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Carey defends lack of F1 sponsorships in Liberty Media era

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton leads the field at the start of the 2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Formula 1 chief executive Chase Carey has defended the lack of major sponsorship deals secured since Liberty Media’s takeover of the motor-racing championship, adding that he has a “three-page back list” of companies F1 is engaged with amid continuing efforts to build a dedicated marketing team.

US mass media firm Liberty Media secured control of F1 in early 2017, but to date has not been able to add to the sport’s portfolio of top-tier global partners – Heineken, DHL, Pirelli, Emirates and Rolex – deals that were all secured under the regime of F1’s former ringmaster, Bernie Ecclestone.

Liberty Media had targeted an uplift in sponsorship for the championship as one of the key goals following its takeover, but Carey said the new regime has had to focus on forming a dedicated marketing department, something that had been lacking previously with Ecclestone famously keeping a tight control over operations.

F1’s last significant sponsorship deal came last month as Expo 2020 Dubai agreed a 14-month contract to promote the next edition of the World Expo. The event became a second-tier official sponsor of F1 for the remainder of the 2019 season and the entire 2020 campaign.

Amid reports a major name could be signed ahead of the 2020 season, Carey told Motorsport.com: “Our cupboard was pretty bare, because we didn’t really have a sponsor group. We hadn’t created any tools. We hadn’t created capabilities to tell the story of F1, to create some excitement.

“We have some momentum today. We’ve had attendance up, we’ve had viewership up, we’ve got a good story, we’ve got new dimensions to the sport. And I think you need to tell that story, and you need to develop tools. Sponsors want partnerships that are more tailored uniquely to them. In the past signs on a wall worked fine, that doesn’t work now.

“So we had to develop the array of initiatives, whether it’s digital initiatives, regional feeds, virtual ads, fan festivals, all those types of opportunities to create tailored targeted opportunities. The traction with interested sponsors has been on a steady rise, we’ve never been busier. I’ve got a three page back list of sponsors we’re engaged with. Obviously, until the sponsors are signed, deals aren’t done.

“Certainly, I’d say we feel we have gotten progressively better, as we’ve gone along. So while it’s been slower and harder than I would have planned it to be a couple of years ago, I think that in many ways is the nature of where we started, and we started really from ground zero.”