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The Interview - Marc Saurina, Head of Global Commercial Partnerships at Dorna

It has been a pleasure for SPSG Consulting to interview Marc Saurina, Head of Global Commercial Partnerships at Dorna, and member of the Spanish Marketing Association's "Comité de Marketing Deportivo" (CEMDE-AMKT), of which Carlos Cantó is responsible. Thank you to Marc Saurina for sharing his vast experience in the motorsport sector, allowing us to dive deep into the sector and understand the vast changes it has undertaken, the current situation, challenges, and future trends.

You have been exposed to and actively involved in the sports industry from many different angles and now, you are the Head of Global Commercial Partnerships at DORNA. According to your experience, what have been the most significant changes over the last 10 years in the sport industry?

Over the past 10 years, the sports industry has experienced significant changes driven by technological advancements, shifts in consumer behavior, and evolving societal trends. Here are some of the most notable changes that have occurred in the sports industry during that time:

  • Digital Transformation: The proliferation of smartphones, social media, and streaming platforms has transformed how sports are consumed. Fans can now access content anytime, anywhere, leading to changes in broadcasting, fan engagement, and marketing strategies.

  • Esports and Gaming: Esports has grown from a niche interest to a global phenomenon, attracting massive audiences and investment. Traditional sports organizations have embraced esports, creating new opportunities for crossover events and sponsorships.

  • Sustainability and Social Responsibility: There's been a greater emphasis on sustainable practices and social responsibility in sports, with organizations focusing on reducing their carbon footprint, promoting diversity and inclusion, and supporting community initiatives.

  • Fan Engagement and Personalization: Sports organizations have become more adept at engaging with fans through social media, apps, and interactive content. Personalized experiences, such as tailored content and merchandise, have become increasingly important.

  • Streaming and Over-the-Top (OTT) Services: Traditional broadcasting models have been challenged by the rise of streaming services and OTT platforms, allowing fans to choose how they consume sports content and opening up new revenue streams.

  • Electric Technologies: Motorsports and automotive sports have seen a shift towards hybrid and electric technologies, reflecting the industry's commitment to sustainability and innovation.

  • Covid-19 Pandemic Impact: The Covid-19 pandemic significantly disrupted sports schedules, leading to changes in how events were conducted, including fan attendance restrictions, bio secure bubbles, and virtual competitions.

These changes have collectively transformed the sports industry, influencing how sports are played, watched, and monetized.

Motorsport is evolving in a positive way and is trying at the same time to rejuvenate their audience. What are the main challenges that motorsport (in this case, with two wheels) is facing nowadays? And how motorsports can compete against other sports and entertainment options?

MotoGP, particularly in the realm of two-wheeled racing, is indeed undergoing changes to stay relevant and attract new audiences. While there are several positive developments, there are also challenges that need to be addressed. Some of the main challenges faced by modern motorsport include:

  • Environmental Concerns: With growing awareness of environmental issues, motorsport, like all industries, must address its carbon footprint and sustainability. Finding ways to make racing more eco-friendly and promoting sustainable practices is crucial.

  • Technological Balance: Motorsport is a high-tech field, but finding the right balance between cutting-edge technology and maintaining an accessible and competitive environment can be a challenge.

  • Safety Improvements: Safety has significantly improved over the years, but there's always room for innovation. Striking a balance between safety measures and the inherent risks that attract fans can be challenging.

  • Changing Viewer Preferences: Younger audiences might have different preferences when it comes to consuming sports and entertainment. MotoGP adapted to these changes by creating New race formats, such as Saturday Tissot Sprint Races. Bringing more interest on Saturday activities and creating a 20’ show to engage new audiences.

  • Competition with Other Sports: MotoGP competes for attention with a wide range of sports and entertainment options. Finding ways to capture and maintain audience interest amid this competition is crucial.

  • To compete effectively against other sports and entertainment options, MotoGP is determined to improve on:

  • Embrace Digital Media: Utilize social media, streaming platforms, and interactive content to engage with younger audiences who are more digitally inclined.

  • Enhance Fan Experience: Offer immersive experiences and interactive apps that allow fans to get closer to the action.

  • Storytelling and Personalities: Develop compelling narratives around riders, teams, and races to create emotional connections that draw in viewers. Highlighting the personalities and stories behind the scenes can help to attract a broader audience.

