With the 2019 Black Book Motorsport Forum coming into view, we asked some key personnel at this year's event for a small preview of the kind of insight delegates can expect on 28th August at the Leonardo Royal Hotel in London.
In the first part of our Q&A Series in the build-up to the event, we caught up with Jill Gregory, chief marketing officer at Nascar, W Series chief executive Catherine Bond Muir, Calim Bouhadra, Rebellion Corporation’s chief executive, and Ivo Bozukov, head of strategy for SportPesa.
What was the most significant development you saw in the motorsports industry over the past 12 months?
Jill Gregory: When you look at Nascar, it’s the elevated collaboration across all the industry’s key stakeholders to move the sport in a positive direction. Industry collaboration has always been a critical ingredient for our success as a sport, but the degree to which the industry has leaned in to help address modern-day challenges is unprecedented. Everyone understands that on some levels we need to rethink the way we do things in order to engage and captivate motorsports fans of the present and future. To that end, the greater industry is all rowing in the same direction and together we’re making gains and building momentum.
Catherine Bond Muir: Without a doubt, the launch of W Series in October last year! It remains the biggest news nine months on – where else can you see a grid of around 20 of the world’s best female drivers, on world-class circuits battling it out in fast single-seaters?
Ivo Bozukov: Considering the past 12 months there has been very little change, but the [Formula One] Netflix series ‘Drive to Survive’ has created a monumental opening for the sport to change its accessibility.
Calim Bouhadra: Robot racing and autonomous car racing represents for me an extraordinary technological advance and opens new horizons for motorsport.
In your opinion, what area should motorsport focus on improving?
IB: Motorsport is notoriously hard to follow for non-enthusiasts and it is very complex to break down for casual fans. Helping to deliver a more digestible experience should be a major driver for the sport.
CB: Esports will take on an increasingly important role. It is important that the motorsport industry takes this into account so that it does not allow itself to be overtaken by the phenomenon. I think there are incredible activations to develop and of course the opportunity to reach a young and connected audience.
CBM: Gender diversity, of course. Fewer than ten per cent of all motorsport licences are held by women – and it’s been 43 years since a woman last started a Formula One race. We believe it’s time for a change.
JG: I’m of the belief you can never know or understand your fans enough. There’s always more data to analyse and insights to glean when it comes to their wants, preferences and behaviours. We listen to our fans every day and all that data and information represents the foundation of our marketing and fan engagement strategies. As behaviours and consumption habits shift over time, it’s important to have the tools in place to recognize the changes early so we can react and recalibrate quickly. How we talk to fans today will undoubtedly be different next season, to some degree.
Where do you see the most exciting progress taking place in the motorsports industry moving forward?
CB: The autonomous races, the drone industry. This next generation of technology opens a fascinating new chapter for motorsport.
CBM: We are pioneering much of the industry’s innovation when it comes to encouraging diversity and democratising talent. W Series provides identical F3 cars, pays all costs and provides generous cash prizes – and all to make driving talent the only factor that matters within our series.
JG: Fan engagement platforms are evolving so rapidly that it’s fascinating to consider all the ways fans can now experience our sport. When you look at sports betting, I’m really encouraged by its potential. It’s been a whirlwind year for us in the space and we’re in the process of developing a new live-betting product with Genius Sports that will enhance the Nascar betting experience for sports fans. Then there’s daily fantasy, esports, mobile race-viewing products – these are all avenues that we as an industry are embracing to allow our fans to engage as deeply as possible with Nascar.
IB: The changes in Formula One regulations are the most impactful and significant change discussed in motorsport.
Is there a session or showcase you’re particularly looking forward to at the Black Book Motorsport Forum? If so, why?
CBM: I love motorsport, but I’m relatively new to it, so I’m going to find it all fascinating!
JG: ‘Transforming the Motorsport Horizon’ is going to focus on the empowering of women across all areas of motorsport. Over the years, we’ve witnessed a seismic shift in the opportunities afforded to female motorsports professionals and I’m excited to hear the stories of other women across the industry that are shaking up the status quo and creating pathways for the next generation of women in motorsports.
IB: I’m interested in getting involved in all aspects, but excited about the opportunity to listen to the social engagement session.
CB: I am very interested in the full programme. I would say that sharing and exchange between passionate professionals is the most exciting thing for me, as well as meeting people who have a complementary vision to mine.