By Michael Banks, Senior Account Executive
In a monumental sale for the motorsport industry last week, the Supercars Championship was sold to a consortium (aptly named RACE, led by TGI sport, TLA, and Australian Racing Group) as part of a lucrative deal estimated to be worth in excess of $100 million.
From a communications perspective, this will open up a number of opportunities to reach a large and broader audience and while it is important to look at how Supercars is celebrating this announcement, it is also interesting to look at how this will impact the avenues which it uses to communicate to its fans.
Sports sponsorship has long been one of the most effective ways to reach target audiences, with many businesses around the world using motorsport to do so. For Supercars - the leading motorsport category in Australia - this will also open up rare and unique media moments and public appearance opportunities, due to the publicity surrounding this announcement; here’s why.
Moving Supercars state-to-state during the pandemic proved far tougher than many other sports, but finding solutions and delivering 12-round championships across 2020 and 2021 has seen sponsor and TV contracts delivered, allowing the sport’s bottom line to remain healthy and well-positioned for the future.
The size and depth of motorsport in Australia will surprise many, reaching far beyond the top line F1, Moto GP and Supercars events. A recent study by Ernst and Young has found that motorsport contributes $8.6 billion to the Australian economy annually. This significant amount is a reflection of not only the size and impact of motorsport in Australia but also its enormous potential.
The sponsorship makeup of Supercars is continuing to diversify. Whilst automotive related companies continue to sponsor teams and the Championship, a wider range of brands are getting involved. The personal sponsorship and employment of drivers as ambassadors for brands continue to grow and one advantage Supercars has over the football codes is a truly national footprint. At Thrive, we see this first hand with several clients sponsoring cars and their drivers alike, using their profiles to reach new customers through earned, owned and shared avenues.
The past 18 months have undoubtedly hastened changes in the sporting landscape and, in particular, e-Sports has gained in popularity. The lockdowns of 2020 saw Supercars adapt, probably as well as any sporting code in Australia initially, with the introduction of the Supercars e-series. The digital racing platform showcased all the star athletes, demonstrating their talents, continued exposure for sponsors and providing a welcome sporting fix for many.
The move online forced Supercars to broaden their online presence, with streams on YouTube and Twitch. With gaming skewing to a younger audience, Supercars were able to tap into this with a product that suited. How Supercars and the new owners continue to engage and tap into a young audience is vital to the ongoing growth and success of the category.
TGI’s ownership stake, with its expertise in digital infrastructure and broadcast technology, looks to be the most interesting part of the new ownership consortium. How TGI leverage their expertise to expand Supercars audience and look to reach a younger demographic will heavily influence the success of their investment. The use and activation of e-sports could lead many other sporting categories around the world.
The online presence of Supercars will also be very important, not just for the interaction with younger fans. The Supercars website was a leading news site, breaking many stories in recent years. A shift to purely reporting and providing softer news has taken this angle away. The NRL is said to be planning a similar move, a surprising communication tact from both sports at risk of driving fans to other sites and not their own.
Engaging fans through TV coverage, online and at events will continue to be key for Supercars new owners. A passionate and interested audience will attract sponsors and support Supercars’ growth. How TLA leads the communications strategy with fans will be interesting to watch from afar. Maintaining the passion of established fans while attracting new fans is often a fine balance.
With new ownership of the Supercars, a new generation of cars coming and many changes occurring in how people consume sport, it may prove to be an opportune time to have purchased Supercars. How the new consortium of owners uses
their varied expertise together will likely determine their success.