Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Austin's Power!

Is it just me, or did the Austin MotoGP race go from tantalizing rumor to announcement in record time?

I read (courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway) that Dorna's announced Colin Edwards' home GP effective 2013. This is great news for a few reasons.

I'm not sure how long Indy's destined to remain on the calendar; I think they've renewed their contract for the 2012 event but it's year-by-year. Here in the 'States, motorcycle racing fans and the motorcycle industry have been glad to have IMS' marketing and promotional muscle behind MotoGP in particular and motorcycle racing in general. But I suspect that there are quite a few purists in the FIM, Dorna, IRTA, etc., who chafe at the idea of an infield road course event, no matter how skillfully it's promoted.

Having lived in  Texas for a while, I can tell you that the "everything's bigger here" mentality can be insufferable, but it's a great attitude to have when promoting an event. Austin, in particular, has proven with the SXSW Festival that it doesn't have to be an event in which the stars are already famous here; they're perfectly happy to make their stars famous. Lots of bands broke into the big time after their star turn in Austin. Maybe it will be the same for MotoGP.

I have read that the event is financially supported (to an eight-figure tune) by the State of Texas. That's noteworthy in a state that is in the budget-cutting vanguard. But the key to state support is tourism. Texas has a great tourism promotion program, and when I worked on tourism accounts in my ad days I learned that foreign tourists are the holy grail for such departments. Most tourists come from within your own region, or from adjacent regions - but the most profitable tourists by far are the ones from afar. They stay longer and spend more per day.

Although Indianapolis means 'motorsport' to us here in the 'States, it's reputation in Europe is not that strong (and was not helped at all by either the first F1 car debacle or the weather at the first MotoGP event.) On the other hand, Texas is something people really 'get', all over the world. It's no accident that the Marlboro cowboy is used to promote that brand from Copenhagen to Capetown to Macau. Texas will be an easy sell.

I'm definitely not saying that Texas should necessarily replace Indy. As low-profile as MotoGP is, in the U.S./North America, this is still a huge market and we could easily justify three MotoGP races (and two or three SBK events -- Come on, Barber... lengthen your track, improve your paddock, and earn a World Championship event too; you've already got the facility to support it.)

Well, yee-haw.

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