Steve Madincea is one of the most innovative marketing minds within the world of sport, and we asked him to asses Liberty Media’s progress to date. Steve has been a forerunner within the sport advising the likes of Benetton, Red Bull, Shell, Infiniti, Rolex, Ford and a host of others on how best to maximise their global Formula 1 campaigns. Having created and then sold both PRISM and Outside the Box to WPP, he also has vast experience in other sports like the Olympics, FIFA World Cup, NFL, International Tennis, NBA and working with sporting federations. We caught up with the ultra-busy Madincea developing his next business venture while he was in transit at London’s Heathrow Airport for a few tough questions.
How do you grade the changes Liberty Media has made to the commercial elements of Formula 1 so far?
While at this early stage it is a lot like trying to grade a marathon runner after mile one I will give them a solid “B”. I like what they have done to date when others have been critical as my perspective is if you do not try then you do not know if it will succeed or not. While I understand the team complaints that zip wires in Barcelona do not generate more revenue for the teams, they must understand these types of activities are symbolic of the changes Liberty are bringing. I have confidence the company will continue to evolve and add commercial activities that will ultimately bring incremental fans and revenue for all.
So is 2017 a turning point in Formula 1’s commercial activities?
I think 2017 will go down in history as the turning point in Formula 1’s commercial development. Even greater than 1974 when the team’s surrendered their Formula 1 commercial activities to Bernie Ecclestone. What you will see from this moment forward is an increased variety of brands involved in the sport doing really cool and interesting fan engagement campaigns at every Grand Prix. Increasing the fan engagement will in turn bring in more brands. More brands will bring in increased digital/marketing/PR talent and the whole thing will snowball. My personal predication for this snowball is that by 2022 Formula 1 will be THE place for global brands to launch products and engage with consumers around the globe.
Geography will play into the future as Formula 1 has to look at the economics of going to China a second time in a season or returning to a classic circuit like Spa as an example. In the end it may have to do both.
Then what can Formula 1 learn from other sports?
A lot. This is perhaps the best part about Chase Carey and Sean Bratches being here – they are very open minded and they have seen first-hand how well other sports have promoted themselves. I used to have very “robust” conversations with Bernie about how he needed to change his digital engagement to emulate the NBA or recognise the Super Bowl’s ultra-successful half-time show was just as important as the game itself. Sadly, I’d lose the argument as he often stated his hands were tied by the prior owners or he was unwilling which meant my client’s budgets went elsewhere. In my first meeting with Sean it was evident to me he wanted to ramp things up quite quickly on the digital front and I assured him he would be pushing an open door.
You have one of the, if not the most successful record in Formula 1 activation. What do you see as key success elements in these affairs?
First of all, I did not do all of those award-winning Formula 1 campaigns on my own. There were a lot of talented women and men with different backgrounds and skill sets that worked very hard to deliver the numerous firsts we conducted around the globe. So the first part of the recipe is to have a highly talented and diverse team. That team must include clients willing to take a risk on new ideas, some of the early content we created while basic in today’s terms was cutting edge then. Many of the events we created and sold into Bernie and his team like launching Ford cars on Formula 1 tracks during the quiet lunch periods took numerous hours of negotiation. But in each case we smashed the objectives whether they were new car sales or awareness. Yes, I may have created and led those efforts but the team, the total team, delivered them.
How does geography, moving in and out of iconic locations come to play in a modern Formula 1 campaign?
I have always stated that no sport crosses borders and cultures better than Formula 1 on an annual basis. Geography will play into the future as Formula 1 has to look at the economics of going to China a second time in a season or returning to a classic circuit like Spa as an example. In the end it may have to do both. I do not envy Chase with this decision but he is a very smart man and if he cannot figure out how to do both he knows my private email!