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MotoGP’s central sponsors stay loyal amid disrupted 2020 season

(Photo by Hazrin Yeob Men Shah/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Motorcycling series MotoGP is depending on the loyalty of its sponsors and the added value of it esports proposition to help it through the Covid-19 crisis.

MotoGP’s commercial rights-holder Dorna Sports is preparing for a worst-case scenario of no racing this season, and a best-case scenario of a modified calendar for 2020.

Thus far, MotoGP’s first eight races of 2020 in Qatar, Thailand, United States, Argentina, Spain, France, Italy and Catalunya have been either cancelled or postponed.

Despite this, SportBusiness understands that 80 per cent of MotoGP’s mid-to-long term central sponsors, which are the majority in the portfolio, have paid up for the quarter ending in March or the start of April.

Moreover, the long-term nature of many of the sponsorships will more likely result in a rescheduling of payments, not contract renegotiations, should activities stop.

According to one industry insider, the current situation is the third major crisis for MotoGP, after the banning of tobacco sponsorship in 2005-06 and the financial crisis of 2008-09.

These previous crises were managed successfully, said the source, who believes the impact of the economic crisis likely to follow the pandemic will be mitigated by the sport’s long-term relationships with its sponsors.

Dorna has also used the fallow race period to ramp up its esports activities and accelerate the release of its EA Sports-produced game MotoGP 20. This will now be released on 23 April as opposed to a date in July.

Dorna is in the fourth season of its MotoGP eSport Championship and has widened its esports activities to include races in which the elite MotoGP riders compete.

On March 29, a race simulation around the Mugello circuit, which will no longer host the Italian GP at the end of May, was won by leading rider Marc Márquez.

According to the industry source, the race attracted an “excellent” audience on social media and was also shown on broadcast networks like BT Sport and Sky Italia.

The race simulations will continue over the season and will soon include drivers from Moto2, Moto 3 and MotoE, MotoGP’s electric racing series.

Brands that are central sponsors of MotoGP are embedded in the video game which is required to look exactly like the real race. Some of these central sponsors, like car maker BMW, watchmaker Tissot, and computer hardware brand Lenovo, are also sponsors of the eSports Championship.

In addition to managing its own finances, Dorna is providing advance payments to its MotoGP teams. Earlier this month, Dorna said that the independent MotoGP teams will each receive “considerable advance payments during the months of April, May and June, irrespective of whether activity is restarted or not”.