F1 sponsors “just being silly”

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I ran a piece yesterday discussing the F100 summit of sponsors who have formed an organization to represent their interests in F1. The big stick the organizers are swinging is that this group represent $700+ million in sponsorship and support for F1. The group was to assemble yesterday and discuss the future of F1 and the direction of the series as it relates to their investment strategies.

The group, as I found out, was created by Formula Money, the sporting consultancy Right Formula and the organizers of the annual Motorsport Business Forum. This means that Christian Sylt is involved as one of the founders of the group.

The initial release was that the group would finally have a unified voice in the direction of F1 and like FOTA, they would carry some weight as a group. The reduction in testing has been singled out as a concern because it gives sponsors less track days to host for their clients. It was also suggested that the new far-flung venues aren’t germane to the sponsors target markets and this is of concern.

The humorous response from Bernie Ecclestone, F1’s commercial boss, caught me off guard today as the F100 group had made it sound like their voice would be documented and sent to Ecclestone for his perusal. Sounds like an agreed upon process but as Bernie points out:

“The sponsors know exactly what they’re doing when they get involved in F1,” he says.

“They’re all run by people who are over 21. We speak to the sponsors all the time. I see them at Grands Prix and I talk to them.”

“The people behind this thing have no investment in F1. They’re just being silly.”

Actually it makes sense. Ecclestone may be a lot of things but he’s no fool and no chump in business. He is surely in touch with the sponsors that fuel the system but keeping them bifurcated, like the teams, is something that is in his better interest. A unified FOTA carried a big stick and Ecclestone knows this as he used the same format to wrest control of F1 away from FISA all those years ago.

Can the sponsors of F1 swing any weight? Does a journalist who prides himself as a business-centric expert provide the nucleus for creating a group to impact the direction of F1? Truth be known, if Shell isn’t happy with the direction F1 is going, Ecclestone has several other oil companies in his Rolodex.

I would like to hear what Mr. Sylt thinks of Ecclestone’s comments. He has always positioned himself as a man in touch with how a balance sheet works and how the money in F1 moves and to be honest, Ecclestone has it so divested I am not sure anyone has a real handle on it. Perhaps he knows a lot but I suspect Ecclestone sees it differently. Silly indeed.

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