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BAR pay heavy price for missing Monaco
Alan Baldwin | May 13, 2005 16:07 IST
Missing any Grand Prix is bad news for a Formula One team. Missing Monaco does not bear thinking about.
"It would be a total disaster. Total, unmitigated disaster," says Williams' marketing head Jim Wright when asked how his team would have been affected by a suspension like that imposed on BAR last week.
"The American equivalent would be doing the Indy Car series without the Indy 500."
Next week's Monaco Grand Prix is the race everyone watches and BAR, second in the principality last year with Briton Jenson Button, must sit out the glamour race after being banned for breaking the weight and fuel rules.
Team boss Nick Fry told reporters last week that the enforced absence from last weekend's Spanish Grand Prix and Monaco could cost the team more than $10 million.
"About half of this is sponsorship monies contracted which we will have to offer to pay back due to failing to compete," he told the Guardian newspaper in a further explanation of the figures.
"About a third of that figure is sponsorship which we are currently in the process of negotiating and perhaps now not likely to get, and the balance is the income from Formula One Management which will now probably be lower in 2006 due to the problems we have currently experienced."
Television revenues are allocated according to championship standing. BAR are also in danger of losing Button for 2006, with Williams able to claim him should he fail to score a certain number of points by the end of August.
Fry is fortunate at least in that most of the team's funding, possibly all but about $5 million according to estimates, comes from owners British American Tobacco and Japanese car giant Honda.
Neither are about to cut off funding or rip up agreements although, with an EU ban on tobacco advertising coming into force from July 31, BAT are looking to get out of motorsport.
Monaco, one of a dwindling number of European races where tobacco branding is still allowed, is a key shop window that will now be largely boarded up for them just when the whole world is watching.
"Sponsors won't just sign up for Formula One sponsorship because of the Monaco Grand Prix but it is vitally important," said Wright.
"Don't forget it's the most televised Formula One race of the year because other countries will take just the Monaco Grand Prix just as other countries will take the FA Cup final in England.
"If you are missing out on Monaco, you are missing out on the biggest TV audience of the year, you are missing out on the occasion where most of the CEOs and heavy-hitters come and it's embarrassing if nothing else."
BAR are still planning to have a presence in Monaco but nothing sells a team as much as having racing cars on the track.
Wright believed a ban like BAR's could even have threatened the survival of smaller teams who depend on their sponsorship.
"You'd have to say that for a number of teams yes that would be the case," he said. "It would be very, very serious."
Popular wisdom holds that Monaco is the place where sponsorship deals are done and contracts signed. In fact it is more subtle than that.
The real importance lies in giving the corporate decision makers the sort of experience that makes them want to keep coming back.
There is nothing like walking on the grid before the race as a VIP and having the race winner, with company branding all over his overalls, come aboard your harbourside yacht to hand around the trophy.
"If you can look after those guests and do a good job off-track, and on-track as well, that's going to send them back with a very warm feeling about the sponsorship," said Wright.
"We do a lot of business-to-business meetings, we have a full schedule for Monaco.
"Monaco is one of the biggest races for that type of networking.
"If you do a good job there, and people can see that there are business reasons for being involved in the sponsorship, have a good race on the track and capture a lot of the TV coverage and your guests have had a good time, you go away in a very positive situation."
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