Sara Eisen discusses how F1 accelerates its business success, interview

Sara Eisen on CNBC's "Inside Track: The Business of Formula 1" photo provided by CNBC
Sara Eisen on CNBC's "Inside Track: The Business of Formula 1" photo provided by CNBC /

As the Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix prepares to transform the iconic Strip, the motorcross event is more than just skilled drivers hitting extreme speeds. CNBC‘s Sara Eisen explores the business behind the sport in “Inside Track: The Business of Formula 1.” The soaring popularity of the sport appeals to a wide audience, which makes people hungry to continue the connection after the checkered flag is waved.

Sports is and will always be big business. From food brands who sponsor leagues to the experiences for fans at the events, companies appreciate that those moments cheering for a victory reap big rewards for the bottom line. Whether people chose a Red Bull over another energy drink or switch to a Heineken as their race watching beer preference, the reality is seeing that branding time and again has an impact on consumers’ decisions.

With Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix, many people are expecting the spectacle to be the talk of the town. From food offerings to celebrity sightings, the multi-day event is the place to see and be seen.

Sara Eisen on CNBC's Inside Track: The Business of Formula 1
Sara Eisen on CNBC’s “Inside Track: The Business of Formula 1” photo provided by CNBC /

Recently, Sara Eisen graciously spoke to FoodSided about her new documentary, the popularity of F1, and why the motorsport reaches a wide audience.

Since the Las Vegas event wanted to be an over the top, unique approach to the racing event, it has many people wondering if this gamble will pay off beyond the expected odds.

Speaking to this potential risk, Eisen commented, “That’s the bet that F1 parent company, Liberty Media, is making. That Vegas will be a spectacle—a race at night with all the bright lights and iconic signs and buildings – right down the middle of the Strip. It doesn’t get bigger than that. Add in the casinos, which have embraced this full on—offering packages and tickets that run into the millions of dollars. Liberty is focused on growing the sport in the U.S. This Vegas race, in the heart of the entertainment and sports and hospitality capital of the country, is key to drawing in fans. And it’s not just a one-off. Liberty has built a permanent paddock structure—that will house F1 activations in Vegas year round, and plans to host races in Vegas for at least the next 10 years.”

Even though the event came together at high velocity, keeping the sport, its athletes, and brands part of the conversation is vital. It is one of the reasons why Las Vegas made a point of including celebrity chefs, musical performances, and more. Instead of just a sporting event, it became a destination experience.

Eisen shared, “it’s about so much more than the race itself. The hospitality, the events, the celebrities, the glitz and the glam. It’s one reason why brands are jumping into F1. The other is that the fan base has grown exponentially in the last few years. Companies from Salesforce to Amazon to Google to Chipotle to Marriott have jumped on the bandwagon. And the Vegas Grand Prix itself has brought in new sponsors, including American Express and T-Mobile. Companies are sponsoring F1 itself or the teams. It’s great brand exposure, but interestingly it goes far beyond that. For instance, Goldman Sachs is a Mclaren Sponsor. Why? Because Mclaren and F1 offer money can’t buy experiences for Goldman’s VIP clients. Race seats, track tours, pit lane walks, hot laps. These are a few of the unique experiences F1 offers VIPs that make the race so much fun and extend far beyond watching the race itself.”

With the sport growing in popularity, the fans transverse a wide demographic. Even though F1 has appealed to a luxury lifestyle, there is a push to make the sport and its events more inclusive.

Sara Eisen discusses Las Vegas Grand Prix Formula 1 event
Sara Eisen discusses Las Vegas Grand Prix Formula 1 event, photo provided by CNBC /

Eisen asserts, “There’s definitely an awareness on the part of F1 and Liberty Media management that the sport has a reputation for being elitist, which risks alienating potential fans. In Vegas, very few tickets were actually made available to the general public. And those that were, weren’t cheap. It’s something Renee Wilm, CEO of Las Vegas Grand Prix told me she wants to expand and work on next year. I think the fact that management wants to address the perception is a step— they’re focused on reaching fans via social media and broadcast to give them access—and also focused on emphasizing opportunities like the Austin race, which attracts more than 400,000 people and has more affordable ticket options.”

At the same time, Eisen sees the other side of the coin. She said, “But I also think the exclusivity of the races and the high end nature of them helps the business. Everyone watches the Super Bowl but not everyone can afford to go see it in person. Well, F1 race weekend is like a Super Bowl, just 23 or 24 times a year. In fact, in Vegas, the F1 race is expected to bring in double the revenues of the Super Bowl this year to the Vegas economy.”

Whether the fans in the stands are uber wealthy or just regular people, there has been a surge in families watching the races together. Creating a new generation of fans is vital for the sports continued success.

In Eisen’s family, everyone enjoys watching the sport. She shared, “My 4 and 5 year old kids are obsessed. They know all the drivers. The teams. The stats. Even the technical stuff, like tire strategy. And that means, it’s an all-weekend viewing party in my home. Practice session runs Friday, qualifying rounds on Saturday and the race on Sunday. I think the kids are drawn to it because they love fast cars and competition. They also love the characters. F1 has done a good job giving viewers access, putting audio and cameras in the cars during the race, for instance. They put a camera in the room where the winners wait to claim their trophies after the race. They show the grid walk, where the drivers come onto the track minutes before the race begins and greet the VIPs. There are only 20 drivers and it’s the same 20 every weekend or so, so you can really get to know them and follow their success and drama on the track and off. Liberty’s deal with Netflix’s Drive to Survive docuseries on F1 is part of that strategy.”

The “Inside Track: The Business of Formula 1” airs on CNBC Thursday, November 16 at 8 p.m. ET. Sara Eisen is a co-anchor of CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

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