|Nick McElwee- Sales and Marketing Director, Yas Marina Circuit|
|Profile of the week|
Monday, 05 November 2012 11:37
His responsibilities include sales, marketing, communications and sponsorship. In his role, he maintains the global relevance and success of Abu Dhabi's Grand Prix event, whilst finding new and innovative ways to engage sponsors through Product Development and Event Positioning.
The Yas Marina circuit was introduced into the Formula One calendar in 2009 and has received widespread praise for its layout and the way it is presented. The race typically takes place towards to the end of the season and brought the curtain down on the 2009 and 2010 seasons, producing thrilling races.
His previous roles include Managing Director of TBWA and of Lowe and Partners Worldwide.
By Douglas Elder
It’s been three years since the first race in Abu Dhabi, how do you evaluate the circuit’s first few years in the sport?
When we started with F1 in 2009 we wanted something unique. So we have the spectacular, ultra-modern setting. On top of that we have the only 'day-night' race in the F1 calendar. The technology of our lighting, as well as our fast sunsets here, make us one of the very few, if not only, places to be able to do this. Since then, we've worked more and more closely with Etihad Airways and Tourism & Culture Abu Dhabi to make our F1 visitation as strong internationally and regionally as it is domestically. In this sense, we are as much about destination marketing as we are race promotion.
Has the building of the circuit increased interest in Formula One locally, or is it more international recognition?
F1's a global brand so awareness was never the problem. Bringing it here makes committed and engaged fans of the locals however. They can see it, feel it, hear it and smell it. They can follow the season and watch the championship title fight as it peaks right on their doorstep. So absolutely, yes. But we see a similar pick-up for the event internationally; this year we're expecting 35% of race attendees to be non-UAE residents. That's a very healthy mix.
The Formula One world – and sport in general – has made large steps eastwards in the last few years, with the Middle East a particular target, do you think the future of the sport could lie in countries like Abu Dhabi?
For sure! Look at the international traffic growth through this region, Dubai and Abu Dhabi particularly. Look at the changing economic balance of power as it shifts eastwards away from the indebted 'first-world' and into 'emerging' markets. Look at how global brands now approach this market strategically, innovating and developing product for the region rather than just selling into the region.The infrastructure and talent is here, the economies are dynamic and it's a place where the sport can meet both sponsors and audiences, which is a very potent mix, especially these days.
Despite this, there hasn’t yet been a Formula One racer from the region, how important would that be for the race?
Hugely important. A local hero can make a sport really take off. Look at the power of F1 in Germany since Schumacher and now Vettel. Fans want heroes and they especially want local heroes. It'll be a while before we see a regional F1 champion but the green shoots are showing!
The Yas Marina circuit – and its twilight setting - is incredibly futuristic and unique, does that make the race easier to market?
It is and this setting has allowed us to build a formidable reputation in just four short years. I have a saying 'nothing sells itself', success doesn't happen by accident. You need a strong product to start with of course but you need careful planning and strong execution to make it work. Of course, I would say that, I'm the Sales & Marketing Director!
The Yas Marina circuit runs many events throughout the year, like the Yas Racing Series. A lot of circuits struggle to maintain revenue, was this behind the recent announcement of next year’s calendar, with a number of motorsport events?
We have to think like a business not like a venue. Our business goes far beyond F1 now and this is critical to our success. We have a very active retail and corporate offering. We make sure we speak to everyone not just the motorsport fans. In that sense we are as much about entertainment as we are about motorsport. We also position ourselves as a community asset where we are to Abu Dhabi what Central Park is to New Yorkers or Hyde Park is to Londoners. We have TrainYAS on Tuesday nights at the Circuit attracting up to a thousand cyclists, joggers and walkers. Our business sits in the middle of this broad engagement in terms of activities and audiences as we recruit, cross and up-sell customers with relevant and valued products.
How important is the Yas Island complex in bringing in extra spectators and revenue?
Very. It re-enforces our entertainment proposition as well as bringing greater footfall. We have Ferrari World Abu Dhabi now and will soon have a water park, Water World. A mall comes online in 2014 bringing a huge spike in Island traffic. The front and back-end partnership opportunities with Yas Island stakeholders is and will be huge. As one of the first brands on the Island we hope to provide a leading role in an integrated approach.
A lot of talk from the London Olympics was about legacy, how will you go about ensuring the Yas Marina circuit creates a lasting legacy and not be popular for a short period of time, like the Chinese circuit and more recently, the Korean race?
We haven't boxed ourselves in with a one dimensional business proposition and that's important. We position ourselves as more than a circuit, presenting ourselves as a community asset. We work with pretty much every major public and private business in Abu Dhabi.These all help to place us into the fabric of Abu Dhabi and ensure we are not a one-hit wonder!
In 2009 and 2010, Yas Marina held the final race of the season, while this year, Brazil hosts the season finale, is there any reason why?
Keeping the early November slot is more important to us. People and customers are creatures of habit so the continuity helps people schedule and plan for our event. This continuity also helps us build and develop our non-F1 business.