marketing and a different approach to fan engagement especially online and through social media, alongside a decline in the importance of traditional visibility, are some of the main forces driving todays sponsorship market in MotoGP.

However, it has to be noted that these global sports are always in a fluid, ever-evolving situation. The sponsorship market attached to these disciplines must be fluid and responsive as well, in an adapt-or-die kind of scenario.

Think of what happened in the past 20 years in Motorsports alone. We’ve had the huge tobacco ban, the switch from national tv to pay-tv, the impact of social media, the rise of OTT services, and now we have esports and sustainability matters, just to name a few. It’s not a revolution: it’s more like one hundred revolutions altogether.

How much is fan data utilised in the sport to give brands a clear picture of how sponsorship can be of benefit to them?

This is a growing sector of the sport, and one Teams and organizations are heavily working on.

Today we have tons of data. We already have a very clear picture of what happens when fans watch a race on live TV (how much airtime do sponsors get, what are the most visibile areas on bikes and circuits and so on) and what they do on social media and online. When presented with a sponsorship opportunity, brands are given hundreds of figures on global audiences, media equivalency values, social media reach. It’s a very detailed snapshot of what is happening right now.

The future, in my opinion, is putting those data in a more three-dimensional grand scheme, building an evolving profile of the fan, rather than providing a snapshot of where he/she’s at. We must never forget that customers and fans and spectators are not inanimate, static entities, but rather rapidly evolving individuals, whose habits and patterns and preferences are changing and shifting.

Sponsorship is a long-term marketing process: we somehow need to tell brands not WHERE the fan is NOW, but WHO will she/he be in 36/48 months.

How important is sustainability to sponsors? How significant is the MotoE series in relation to this?

Sustainability is a very important trend in today’s marketing and brands need to leverage on that if they want to remain relevant in the global market. Take Formula E, for instance, which is possibly the best and greatest example of how you can build a brand new sport and business around that idea: it’s no coincidence all the top car manufacturers want to be a part of it.

On the MotoE front, I do believe it is important for a lot of reasons.

First and foremost, Dorna have been clever enough to develop an all-electric series under their wing, rather than having some other organization setting up a whole new Championship away from the MotoGP paddock. This means extra value for Dorna itself, of course, but is also very important in the sponsorship negotiation process. Teams who field entries both in the MotoGP class and in MotoE have now a whole new array of tools for sponsors. And sponsors can now benefit of the values of both disciplines.

Furthermore, one must not forget that MotoE is a brand new sport that must go through a building process. The technology is still relatively new and needs some fine-tuning to be appealing for the masses, but it will progress rapidly.

If we consider the consumer market, everyday bikes are, in my opinion, less bound to go full electric than the car industry. Bikes will always somehow remain attached to that “petrolhead culture” if you wish, but there is no doubt that the future of mobility is electric and that sustainability will be a key value for brands in every industry. 

How can the sport develop its sponsorship offering further?

As mentioned, the MotoGP marketing boundaries are already being stretched out as we speak. As new markets and new target audiences emerge, the sponsorship market evolves with them. The esports arena, which MotoGP is entering with their e-championship, is one of those fields and I can see why some brands are already jumping in.

Prosaic as it might sound, and especially today through this COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a matter of “thinking outside of the box”. Growing up around toy cars and race cars posters on the wall, somehow we are still hard wired to think that sponsorship is a sticker on a car or motorcycle. That world is dead now. The question today is not “how do i make my brand visible?” but “how do I get my brand to engage and interact on a personal level with my consumers?” and “how do I create high-value experiences for my customer showcasing my brand’s values and propositions?”.

Technology will play a strong role in this, providing one-to-one, tailor-made engagement opportunities.

Emanuele Venturoli
Communication Manager for RTR Sports Marketing. A degree in Communication at the University of Bologna and a passion for sport brought me where I'm today.
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