F1 Experiences is your official full-service travel provider, which enables you to experience the world of Formula 1 like never before. We spoke to Keith Bruce, President, International of QuintEvents, the organizer company behind F1 Experiences. As head of the business unit, Keith’s principal task is to ensure F1 Experiences provides the best entertainment package for all Formula 1 fans worldwide.
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As the leader of F1 Experiences, what does experience stand for in your view?
That’s a good question! If you look at the dictionary definition of experience, it’s probably not far off from what we want to deliver, which is the ability for a fan to do more than watch. We want them to participate, immerse, ask questions and interact actively. If someone is new to the sport, it’s a great way to be educated, and even if you have followed F1 for a longer time, you can always learn new things about it. Experiences for us take on that kind of meaning, and it’s not about being static. It’s all about being active.
When we first started F1 Experiences, the sport needed a shot of energy.
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with sitting on the grandstands for three days, but for our customers, that’s not something they want to do. They’d like to actively participate in F1, learn more, see more, and do more. These experiences help define fan ability. They strengthen fans’ bond with Formula 1 through the immersive experience. This is our fourth year of existence, and we suffered a pretty disastrous 2020 because we couldn’t do any experiences at all, and it compromised even the first half of 2021.
At the moment, the demand for these experiences is more significant than ever as fans have been kept away from the sport for a more extended period, and they have the appetite to go to the event and spend a little more money to experience Formula 1 besides watching it.
How large is the team behind F1 Experiences?
Basically, we all work for QuintEvents, which is the company that runs and operates F1 Experiences. We have roughly sixty staff engaged full-time on F1 Experiences. That’s across all the business sectors, including product development, sales, marketing, client services, operations and IT. We’ve got quite a robust team that’s grown dramatically to keep up with the volume of F1 Experiences. Then, depending on the size of the race, we also have a good number of contractors, around thirty to fifty people, to help deliver the experiences. The contractors are essential because they allow us to support the local race and interact in the local language.
In addition to that, they serve as expert hosts for the guests and are aware of the culture and understand F1, and we typically hire these contractors regionally or locally from the host country. We also have a lot of contractors based in Europe, and they’re contracted to work with us on multiple races. As a result, they got to know the product very well and can speak to customers from race to race. I’d say we have a pretty well-developed team.
How did it all start for you with F1 Experiences?
I fell in love with the opportunity to be part of a team that can transform the way people can attend and watch a Formula 1 race. I’ve always gravitated toward jobs and leadership opportunities that create transformational change. It was a tremendous challenge and an exceptional opportunity to join with Liberty Media in 2017 when they purchased Formula 1.
Liberty Media, QuintEvents and Formula 1 came together to create a portfolio that fills the gap nicely.
We’ve built up the model of F1 Experiences from scratch. Nothing like this existed before. Liberty Media comes in, acquires F1, and says, ‘Here is a big whiteboard, and let’s create new models, make E-Sports, create a new F1 App, and create F1 Experiences’. Let’s go after all the sectors that can grow our fanbase, which is already massive but perhaps a little bit tired of the sport. There is no question that the sport needed a shot of energy. F1 Experiences helped to transform the live event experience.
We have nothing to do with the broadcast and the actual presentation of the sport. Our focus is on the live event, and we want to give fans an unforgettable live event experience. It was fascinating to create a new product and service like this.
Is it fair to say that F1 Experiences came to life thanks to the support of Liberty?
Several years ago, F1 had thought about the opportunity to give people more access than just a pit lane walk, but they did not pull it together and organize it as a business. In the old model, you had the grandstand ticket and the Paddock Club – nothing in between.
Liberty Media, QuintEvents and Formula 1 came together to create a portfolio that fills the gap nicely. Coming out of COVID and transitioning from the first Liberty/Formula 1 leadership team to the new team of Stefano Domenicali and Chloe Targett-Adams, we needed to pivot and almost relaunch the brand.
I have to give Stefano a lot of credit for continuing to accelerate the growth and popularity of Formula 1. The Liberty Media executive team is a big believer in F1 Experiences because they know it can grow the sport’s fanbase and support the goal of taking it to billions of fans. This kind of leadership enables us to thrive under that can-do attitude. Let’s not forget that F1 is the magic that makes everything happen; without their support, what we’re doing wouldn’t be possible.
What tools do you use to understand the fans’ needs?
Initially, it was a bit of a trial. We created ideas and experiences that we felt were right, primarily based on the feedback F1 provided to us. They had surveys on what a Formula 1 fan would like to do during a race weekend. We looked into the data and created the initial experience package. Once we had buyers, we started doing post-event surveys. We did surveys after each race in 2018, and we could take the feedback to mix and match the experiences.
