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New deal eyes China expansion for F1

NEWS STORY
05/07/2017

While the future of the British Grand Prix hangs in the balance, Formula One's new owners have taken the first steps towards hosting a second race in China.

Ironic as it seems just days from a race at a track that hosted the first ever Formula One World Championship race in 1950 and is usually filled to overflowing with passionate fans, the sport is looking to expand further in China, where currently empty grandstands are either removed or covered with advertising hoardings and the few equally passionate fans that attend are supplemented with schoolchildren, students and workers bussed in on freebies.

Today, Formula One Management announces a new partnership with Lagardere Sports - a "leading sport marketing agency, with a global network of local experts dedicated to delivering innovative solutions that meet clients' needs" - as the sport seeks to raise its profile in China.

Confirming the partnership, Liberty Media and Lagardere said that it would "identify and secure strategic partners for Formula One in areas including event promotion, media rights, digital and brand partnerships, merchandising, talent development and racing team development."

The news comes at a time there is talk of a Chinese consortium looking to create an F1 team, Christian Horner having admitted that members of his staff have been approached, not forgetting the ill-fated bid by Ron Dennis to seek Chinese funding for his buy-out of his McLaren partners last year.

With an eye on the fact that Malaysia is on the verge of hosting its last F1 race, and with the provisional 2018 calendar revealing that both the Singapore and Chinese rounds are in doubt, FOM's commercial boss, Sean Bratches, has reiterated the sport's desire not merely to be in the region but to expand, claiming that fans in the region are among the sport's most passionate.

"We have a proud and longstanding relationship with motorsport in Asia," he says, "working with some great motor race circuit owners and successful race promoters from Singapore to Suzuka in Japan through to Shanghai in China.

"Across the region, F1 fans have proven themselves to be some of the sport's most passionate supporters with over 8.8 million people attending race weekends since 2004.

"We are keen to build on this," he adds, "developing our brand through unique live entertainment experiences designed to get fans closer to the action."

While - Silverstone seemingly aside - Liberty Media has said that it wants to see the sport reverse the trend which has seen it forsake its traditional European heartland, with an eye on the money F1 also needs to expand in non-traditional regions.

"We still aren't where we need to be in China," Zak Brown recently told Reuters. "You could have a race in Beijing and Shanghai... I don't think you've saturated Asia."

And with Lagardere Sports and Entertainment chief executive, Andrew Georgiou, telling Reuters that by 2022 the Chinese middle classes could number 550 million, one can see Brown's point about saturation.

"That growth is huge," said Georgiou, "400 million people over 12 or 13 years with disposable income to spend on entertainment and lifestyle. That's a proxy for the size of the market."

"Having advised clients in the region for over 20 years, we've seen first-hand the enormous growth to date in the live sports and entertainment market in China," said Georgiou today. "Sports fans in the country, as well as media platforms and sponsors alike, are craving premium, local and live sports and entertainment, supported by quality digital content and meaningful fan engagement.

"Through this new partnership together we will work with Formula 1 to develop premium local content for the Chinese market, in a way that the sport deeply engages with local fans and becomes part of the Chinese sporting culture and fabric.

"We're delighted the Formula 1 management team has trusted us to use our global insights and network, combined with our local expertise and knowledge within China, to help develop their brand, fan base and appeal to media platforms and sponsors.

"It's a very exciting time to be supporting Formula 1."

As Mike Lawrence always told us, with Formula One it is always a case of following the money… the passion can wait.

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1. Posted by stackvideo, 06/07/2017 0:15

"How about selling Silverstone to the Chinese and then we can await and see all those passionate Chinese fans come to Silverstone. "

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