Video: How To Promote MotoGP, Or Riding A MotoGP Bike Down Public Roads Without Telling Anyone First

Here's the great question that plagues MotoGP: How come Formula One teams - even backmarkers - generate many tens or even a couple of hundred million euros in sponsorship, while the most successful MotoGP team of recent years fielding the current World Champion cannot persuade a title sponsor to stump up between 5 and 10 million? The answer, of course, lies in the way in which the sport is promoted. MotoGP has a very strong appeal to its core audience, but it has struggled to break through into the mainstream. Somehow, most of the attempts to appeal to a wider audience have failed, and therefore the ability to bring in outside sponsorship has also struggled.

So Wednesday's publicity stunt by the factory Yamaha team must surely be applauded. Jorge Lorenzo, his pit crew and a few spare marshalls turned up, flash mob-style, to stage an entertaining little tableau which saw Lorenzo launch his Yamaha YZR-M1 MotoGP bike past one of the iconic buildings of the Barcelona skyline, Antoni Gaudi's Temple Expiatori De La Sagrada Familia, staging the start of a MotoGP race in front of a crowd of mystified but fascinated tourists.

The stunt was captured on video (shown below, as for once, an official MotoGP video has had embedding enabled, allowing the video to be shared on sites other than Youtube or MotoGP.com) and though technically it would not qualify as a genuine flash mob - the event was clearly staged and required too much participation from the authorities, from the standpoint of safety at the very least - it is still a stroke of marketing genius. Although Spain is clearly more open to having loud racing motorcycles parade in public than other European countries might do, by staging the event in front of an audience of unsuspecting tourists and in front of a building as iconic as Gaudi's Sagrada Familia, it takes motorcycle racing to the people, rather than having the people come to motorcycle racing. It should generate some excitement among non-fans, and bring more people into the sport. 

That Yamaha should choose to suggest the event is telling. Though not having a title sponsor may be financially painful, it does give the company (and the team) a much freer hand to take part in activities such as this, which some title sponsors may be reluctant to get involved in. But Yamaha have been smart with promoting their brand through non-conventional means in MotoGP. Yamaha were the first team to jump on the social media bandwagon - before it was even a bandwagon - by heavily promoting the use of Twitter and Facebook  last year.

Much of that came at the behest of former title sponsor Fiat and the agency (Hagakure) that Fiat hired to do the social media promotion, but the team jumped on the idea with a great deal of enthusiasm. Jorge Lorenzo is still extremely active on Twitter - genuinely answering questions from fans himself - while Valentino Rossi's mechanic, Alex Briggs, has moved beyond cult status to become almost a mainstream star on Twitter, interacting enthusiastically with fans, answering their questions and explaining some of the background of his work. Unfortunately for Yamaha, Briggs has moved to Ducati, following Rossi with the rest of his crew, but the efforts of Briggs, Lorenzo and even Lorenzo's crew chief Ramon Forcada have done much to promote the series and increase fan engagement. 

MotoGP needs more of these kind of events, to help bring more people into the sport. It is hard to think of a sport more exciting than motorcycle racing, so it must be possible to capture the imaginations of people outside the sport. Once that happens, the sponsorship money will come of its own accord.

Here's the video of the event:

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Comments

Of Alex Hoffman, Portugal and a broken wrist.

Total votes: 98

about Lorenzo, but that was fantastic! Really, any publicity about MotoGP should be encouraged by every fan.

Total votes: 119

Product, Price, Placement, Promotion. We all know that promotion has been quite weak, but out of the 4 P's, I reckon promotion is about the only thing Dorna even attempt to improve.

MotoGP bikes are small which gives little room for livery, and the riders legs cover the fairings. Bikes are sensitive to sidewinds so it probably isn't possible to increase surface area with sponsor fins (excuse me, aero stabilizers) like they have in LMS. Dorna need to create electronic signage, imo. It might not look great during the race, but they can certainly use sponsor tags during the pre-race. They can also spruce up the pre-race graphics for sponsors and improve exposure on the podium and in victory lane. Qualifying might work really well for electro signage since there is usually only one bike in shot. Not easy to go electronic, but worth a lot of sponsorship money. They can even go so far as to put sponsorship logos on the side of the track. Once perfected, it's a hell of a lot easier, and a lot more effective than track signage.

Product also sucks regarding the anemic grid size, and disenfranchised public. If they add fuel, they'd probably have sponsors coming out of the woodwork to sponsor the new factories that enter MotoGP. Dorna can't seem to get it done.

