Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What Makes an Event?

SO Jenny (Mrs JP to you), Pressdog and myself were standing around at the Iowa tweetup (expect a punchline soon?) talking about how Pressdog does such a great job each year pulling off a successful event at Iowa Speedway… We all chuckled at the Idea that Bill was to be commended for the event’s success.  It was nice to have a successful oval event to laugh about. 
But what was sad was this.  During the chat, Bill was wearing his Chicagoland Ticket lanyard, Jenny was wearing her Kentucky Speedway Lanyard and I my Milwaukee Mile Lanyard.  Standing at the most successful oval event outside Indianapolis (Texas is slipping and when you compare the size of the markets…) we were all representing another event that we each cared about.  Unfortunately each of those events was in a different stage of death.  Chicagoland – Gone.  Milwaukee – back from the dead but seemingly with a round trip ticket. Kentucky – Deadman walking.
There are particular circumstances that contribute to each’s situation, no need to hash them over here, but the conversation turned to “What Makes Iowa so successful?”  We never really put a finger on it.  But It has the three bases of any successful event covered.
  • First – A title Sponsor.  Suppose good title sponsor comes in at around $300k.  That is equal to 10,000 $30 tickets.  What’s more, this is prime the pump money.  It gets there before the event and provides the upfront budget to advertise and promote the event in order to get fans in the seats.  The title sponsor themselves will often promote the event themselves which is free advertising for the league and event. 
  • Second – Opportunities for corporate revenue.  At Ovals, this means suites.  At Temp Circuits it means hospitality areas (either way it is an opportunity for businesses to wine and dine their B2B clients or reward their employees).  It can also mean booth or exhibit space to market to the captive consumers at the event.  It can even include massive blocks of tickets distributed to loyal customers of a company (think all those fans through the years who went to races because Philip Morris was thanking them for smoking).  But no matter the product being sold to corporate entities, it is a very important source of revenue for an event in that it comes in big chunks, not $100 at a time but $5000 at a time for example.
  • Third – Fans.  The easiest part of the equation for most of us to understand is usually the only one that casual observers consider when they gauge an event to be a success.  The fans in some quantity must be present or it will be difficult to maintain a locally based event sponsor on a versus broadcast.  If a majority of your corporate revenue is based on exhibit or booth space then it is also vital to making those opportunities return positive ROI to the corporate entities that invest in them.
Overall a successful event breaks down like this…35,000 fans in a reasonably thought out and stratified ticket scheme will cover the league sanctioning fee for staging the event.  The revenue from corporate sources covers the expenses in operating and promoting the event.  A title sponsor is the profit that makes the whole extravaganza worth pursuing for the promoter.
Let’s think about the last two races for a moment…
Milwaukee – Not title promoter…No upfront money to get out there and market tickets or the event with.  No Luxury boxes, no hospitality areas and no foresight to harness the rest of the state fairgrounds property to create corporate revenue.  And finally what we saw on TV…no fans.  It is sad, but this wasn’t even close to ever having a chance…The only glimmer of hope going forward would be a title sponsor coming on board within the next 60 days.  If one arrives, I have some additional thoughts HERE.
Iowa – Iowa Corn as the sponsor, Plenty of luxury boxes, most of the booth and tent space in the fan village sold inside and outside the main gate and of course the necessary 35,000 fans that make the rest of the pieces of the financial ROI puzzle work.
You can apply this same kind of analysis to each of the events yet to come this season to gauge its overall health.
I have no Idea how Pressdog, the Iowa Speedway staff does it each year but they are to be commended, they are quite the success story on the IndyCar schedule.  Perhaps the presidents of the other oval tracks IndyCar races on need to make a visit to Des Moines and take some notes.  This little independent gets it done.  Something that can’t be said at the other independent ovals or even the ones owned by the big boys at SMI and ISC.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Caption This!

For the first round of Images from Iowa this weekend CLICK HERE  .

In the mean time - Caption the following Picture below in the comments section for a chance to win the rare and elusive Rodrigo Barbosa Hero Card!!!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Saving Milwaukee … Again.