  • Youth Engagement: Implement initiatives that encourage young talent to enter the sport, fostering a new generation of racers and fans.

  • Diverse Formats: Experiment with new racing formats, such as short races (Tissot Sprint Races) to provide variety and keep viewers engaged.

  • Sustainability Focus: Showcase the sport's commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility, appealing to conscious consumers.

  • Crossover Events: Collaborate with other sports or entertainment industries to create unique crossover events that attract diverse audiences.

  • Global Appeal: Leverage the international nature of motorsport to create a global fan base, using diverse locations and cultural influences to broaden the sport's appeal.

By addressing these challenges and implementing innovative strategies, MotoGP will continue to evolve in a positive direction and compete effectively in the dynamic landscape of sports and entertainment

DORNA is working hard in aligning the organization with the Environmental - Social - Governance pillars. Why is so important for DORNA to be aligned with the sustainable framework and what specific activities are you, as a Competition / Tour / Series, putting in place or in-process to be implemented?

I can provide insights into why it's important for Dorna to align with the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) pillars and some potential activities we are undertaken -- Activities that MotoGP does for ESG Alignment:

  • Carbon Footprint Reduction: Dorna works on measures to reduce emissions, promote efficient transportation, and invest in clean energy sources for races and facilities. MotoE and the use of sustainable fuels from 2024 are facts.

  • Community Engagement: Supporting local communities around race locations through charitable activities, youth programs, and educational initiatives can foster positive social impacts.

  • Diversity and Inclusion: From 2024 together with FIM, DORNA will run the Women’s Worlds Championship.

MotoGP, your iconic main competition, is expanding from a geographical perspective. In addition, your Sponsorship Program is also evolving and, at the end of the day, the services you are providing and offering to the different teams of your competition to improve. What are the main strategic avenues you have designed at DORNA in order to take MotoGP to the next level?

MotoGP's expansion into new geographical markets is a strategic move to capture new audiences and increase its global footprint. By organizing races in regions with growing motorsport interest, MotoGP attracts local fans and broaden its appeal. Apart of the countries we race, we are working on :

  • Fan & Event Experience: Enhancing the overall event experience for fans attending races to help create lasting memories. This involve fan zones, interactive displays, autograph sessions, and opportunities for fans to get closer to the action and riders.

  • Sponsorship and Partnerships: Evolving the sponsorship program involves attracting brands and partners that align with MotoGP's values and objectives. This includes sustainability-focused companies, tech companies for innovative solutions, and lifestyle brands to connect with broader audiences.

  • Sustainability and Green Initiatives: Given the increasing importance of environmental responsibility, MotoGP could continue to prioritize sustainability efforts by adopting eco-friendly practices, reducing the carbon footprint of races, and promoting environmental awareness.

  • Innovative Race Formats: Introducing new race formats, such as sprint races or team-based events, can add excitement and variety to the championship, attracting both traditional fans and newcomers.

  • Media and Content Strategy: Crafting compelling stories and content around riders, teams, and races can deepen fan engagement. This involves documentaries, behind-the-scenes footage, and profiles of key personalities.

According to your knowledge and understanding of the sports industry, which accounts, in a global basis, for 1.5%-2% of the world GDP, what are the main trends of the sports industry moving forward? How the sport industry will look like by 2030?

The sports industry will likely continue to invest heavily in digital technologies to enhance fan engagement. Virtual reality, augmented reality, interactive content, and immersive experiences could become standard, allowing fans to engage with sports in new and exciting ways.

The industry will increasingly leverage data analytics to personalize fan experiences, from tailoring content to predicting fan preferences. Teams and organizations will use data to optimize player performance, injury prevention, and game strategy.

Esports will become even more intertwined with traditional sports, leading to more collaboration, crossover events, and investments in competitive gaming. Esports will have a more prominent place in the overall sports ecosystem.

The sports industry will continue its shift towards sustainability and environmental responsibility. Events will strive to be carbon-neutral, and there will be a greater emphasis on social responsibility and community engagement.

Sports betting will become more integrated into the fan experience, with partnerships between sports organizations and betting companies, as well as innovations in in-game betting and fan engagement.

The industry will explore new revenue streams beyond ticket sales and broadcasting rights, including digital subscriptions, virtual merchandise, and blockchain-based fan engagement.

The sports industry is dynamic and influenced by various factors, including technological advancements, societal changes, and unforeseen events.

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