|Fredrik Johnsson - CEO, Race Of Champions|
|Profile of the week|
Wednesday, 18 November 2015 11:47
Fredrik has been involved in the world of sports since 1983, a sports journalist who changed career direction and was responsible, along with partner Michele Mouton, for creating The Race Of Champions and The ROC Nations Cup. The event has been running for over 25 consecutive years and is now broadcast in over 180 countries worldwide. Fredrik is President of The Race Of Champions organising committee.
Fredrik has managed a variety of sporting personalities in motorsport, football and golf. In 1996 he received his official FIFA Player’s Agent licence. Fredrik has negotiated agreements with major global corporations, governments and teams in Germany, USA, China, Italy, England, Spain, France, Thailand, etc. Fredrik is fluent in five languages and has also obtained an MBA from USE (Cum Laude).
By Tariq Saleh
The Race Of Champions brings together the world’s finest drivers from all the disciplines of motorsport. What element does this add to the Race Of Champions event?
One of the unique aspects of the Race Of Champions is that it’s the only event where drivers from so many different disciplines get together and compete so you can really see how a Formula One star compares to a Le Mans star, an Indy Car or World Rally Car star and also for the drivers it’s a very special opportunity.
They all watch each other race on TV but they hardly ever get a chance to meet and hang out together so it creates a very special atmosphere when they change in the same locker room and get to compete and hang out together.
The Race Of Champions will be taking place in London next month. Can you discuss how you managed to secure the Olympic Stadium and what impact this move will have on the growth of the sport?
After being in Asia and North America, we thought it was time to bring the event back to our core fan base in Europe and we were looking at different options and people told us the Olympic Stadium is not available because it’s being rebuilt and won’t open until the summer of 2016.
But we still had a meeting with them and when the opportunity came up and they decided to stop the rebuild for the Rugby World Cup there was a small window opening up at the end of November, it was the only days available and we have to give back the stadium at midnight on the Sunday night, so it’s a very short turnaround. But to be able to go to such an iconic venue in London it was worth the effort and we decided that was the best road to take.
To bring the best of motor racing to an iconic stadium, like the Olympic Stadium in London, it brings motorsport closer to the fans and opens it up to a bigger audience.
The event has now entered its 27th year, ROC seems to be growing at great speed. What do you put this growth down to?
We are always trying to improve all the aspects of the event, being listening to the participants, to the fans, to partners and broadcasters and improving every year, so hopefully that is something that when you continue to deliver great value for money and an exciting spectator experience, that live experience in the stadiums and on TV, it will grow organically.
It’s word of mouth, people are speaking about it and hopefully we’ll be able to continue to grow and take the event to more exciting venues around the world.
Since the start of the race in 1988, it has primarily been held in Europe, with some races in Asia and North America, are there plans to stage races in other regions in the world?
We would like to take the race everywhere in the world to all the key markets. Europe is still our core fan base and when opportunities arise, like when we had the opportunity to go to the first national Olympic Stadium in Beijing just a year after the Olympic Games there, we took it and similarly we are open to going to new and exciting places, but we will always come back from time to time to Europe and make sure we stay connected with our core fan base.
How challenging has it been to promote Race Of Champions globally?
Each market is different so it’s about working with the local promoters and tapping into their experience and knowledge of the local market and then building your fan base and so today with the technology existing it’s easier to understand who our fans are and to reach them than it was before.
So we’re trying to use those tools to listen to our fans as much as possible to try to give them the best possible experience and make them want to come back and tell their friends to come with them next time.
The Olympic stadium has a huge capacity, can you discuss Race Of Champions’ marketing strategy in the lead up to this event and how successful has this been for you?
We’re tapping into various things, we’re going more digital and we’re trying to really measure it and see which of our marketing tools are working and most people today are buying their tickets online and it’s easier to understand which of our marketing tools are working.
We’re always trying to reach our core fan base but at the same time we also need to be having a larger presence for a larger audience so we’re combining digital and direct marketing with more traditional forms like outdoor advertising, we’re doing London buses as well, so it’s a combination and once again we’re seeing a big upswing in ticket sales at the moment, so usually the majority of ticket sales are in the last three weeks so the upswing is developing now.
You have assembled some well-known drivers for this upcoming race, including Sebastian Vettel and Jorge Lorenzo, does that make it easier to market the race?
Of course people want to come and see an exciting event, but also to see the big stars and one of the unique aspects of the Race Of Champions is that the fans, with every seat you sit in at the stadium, you see every instant of the action and you get closer to the drivers and the cars.
So of course it is important to have the big name stars like the four-time Formula One World Champion Sebsatian Vettel, multiple MotoGP World Champion Jorge Lorenzo and stars from Le Mans, Indy, World Rallycross etc.
We’re also doing a celebrity race with some really big names including some of Great Britain’s biggest ever heroes like Sir Chris Hoy, Ben Ainslie etc. So that’s also giving a nice mix of people from different disciplines and they meet and compete in a different way than they’re used to and it’s a communion between the fans and the participants, in a way that they don’t really have at their usual events.
Which means the drivers can really hear the fans in the cars, at the start line and after they finish they really connect with them in a different way than they do at their traditional races.