One of our essential products was born from consumer feedback. It was like, ‘I enjoy the experiences. I wish I could go to a hospitality club’. When we evaluated the feedback we got, we saw that some people would like to go to the hospitality club, but not necessarily to the Paddock Club, because that’s probably too much money for their budget. As a result, we went to Formula 1 and created the Champions Club.
I often call Champions Club a product for the cost-conscious corporate and premium fan. It gives you access to premium hospitality, official experiences under the F1 banner, and magnificent views of the circuit, and it roughly costs sixty per cent of the Paddock Club ticket. The Champions Club is one of our best-selling packages and provides an excellent alternative option to the Paddock Club.
Which is the most popular venue for F1 Experiences?
Right now, the reality is that all of the circuits in Formula 1 are popular. Practically all of the promoters are sold out this year. Many European super fans love to attend as many races as they can afford, watch all races on television and follow the series on F1.com.
One of our key products was born from consumer feedback.
We now have many more Americans attending Formula 1 this year due to a significant increase in popularity and the ability to travel globally. When we speak about products and look at some of the most famous circuits that are more attractive, it’s usually the Paddock Club that sells out first.
What’s the reason behind the current popularity of F1?
I like to say that the sport is enjoying a triple-headed tailwind, which comprises three elements. The popularity in viewership and attendance is the bounce back from COVID – without a doubt. Only three months after COVID, Formula 1 was the first organized global sport to go back on television. I think that move allowed them to pick up a whole new base of fans – and that’s the first element.
The second point is the Netflix series, Drive to Survive. It has more than doubled the US audience for Formula 1 and more than doubled the interest in F1 Experiences. It’s not surprising that Formula 1 will have three races in the United States in 2023.
The third driving factor is that the sport is exciting again for the core fan. Let’s admit it; the core fan was a bit disinterested in the last couple of years just because we had the same result at every race. We had a thrilling final race in 2021, and we haven’t seen such a dramatic end to a season for a long time. I think the core fan is now re-engaged with all our changes this year.
Actually, we’ve never been sold out so early in the season for some races. Circuits are full, promoters are happy, and people are returning to the sport significantly – it’s great for all parties.
Are you working on new experiences to add to your product?
Of course! When the restrictions because of COVID-19 were still in place, and the number of people in areas like the paddock and the pitlane was limited, we created a new product called Live On The Grid. It takes place on Thursday evening, and we combined a pitlane walk with the ability to bring this experience onto the grid because the grid was the one area that could still allow a visit for fans. Actually, it migrated to a new entertainment program every Thursday.
We try to create various experiences to give people a fresh perspective year by year.
Usually, we have Bernd Maylander, the driver of Safety Car, joining us with media personalities from Sky Sports to showcase the broadcast and a Formula 1 driver to talk about the race weekend. It’s an entertaining platform that takes two or three hours on a Thursday evening. Covid made us rethink our possibilities on and off the grid, in and around the paddock and the pitlane.
We try to create various fan experiences and hospitality to give the fans and corporate groups a new perspective year by year and motivate them to return for more.
Do you think that the sport is at its peak now?
To be honest, I wouldn’t like to make such a statement because it would suggest that it can’t go any further. I’m always hesitant to say that we’ve peaked, and I don’t think we’ve peaked at F1 Experiences. I believe we have a strong foundation for double or triple growth. When you look at how many new fans we have, almost none of them have yet gone to an F1 race.
The opportunity for us is pretty vast, and that’s the same with F1 – Liberty has a lot of energy to share with the sport. We’re thrilled, but we still have a couple of mountains to climb. We’re never satisfied; we know we can continually improve the experience for the fans.
What would you suggest to someone hesitant between a grandstand ticket and an F1 Experiences package?
It depends on how you want to spend your money and your time at a Formula 1 race. There is always a correlation between money, time and value. Our customers are generally active, mobile people who travel a lot and don’t have much time, so they want to maximize their time when doing something. People between the ages of 25 and 40 are usually impatient and want to get to the point now. They want to see things now and don’t want to wait. If you get the most value and time benefit from the money you spend, then F1 Experiences is an inevitable option.
The other reason is that we have eight to ten different products in our portfolio. We have something for you if you have eight hundred dollars to spend for a three-day weekend. Suppose you have $5,000 to spend, the same. If you go to our website, we have a financial slider on the top, and you can set how much money you want to spend and can almost customize the options you want to buy.
We give fans many different ways to look at the products and packages to decide which is the best match for them.
Don’t miss the opportunity at #ExperienceF1!