Yeah, I know its been a while…Prepping to go on a two week vacation when you are short staffed at the day job is a time consuming situation.  Anyway, in my absence lots of controversy, the overly concerned about everything crowd has contorted themselves for two weeks now over the events of Texas and Milwaukee, Not much to ad here other than to point out that the sun came up today in Iowa and it looks to be a beautiful day.
I do want to spend a moment however to talk about Milwaukee the event.  Two years ago we were in the crowd with 35k of our closest cheesehead friends and had one of our best racing weekends shared together.  Due to a scheduling conflict we coundn’t do Milwaukee this year and are doing a second dip in Iowa instead.  What I saw from Milwaukee on TV looked horrible, not the racing, but the crowd and the environment.  I thought I would offer suggestions on the subject.
Thinking about the racing season so far…24hrs of Daytona, Sebring, St Pete, Long Beach, Lemans…what do all these races have in common????….Wait for it….FERRIS WHEELS.  Does anyone else see the irony in the frequent incidence of Ferris wheels at racing events only to have an event at an actual fairground feature no ferris wheel?
Kevin Lee and Curt Cavin have lamented the conundrum of how you make oval events run in facilities built in the middle of nowhere have the festive entertaining atmosphere of the city street festivals in St Pete and Long Beach.  The problem with the event creation and promotion of Milwaukee is that it is treated as if it occurred at an oval facility 45 minutes from town in the middle of nowhere…when in fact it is held on the state fairgrounds in the residential heart of a mid sized city possessing a proud cultural heritage.
Milwaukee, like Long Beach and St Pete should be an EVENT that features a race.  Not all of this can happen overnight, but if you have a race at a fairgrounds, go ahead and have a carnival ride company set up shop on the Midway for the weekend, have a Long Beach style exhibition hall in one of the 4h buildings have a BBQ or fried beer and cheese contest in the lot outside turns 1 and 2.  THROW A STINKING PARTY.  The racing overload formula that works in Iowa a week later may not be the best plan given the riches of access to people Milwaukee has.
Of course you might retort…why not have the race during the actual State Fair?  Well, that has happened before but my read is that the Fair board is not so keen on that idea these days.
Given the abysmal crowd from this past year, the expo hall will have to wait until year three once you have shown you can draw a crowd.  SO here’s what year two might look like…
  • Friday, All Day General admission for $10.  Allows access to the midway and all the barbeque and fried Ding Dong vendors.  During the evening run your USF2000 race, Star Mazda Race and Lights race, with all seating being GA.  Schools out, kids smell carnivals from 20 miles away and it would be a night of good family entertainment that would be a good marketing asset for the rest of the weekend.
  • Saturday, Have the festivities open again all day, have the lower half of the bleachers be GA with premium pricing up high.  Have an antique car or motorcycle show in one of the Livestock barns.  Do your Indy Quals and run your Usac events. 
  • Sunday, GA gets you access to the hoo haa and into the infield grass.  Reserved tickets elsewhere.  Do Lights (again) and then the big boys and have every one headed home by 5.
In the following years you can set up an expo hall and charge companies booth space to access the crowd of captive people you have attracted to the facility (who needs Luxury boxes when you have booth space and a captive audience?)
One final thing before I back up and head to Iowa speedway.  The web site this year sucked.  The Ticket options Sucked even more.  The only options were single day tickets and a $500 dollar luxury package that featured a limo and strippers or something…What the hell?  I would advise the promoters to browse the Mid Ohio or Long Beach sites and check out the Weekend packages or the Ticket and Pit Pass combinations…many people like these reasonably priced all inclusive options.
On the promoter...I thought that this event was to be promoted by the league itself…apparently with Vegas looming, it was one too many things on the Leagues plate.  I hope Randy sizes the current promoter, listens to their plans for next year and if it doesn’t seem buttoned up, give Green Savoree a call.
With the rumors of Chicagoland and Road America in play, it all may be for not.  But I would suggest that Milwaukee in June, RA in August and CL in Sept is viable spacing for all these events to coexist.
Off down I 80 to Newton!

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