Bruce Knox on Austin’s F1 Grand Prix

By , April 4, 2011 11:01 pm

Last Thursday I was fortunate enough to be invited to a Seton Forum luncheon in Austin at which Bruce Knox, CEO of Formula 1 United States, was the guest speaker. I had an opportunity to chat with Bruce prior to his presentation, and I was pleased to see how open he is to constructive ways of promoting the Austin GP, and that there are already a number of interesting ideas in the works.

Potential Audience for the Austin GP is Half a Billion People in 187 Countries!

Bruce Knox stressed the potential benefits that the Grand Prix will bring to Austin, both in terms of direct income and by increasing the national and international profile of the city. It was apparent that many in the audience were not familiar with the tremendous international attention that every F1 race receives. For example, Formula One Management’s (FOM) official viewership figure for F1 was 527 million unique viewers during the 2010 season, with a total of 16,000 hours of F1 content being broadcast to 187 countries (source www.formula1.com).  Only the Olympics and World Cup football attract larger audiences, and they only happen once every 4 years.

Even this blog reinforces the tremendous draw that F1 has, having received over 118,000 hits from 77 countries in the last 5 weeks, with still well over a year to go to the race itself. So, there is no doubt that Austin will be in the spotlight during its GP weekends, it is down to the city and local businesses to decide how best to leverage this to the benefit of everyone.

What Will be the Other Uses for the Racetrack?

One of the most interesting things to come from Bruce’s talk was the list of other uses the team behind Austin Racetrack is considering to monetize the track facilities outside of the F1 race week, and to offer benefit to the local community. These include:

1) Additional Motor Races– as the only US racetrack with the highest FIA rating, it is ideal for use for all forms of motorsport.

2) Driving Clubs – the track is likely to become home to one or more driving clubs and performance driving schools.

3) Driving & Riding Experiences – enabling members of the public to experience a high speed track first hand.

4) Test Track – for both race and production vehicles.

5) Product Launches – Approaches have already been made by motor vehicle manufacturers who want to rent the track to film promotional videos.

6) Media and Conference Centre– Either using the F1 facilities or purpose built additional accommodation.

7) Partnering with Schools and Universities– Making engineering interesting to students by bringing it alive through F1 could help the US from falling further down the international league table of engineering graduates.

Additionally, there are proposals for a music venue, hotels and an innovation centre in and around the track, and there is still time for other ideas to be put forward.

Bruce was asked about ticket pricing for the race weekend, and he neatly side-stepped the question by saying that pricing was under evaluation. However, he did mention that there will be a large number of general admission tickets available. This will enable holders to sit on the grassy areas around the track, making for a more varied and interactive experience.

Apparently, there will be 120,000 tickets available for race day, and I am wondering about the viability of increasing this number as it may not be sufficient – especially in future years if the race is marketed well

An Idea .. How About an Austin F1 Expo?

Talking with Bruce got me thinking .. we have all of the ingredients to create a very successful event, and the main challenge really lies in informing local residents and businesses about the huge positive impact the race could bring. Maybe we should hold an Austin F1 Expo in early 2012, supported by Formula 1 US and the FOM, with the objective of introducing F1 to the local community, and expounding its commercial potential to local businesses?

Move on this in future blogs, but comments welcome!

10 Responses to “Bruce Knox on Austin’s F1 Grand Prix”

  1. Vivi Tran says:

    I got 5 Acres right on Riverside in Austin, TX. Let me know if this can be any use to promote F1. I’m all for it. Way to go because F1 is so cool & promote the best of the best in overseas. Let me know if we can be any help for anyone. Thanks.

  2. Peter Devine says:

    While the Austin F1 Expo sounds like an excellent idea to make the local & business community aware of the great potential the race would have for the Austin area, I have to state that in all probability,the expense for that Expo would lay solely with Formula 1 US. From what I’ve seen & heard about Bernie Ecclestone all these many years,he is a great proponent of making money for FOM and it in spending it for it’s betterment.

    • Ian Weightman says:

      I was wondering if it could be made self-funding, with sponsorships coving the cost of the facilities and other overhead. Part of my “day job” is running an events company, and I think it might be do-able with free entry if there was sufficient interest for sponsorship from companies that would benefit from the race.

  3. NicoTexas says:

    ‘Over Half a Billion People in 187 Countries Will Watch Austin’s F1 Grand Prix!”
    It’s quite innaccurate. The 527 million people was for the entire season, so you need to divide that by the number of GPs to have an idea of the audience of the US GP.

    • Ian Weightman says:

      I have to disagree with NicoTexas. The figure of 527 million was sourced directly from Formula One Management (FOM). According to its official website http://www.Formula1.com , this number refers to “unique viewers annually”. Hence, this is the total number of people globally who watched F1 at some point during the 2010 season – it is definitely NOT a summation of viewers per race over the season. Admittedly, you would need a following wind to get them all watching at the same time, but I was hoping that most fans would watch at least some of the Austin GP, either live or recorded, plus a big increase in US viewership.

      If NicoTexas’ calculation was correct, the average number of viewers per race in 2010 would have been just 28 million. However, adding together the official F1 audience figures per race for just a few European countries alone would surpass this number (source: European broadcasters RAI, BBC, RTL, La Sexta and TF1). Add to this the typical 20 million viewers per race from China and Brazil, and you can see how the total quickly mounts up, with over 180 countries still to count.

      I do agree that the whole “viewership” statistics are confusing, as it is often not clear whether they refer to:
      PEAK – number of people viewing the most watched portion of a race
      AVERAGE – total hours viewed divided by race time
      TOTAL VIEWERSHIP – number of individuals who watch any part of the race

      I have reposted my blog entry to clarify this point.

  4. Alex W says:

    I’d be more than happy to get involved in promoting F1 here. Let me know if you would like to do some preliminary discussions on this matter.

    • Ian Weightman says:

      Alex, thanks for your continued interest in this blog. I am hoping to do more proactive promotion later this year and into next, and I would be grateful for any help! I will keep you in the loop. Feel free to email me (see contact page)

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