It is almost universally accepted that after the withdrawal of the tobacco companies, sponsorship in MotoGP is currently at crisis levels, the withdrawal of Ilmor being the latest and most obvious example of its parlous state. The situation is so bad that virtually everyone involved in the sport is racking their brains looking for a solution. But the big question is, how did it get this way in the first place?
British weekly Motorcycle News has an interview with International Racing Teams Assocation and Tech 3 Yamaha boss, Hervé Poncharal which sheds an interesting light on how the present situation came about. He highlights two major causes:
- During the tobacco years, the tobacco companies did everything for the racing teams, supplying money, organizing the marketing, providing the hospitality, even selecting the riders. This allowed the teams to concentrate on the racing, but introduced a fatal dependency, which was exposed once the tobacco sponsors left: The teams didn't know how to sell themselves to potential sponsors, and present an appealing package. They were left virtually helpless in terms of marketing, as they had focused on racing, not on selling;
- Now that tobacco has gone, the teams, especially the smaller private teams, are too poor to afford to employ a marketing team, which could go out and find sponsors for them. This is a vicious circle, as without a marketing team, there is no one to go out and sell the team to sponsors, and team bosses make very poor salesmen.
One possible solution suggested at the Dorna sponsorship workshop is for Dorna to put together a marketing team which would assist the non-factory teams in finding sponsors, giving them the professional marketing support they so desparately need. This looks like being a viable way forward, but only time will tell whether it will be successful.