Speedway Grand Prix strategy questioned by Monster Energy ahead of sponsorship negotiations
Ahead of the likely renewal (on very favourable terms they completely dictate) of their headline sponsorship of the Speedway World Championship, Monster Energy’s Joe Parsons opened his contract renewal negotiations over the contract that expires during 2016 with pointed criticism of rights holder BSI/IMG’s SGP stadium venue strategy.
With only compromised or embedded media outlets and non-independent ‘journalists’/reporters available nowadays to report on the SGP and, therefore, unwilling or unable to publicise criticism (of their employer or client), let alone its stadium strategy, unusually Joe Parsons was forced use an interview with Rich Jones of Nigel Pearson Media (in the Kelvin Tatum & Nigel Pearson 2016 Tour brochure) to offer his coded critical comments. “There are definitely some challenges as we go through the years and consider on what level we should continue our role.”
Given that cost-cutting long ago saw BSI save the expense of bothering with almost any pre-event entertainment inside the SGP series stadiums beyond the basics of good toilets, loud music, rider parades and fireworks, warping the SGP for your own brand needs has clearly been – in corporate marketing terms – both cheap and very easy pickings for Monster Energy. Effectively the ONLY pizzazz at SGP’s nowadays – apart from the racing (and even that has been less exciting, sometimes) – has effectively been provided at one remove by the glamour, ‘drama’ and glitz of the Monster Energy sponsorships and associated product/brand promotion.
If the Speedway Grand Prix had international prestige, competent rights holders or wide public recognition, BSI would be able to manage and curate the behaviour and dominance of their sponsor brands. Sadly, since BSI leadership of the SGP ensures that it remains almost unknown – outside Poland, every speedway rider can walk unrecognised down almost any street – Monster Energy are effectively the only game in town able to lift the experience and profile of individual events or the SGP series as a whole.
With their global and clearly understood brand profile allied to a professional, effective, well rehearsed but rather one note hyper-energetic but cookie cutter activity plan for each and every event or competitor they sponsor, Monster are able to overwhelm dominate individual event and SGP series messaging. This has done nothing for the prestige and credibility of speedway as a sport, the SGP series itself (if judged by attendances, television audiences or known brand sponsors) but continues to halo the Monster brand – from its headline association with speedway and its SGP riders – as something notionally adventurous or daredevil.
The lack of rival sponsors is so bad that Joe Parsons has had to appeal for competitors to help start to further rejuvenate the SGP series. “You haven’t seen very many retail companies and consumer products such as ourselves getting involved, and I’d love to see more brands, even if they are our competitors, getting involved.” Given for national medias the world over, the Speedway Grand Prix is almost unknown there is obviously very considerable “potential there for speedway to grow” since “it’s a sport that can be leveraged a lot more.”
Worryingly for speedway fans, the future make up of future SGP series means moving still further away from its community and grassroots traditions towards more stagings on temporary tracks in soulless stadia with good toilets and seats but zero history with or understanding of speedway. Such a one-off prestige stadium/location strategy won’t build a sustainable fan base. In this context, Monster Energy doubts over the ambition, choices and effectiveness of BSI/IMG stadium strategy is a further land grab by them that requires the SGP organisers to select, tailor and stage events in manner that dovetails with the marketing needs of its headline sponsor rather than the other way round. Monster’s plan ensures more city centre stagings and, judged by past performance, yet more processional racing on temporary tracks. Good racing on proper speedway tracks are for Monster a bonus rather than a mandatory requirement. “We have our challenges in terms of where speedway goes. We go to some places that are really great, like Cardiff, Melbourne was really good. Warsaw had a great attendance”.
In addition to valorising these temporary track venues, Parsons also praises Torun, Gorzow and Stockholm but has severe worries elsewhere. “There are still a couple of events which I feel just don’t bolster the fact that this is world championship. When we go to Denmark, for instance, the attendance isn’t really great and the track surface isn’t the best. In Slovenia the racing is good but the attendance is low, and in Malilla the track is great but the location really isn’t the best”
Applying the Parsons Monster Energy criteria to the venues of the 2016 series, venues like Krsko, Horsens, Malilla and possibly Teterow (even the ill fated Gelsenkirchen would be a more on message venue in Germany) don’t have a long-term future staging SGPs, while even a proper track like Prague is in jeopardy. Who pays the piper calls the tune is a fact of life, not just speedway. Understandably, Monster can and will leverage their commercial and promotional power for their own ends unless the rights holders insist otherwise.
Sadly, BSI management and the embedded regular SGP media don’t have the expertise, interest, imagination, vision, leadership or ability to question the needs and ambitions of their current headline sponsor. Now that Monster Energy also stage their own (dull Best Pairs) competition (and may have more ambitions to run even more organised in house competitions), any rights holder blindly agreeing to the demands of your current cash cow sponsor isn’t following a sensible strategy for the Speedway World Championship or, indeed, the financial longevity of their own cash cow SGP series.