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Amazon Web Services gets global seat at Formula One table

Amazon Web Services, the cloud computing subsidiary of Amazon.com, will pay an eight-figure annualised fee in dollars over four-and-a-half years as Formula One’s Official Cloud and Machine Learning Provider, according to industry sources.

AWS is the first Global Partner to join Formula One since Liberty Global acquired the series in September 2016.

The deal is understood to involve the supply of a range of AWS products and services to Formula One at a preferential rate over the course of the contract.

It does not include trackside signage. AWS will get brand identification with onscreen graphics as the main branding asset. These will be presented on broadcast coverage as ‘F1 Insights powered by AWS’.

The proprietary data will also be showcased on Formula One’s digital media platforms. Graphics illustrating the importance of cornering speed, for example, will be shown on the Formula One website, social media channels and possibly on OTT platform F1 TV, which launched in May.

The deal will not give Amazon.com access to media rights, but Murray Barnett, Formula One head of global sponsorship and commercial, said that Amazon channels as part of Amazon Prime would be a likely target for F1 distribution. “If you think of the fact that they distribute Eurosport now, at some point in the future it may well be that they are also acting as a non-exclusive distributor of F1 TV,” he said.

Sports Sponsorship Insider understands the Technology Partner could also be involved in a series of technology summits with the working title ‘Winning in Business’ run by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and F1. According to Barnett, there will be two summits this year and four next year over the course of the season, divided geographically and across the calendar.

CAA Sports

The deal was brokered by F1’s exclusive sales agency CAA Sports, which had previously worked with AWS on the acquisition of the NFL’s Official Technology Provider rights in November 2017.

Under that deal, AWS is the technology partner for the NFL’s ‘Next Gen Stats’ concept, which uses data from player and ball tracking devices to produce statistics. Amazon’s acquisition of the league’s online streaming rights to Thursday Night Football games in 2017-18 preceded the sponsorship deal by five months.

The deal between Manchester City and Amazon Prime for a behind-the-scenes documentary series through the 2017/18 was also brokered by CAA Sport.

It is understood that Amazon and AWS were the first tech company to be contacted by the agency once it had been briefed on the technology requirement by Pete Samara, director of innovation and digital technology at Formula One.

Conversations with other technology companies took place from the agency’s New York office, which is understood to have strong connections with the Silicon Valley marketplace, having worked on technology partnerships with the NBA’s Golden State Warriors and NFL’s San Francisco 49ers.

Discussions with AWS ensued over nine months with the brand-side negotiation led by Barnett; Justin Burkes, head of worldwide strategic programmes for AWS; Sean Bratches, managing director of commercial operations at Formula One; and Paul Danforth, global head of sales and Alex Cook, business development and sponsorship sales at CAA Sports.

The long negotiation resulted from work on the technology integration rather than the marketing proposition.

What AWS provides

The communications teams of Amazon and Formula One chose to focus the launch on the technology integration rather than AWS’s status as a Global Partner.

Under the deal, Formula One is moving most of its infrastructure from on-premises data centers to AWS cloud computing services and integrating AWS’s machine-learning and data-analytics services.

Formula One will also work with AWS to enhance its race strategies and allow Formula One’s motorsports division to run high-performance computer workloads in a scalable environment on AWS. “This will significantly increase the number and quality of the simulations our aerodynamics team can run as we work to develop the new car design rules for Formula One,” said Samara.

Technology sector

Sports Sponsorship Insider understands the choice of ‘Official Cloud and Machine Learning Provider’ opens discussions for technology sector sub-categories in the Global Partner space. This will involve brands from categories not covered in the Amazon deal and which are complementary with AWS, at least in some respects.

Barnett said a number of Silicon Valley brands would be termed ‘frenemies’ of AWS: “For example, Intel competes directly with Amazon in some areas, but they’ve also collaborated in other areas… so we are trying to understand who are the brands that rub up against some of Amazon’s category exclusivity, but at the same time, there could be brands where Amazon might say, yes technically they’re bordering on our category but we do a lot of work with them anyway.”

Formula One also anticipates that the new technology partner would work collaboratively on projects that would be promoted on the basis that they are working together with Formula One.

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