On the 1st of July, I attended the MIA Summer Reception at the House of Lords. As you can imagine, it was a special event for me, being the 20th Anniversary of the business organisation that I founded, with a huge amount of help from some high-profile influential figures from within the industry.
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As is always the case with functions of this type, I met a lot of old friends and colleagues, as well as many new ones. After the usual banter about motorsport, the inevitable question would arise about what I’m up to these days. If you work in an organisation, it’s probably not such a difficult question to answer. If like me, you have more than one string to your bow, it can be rather more tricky. Needless to say, someone kindly suggested that having spent 40 years in the motorsport business, isn’t it about time I thought of retiring?
I’m delighted to report that far from retiring, I’m busier now than ever. So what am I up to these days? Well for a start, I’m enjoying myself immensely, which is the most important criterion for me. I don’t mind admitting that I’ve come seriously close to walking away from the sport a couple of times during the past few years. One of the primary reasons for this has been a couple of unpleasant encounters with the fathers of young race drivers, who not only think their sons walk on water but believe that it’s their right to receive financial support from the business sector. To them, sponsorship flows from a tap!
My work today can be divided into four main sectors:
- Working with one of the world’s leading motorsport engineering universities
- Playing a significant role in the development of a unique race driver development programme for a major sponsor
- Providing professional training in sponsorship acquisition skills
My introduction to the academic world came completely out of the blue. An invitation arrived from a Professor at Oxford Brookes University, undoubtedly one of the most successful motorsport engineering universities in the world. Would I consider becoming a member of the Advisory Board of the University’s motorsport engineering faculty? Having established that they really did want someone with as little technical knowledge as I possess, I accepted their invitation.
You’ve probably gathered by now that sponsorship acquisition has been at the forefront of much of what I have done. Without those skills, my racing career wouldn’t have taken me to a professional level.
It proved to be a great decision and introduced me to a different world. Within a short time, I was also invited to join the Advisory Board of the Oxford Brookes Business School. In the course of these two roles, as you can imagine, I’ve met some really interesting, knowledgeable people from whom I’ve learned a great deal. Hopefully, I’ve been able to contribute some helpful ideas and thoughts in return.
What then followed came as a complete surprise. I was asked if I’d be interested in using my extensive contact network to good use on behalf of the University, by becoming a consultant. The thinking behind this is that I could promote the capabilities of the motorsport engineering department (Mechanical Engineering and Mathematical Sciences /MEMS to give it its formal title) to my contacts within motorsport and the motorsport industry, both here in the UK as well as internationally. This would relate to graduate placement and also the identification of potential research and collaboration opportunities.
Accepting the consultancy offer was one of the best things I’ve ever done. It has shown me that if you really enjoy what you do, you can achieve so much. I’ve spent the last eighteen months as the F1 and motorsport industry consultant for Oxford Brookes and it’s taken me into many of the F1 teams, the world’s leading race car manufacturer, touring car teams and even into the world of speedway. I’ve introduced some extremely influential and successful people to the superb facilities at the Wheatley Campus of Oxford Brookes, resulting in several worthwhile collaboration programmes being entered into.
As if this wasn’t enough, I was then asked if I would become an Associate Lecturer on the University’s MSc Advanced Engineering Management Course. These particular graduates from around the world will almost certainly be in senior management roles within motorsport before too long. The University felt that they would benefit from an understanding of how sponsorship has become one of the major revenue streams within the business. My job is to show them how it can best be obtained. I ran my first series of lectures and seminars in March and realised that the industry is in good hands, based on the enthusiasm, innovative thinking and dedication of these young people.
What I’m finding is that the work I’m doing for Oxford Brookes complements my other roles extremely well, which is an added bonus.
Two years ago I was invited by the British Racing Drivers’ Club to run a training seminar for their various categories of talented young drivers. I ran another last month. 20 drivers were on that first course. One, in particular, stood out, his name was Dino Zamparelli.
Talk to anyone who does a fair bit of lecturing and they’ll tell you that on any course, one or two delegates always stand out. It may be the questions they ask, their attention levels, their personality or just their obvious determination to learn. Whatever it is, it was obvious that Dino was one such person. He told me that he’d bought my book on sponsorship acquisition and read it from cover to cover several times. He also took the very unusual step of sending me an e-mail thanking me for such an eye-opening course.
I kept in touch with him and was delighted when he called me to say that he’d secured a major sponsorship deal and that he would be driving in GP3 in 2013. That sponsor turned out to be Bristol Sport (Bristol-Sport.co.uk) and they are continuing to support him in his second season of GP3, this time with one of the very top teams, ART.
So what has this got to do with my business roles? Mid-way through last season I was invited by Dino to meet the Executive Chairman of Bristol Sport. It was an in-depth meeting and eventually led to my being appointed Director of Motorsport for this rapidly growing sports business. The company also owns Bristol City FC, Bristol Rugby and Bristol Flyers, a basketball team. It offers the business sector a range of unique business development opportunities. My role is to develop additional sponsorship that will be required to take Dino to the very top echelons of motorsport, as well as promote his career prospects from within the motorsport industry.
You’ve probably gathered by now that sponsorship acquisition has been at the forefront of much of what I have done. Without those skills, my racing career wouldn’t have taken me to a professional level. It was the ability to secure significant sponsorship deals that took me into F1 as the Marketing Director of two high-profile teams. My own racing school in South Africa was successful because of the high levels of sponsorship that I secured for it.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that I now spend a lot of my time training sports associations, sports teams and motorsport competitors in the techniques needed to secure much-needed funding. The World Academy of Sport (worldacademysport.com) has been one of my primary clients in this respect. On the Academy’s behalf, I’ve delivered training for the Bahrain Olympic Committee, the International Rugby Board, the International Hockey Federation and many other high-profile sports.
I also work with both Ford Motorsport and the BRDC to help young drivers understand the ways in which sponsorship can deliver innovative, measurable and sustainable returns on investment.
Then, of course, there’s my monthly feature article Money, Egos & Speed for as certain Paddock Magazine!