And it’s not all their fault either – organisers need to take heed
I often get asked why media here in the UAE, even automotive media, doesn’t appear to support Motorsport. It’s very simple:
1. The media here is very lazy and spoilt.
Journalist want a press release, pictures and a ‘gift’ all supplied to them in a goodie bag by a good-looking ‘hostess’ in a tight-fitting branded top, and then they might, perhaps, possibly get around to publishing/posting up an event report – usually a cut and paste job.
2. But if it’s not laziness that’s the issue, it’s time and resources.
For example at MotoringME.com, it’s very easy for us to measure the response to anything we post on our website and social media.
As much as we may like some form of motor racing, if we find that it doesn’t pull in the traffic, or generate any engagement, we won’t bother wasting our time on it, especially as – in our case – there are only two of us actively writing for MME and there’s plenty of other content that needs creating!
3. Catch 22 then? How can there be any interest in the sport if media won’t cover it?
Not really. The initial interest has to be generated through the pure, hard slog of proper commercial marketing – ie, PROMOTE your bloody event. And I don’t mean barter deals with magazines and newspapers that nobody reads.
In Dubai for example, there is always a lot going on every weekend in this bustling and lively city. An automotive event is not just competing with other motoring stuff but everything else too: concerts, theme parks, the beach, the mall… and so on.
Forget that Kevin Costner Field of Dreams nonsense, if you build it, they WON’T come, your have to incentivise and motivate footfall, or stand ready to welcome only the tumbleweed.
4. The event has to be an exciting (and affordable) family event.
Let’s be honest, even to car guys, regular motor racing is boring. It’s most exciting for the drivers and teams involved. The cars don’t even look fast any more as they corner so flat and latched on to the tarmac, it’s not like the old days when you could SEE the heroics as the drivers fought with the cars to get them around corners on the ragged edge.
And because these events are invariably on a Friday, they need to keep the whole family engaged. Stuff to buy, stuff to do, stuff to eat, other off-circuit stuff – the more the better.
And talking of families – ticket prices. A single die-hard Motorsport fan being asked to pay AED50 per person to get into a event is not going to hesitate. But someone turning up for a day-out with a family of five is going to pause for thought, then usher everyone back in the car and head for the nearest mall. Keep it free – or certainly don’t go above AED25 in my opinion.
5. Remember the importance of the media!
Your marketing might get the punters there, but the media can make or break an event. It’s all too possible for just one media person to put up a bad review and kill any interest in the next edition.
Now as mentioned in point 1 most media is lazy, but not all of us. There are some who will give up their family Friday weekend rest & rec day, to spend our time running about from pits, to trackside, to grandstand to media room (if there happens to be one), carrying cameras that get increasingly heavier through the day, whilst snapping, and interviewing, posting and trying to keep up with and follow the action on track – often singlehandedly!
And then of course you go back and have to sort through and edit thousands of images and write copy – trying to post all of it before the next morning (usually necessitating working till the early AMs).
Some of us will even go the extra mile because we love and support the sport. For example I really enjoy Drifting, and I believe it has a lot of potential for success in our region because it’s short, sharp, easily digestible action; it’s loud and spectacular and; if done right, can bring with it a lot of colour and atmosphere – it’s a sport that easily lends itself to street culture, meet culture, customisation etc.
Plus it’s a lot of fun, and accessible – not just because the participants are always happy to chat and pose for pics, but because mere mortals like you and me can even contemplate, getting into this sport.
As MME readers will know, I regularly cover the Drift UAE series because the organisers recognise the value of media coverage and give me unfettered access to the event and as much support as they can manage.
But my experience with Red Bull a couple of years back means that I refuse to cover their events now. Having asked for accreditation to cover an event, I was rather oddly asked to submit a list of equipment I would be bringing, which I did. However having traipsed up to Al Ain Airport where it was happening, I was barred from taking my camera into the venue, and despite frantic phone calls no assistance was provided by the press officer on hand – I say ‘on hand’ but I never subsequently saw her.
So that was that.
Yesterday I attended the first ever Moto Drift event. They are clearly attempting to copy Red Bull wholesale both in terms of the type and style of event, and it certainly appeared to be a well-funded event with large grandstands and a good setup. But like RB, they hadn’t paid any attention to the few media who had actually bothered to turn up.
Okay, they didn’t bar me taking pictures, but there didn’t appear to be any press officer on hand to aid the media, there was no info or support, and when I finally did get my press badge, it didn’t appear to give me access to everything. When I attempted to get onto the circuit area to get better shots of the action, the man at the gate grumpily and rather rudely refused entry.
Any attempt to engage him in some sort of conversation to ascertain who I would need to see to gain access were just met with dismissive grunts.
Hot, tired and hungry, plus not having the energy to argue with the guy, I immediately left the venue. And the truth is, I have no inclination to ever cover another Moto event again.
So next time someone asks me why media doesn’t support Motorsport in the region, I refer you to the above.