America’s industry-leading travel/event/experience company, QuintEvents International houses the company’s Formula 1 business, and Keith Bruce, a veteran of the sports and event industry, is leading the F1 Experiences organisation serving all Formula 1 events across the globe. Bruce has kindly agreed to talk about the relevant issues of the sport’s hospitality with the Paddock magazine.
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Keith, what changed in F1 Experiences since 2017?
Well, 2018 represents our first full-year launch of F1 Experiences in Formula 1, so there are quite a few modifications we have made to the product line and offers. We introduced F1 Experiences in mid-2017 so we could see how the market reacted, which products were most popular, and where we could tweak or improve the packages as we went from race to race. We spent the off-season doing a thorough review of our market research, our customer feedback, and input from other key stakeholders like the track promoters and FOM. As a result, we made some changes to the product to better reflect what was really working and what our customers loved most about F1 Experiences. Those changes are now reflected in our new portfolio of product offerings for 2018.
Our biggest change for 2018 is the expansion of our Champions Club, a premium hospitality package that is lower in price than Paddock Club but still offers exceptional views of the track, high-quality food and beverage, and official immersive experiences in and around the paddock that are the hallmark of F1 Experiences. We launched Champions Club in three markets last year and will offer it in 14 race markets this year, so it’s a dramatic expansion. Early sales are strong, so we are excited about this new product and how it fits in the overall line-up of packages we offer. We also have made some improvements to our Hero and Trophy fan packages and will add some new driving experiences alongside Formula 1 in 2018. In total, we now have three packages specifically designed and priced for the fan market starting at about 500 GBP, and we have five packages dedicated to the premium or corporate market. So it’s a well-rounded portfolio of offerings, in my opinion.
Talking about hospitality in Formula 1, what is most important in your work today?
Creating and offering an official Formula 1 product line with range and real value is the most important consideration. We understand that “one size fits all” is not the way to go in today’s marketplace. People are more sophisticated with their demands and want real value for the money they are paying. I think that is one of the most important pieces of feedback we received from our customers in 2017 – that F1 Experiences delivered exceptional value for the money they invested. And we connected with them because of the access we provided: experiences that had never previously been possible or available before. We believe it’s incredibly important to create a range of products that are aligned with people’s tastes and desire to try new things.
Another important aspect of our work today is continuing to provide high-quality experiences in our packages; that is the true signature element of F1 Experiences. We are a Formula 1 company, so that gives us inside and official access that is just not available with any of the other traditional hospitality products that may be available in the market for Formula 1.
We also have a major fixation on consistently delivering the top-notch services possible. The Paddock Club represents the gold standard of prestige and quality in Formula 1, and at F1 Experiences we feel we have a responsibility to deliver a highest-quality level of professionalism at every race on the schedule. We can’t be great at one event and just OK at another. Formula 1 is in our brand name, so we must raise the bar collectively with amazing experiences and exceptional quality with all of the products we offer.
We made some changes to the product to better reflect what was really working and what our customers loved most about F1 Experiences.
Tell us about the fun factor in your work.
There are so many fun factor elements of this job. But probably the one element that stands out for me is spending time and meeting our guests during the actual race weekend. To see the incredible excitement in their faces when they are walking down the pitlane, or making their way around the paddock during our Inside Paddock Access programme, or seeing a Formula 1 driver up close… it’s really gratifying. We are in the fun business, so everything we do should point toward making sure our experiences and our programmes are enjoyable.
Formula 1 travels to some of the most amazing cities and countries in the world, so being able to travel the world and see the beauty and culture of these incredible cities is another big benefit of the job. This sport is truly global, and so to get up close and personal with the people, the culture and the personalities of each circuit is just personally off the charts for me. There really isn’t anything like it in the sport today, so that is a special — and very fun — prerequisite of this work.
What are usually the main obstacles or problems when working with hospitality in Formula 1?
There are always going to be obstacles or challenges when your business is being delivered in a live event environment in 20 countries over a six-month period of time. Proper planning is incredibly important, and can be difficult to do when you are dealing with so many markets, the timings required and the decision making that can push back timetables, among other things. But you have to be able to roll with it and still be in a position to deliver the best possible product each and every time.
Formula 1 will launch new fan festivals at select races, with the goal of turning a Grand Prix weekend into a major week-long celebration of Formula 1.
It is an immense logistical challenge when you think about it — to move from country to country efficiently and then deal with production, installation, hiring of staff, training and then delivery of the best hospitality product on the market. And then you break it all down, pack it up and move to a new country in a week’s time. It’s not like setting up hospitality at the same venue for an entire season or organising VIP programmes at a major golf tournament or annual sporting event where you have significant lead-up time. Formula 1 is all about speed, and that is something we also have to take into account in our production cycles — speed to market and speed of our organisation in order to stay ahead of the curve.
Another reality we face is because we are so new, awareness of our F1 Experiences product is still a challenge. We think that will definitely subside in 2018 as we launch at every race, but we will be a new programme for the first time at the first seven or eight races on the calendar this year, which can make the sales process more time-consuming. But as we cycle through the calendar of events we believe that people will see us more and recognise us as the official Formula 1 provider of hospitality and experience packages worldwide.
Do you maybe see what Formula 1 could learn from other sports, markets or sectors in terms of hospitality?
I think that the learning curve is already in place under the new leadership at FOM. We regularly meet internally to review the best practices we see in other sports and entertainment sectors that could apply to what we are doing. Formula 1 hospitality has forever been defined by just one product, the Paddock Club, so we are now dramatically expanding that concept with F1 Experiences. My background is in global sports management and hospitality, and I have experience with producing VIP and corporate hospitality programs at numerous Olympic Games, FIFA World Cups, NFL Super Bowls and major golf tournaments around the world. So we can take some of the things that worked best at these major sporting events and apply them to what we are doing — new sales practices, upgraded fan experiences, product positioning, diversity of packages, highlighting the drivers and venues more. Those are some of the initiatives.
You will see some of these new ideas launch this year at various races, and not just in hospitality. Formula 1 will launch new fan festivals at select races, with the goal of turning a Grand Prix weekend into a major week-long celebration of Formula 1, with live entertainment and parties that more fans can be a part of. I’ve said it many times since I started last summer, it’s an incredibly exciting time to be in Formula 1 under the new management team. The growth trajectory is evident, and so the challenge for us at F1 Experiences is to not only keep up with that growth but also contribute to it however and wherever we can.