Price is probably a negative b/c MotoGP is expensive, the races are short, and the possibility of retirement is much higher than auto racing. Dorna are trying to address the problem with CRT which will supposedly cost much less to operate. Value of money will still be relatively weak.

Placement in Spain and Italy isn't going to cut it. If they want big bucks they've got to have a big presence in all of continental Western Europe. Moto2 has demonstrated that riders from all countries can ride at the pointy end so Dorna need to boost them into the premier class. Can't really do that until they have more bikes and more factories (particularly BMW, and English brands) in MotoGP.

Virtual placement is a joke. MotoGP.com is your one stop shop in the entirety of cyberspace to get any major exposure to the race footage. The footage is behind a pay wall.

This Yamaha promotion is great, but it is a drop in the bucket. The 4 P's of MotoGP are very weak, and if you judge MotoGP by the 4 C's, the situation is practically hopeless.

Total votes: 121

Great idea, stunning backdrop but no smoke on dropping the clutch.
Can we blame TC (again)

Total votes: 89

of the MP4-26 presentation earlier this year.
Loved it.

Total votes: 99

...than the actual stunt.

Was this a 933cc test mule motor?  wink

And, where was Spies?

They didn't want to put all four bikes out there?

Total votes: 118

Although I applaud the efforts of promoting the Spanish Grand Prix by Yamaha, there really needs to be a team effort by all of MotoGP. This would have been unreal if you were able to coordinate the efforts of all of the race teams and have all 17 riders show up in front of the church. Talk about sponsorship marketing! The bikes are finally standing still! And within an arms throw away from all of the tourists!

And I'm really applauding the fact that this video is free to be passed around the internet. If they only did this more they would realize the true marketing potential of the internet and youtube and not the minimal amount of profits they get from the "protected" media that is only granted to subscribers who already are MotoGP fans.

Total votes: 121

Of course this clip is 'free to be passed around the internet" - it's not racing footage, it's a friggin' commercial! Nobody would expect people to *pay* for watching commercials, would they? Actually better don't answer that, let me cling to my delusions :)

Anyway. As everyone else said, it's a small step in the right direction.

Total votes: 122

It's a great idea, but it feels somehow rather solitary and subdued while having a first row with 4 riders doing it synchro would have torch the internet big scale (having all 17 riders would have been dangerous).

But bravo anyway.

Total votes: 121

They've always been the ones that promoted themselves better than the other teams. Look at the 'Day at the Office' and the 'Road Trip' vids from a few years back. I hope they think of something else.

I'm glad someone is thinking in that garage.

Total votes: 116

Ducati has been doing an admirable job promoting their brand since the aquisition of Valentino. Their PR vids are well edited and capture a lot of little clips of the garage inter-workings, but yes, EVERYONE else needs to take a hint from Yamaha on marketing.

The interview with Rossi and Furasawa (sp? sorry) was so enlightening.

Total votes: 120

That's great, but how many people saw that? It would be fantastic if you happened to be there, but I don't think it will inspire more than 10 people to start watching motogp. Yamaha always have these clips, it shows they are at least trying.

IMO it doesn't compensate for the star of motogp leaving the team, looking at the Ducati Motogp night before Qatar I could see a slight difference in the number of people attending.....

Total votes: 109

One of the things I have noticed (and as a purist applaud, but it has its downside) is the way F1 has managed to position itself as a 'must be there' event for celebrities etc., which draws in the high-rolling sponsors. Vast numbers of people who wouldn't know an F1 car from a shopping trolley in terms of what it is and does take an interest when that circus is in town, whereas motorcycling is still regarded as pretty much a fringe interest in many countries.

I suspect that many potential sponsors are being missed because they don't see a wider general demographic for their product - other than smokers and people who the sponsors think are a slightly weird minority. It would be great if motoGp racing could live on the interest of purists alone but that is fairly obviously an impractical dream.

You voted 4. Total votes: 107

from an F1 car, whilst my wife is firmly in charge (of everything), I have on the odd occasion been allowed to drive the former down the isles, so do have a vague familiarity. If F1 cars handle like those things I do not give their drivers enough credit!

The one thing I do know is that infinitely more people have driven both more than those who've ridden a motorcycle. A consumer needs some kind of ability to relate and sadly most repel from motorcycles. Races must be nothing more than a video game to them. Christ knows they also appear as such to a large sector of our known fans on the evidence of the Rossi /Stoner and Simoncelli / Pedrosa incidents.

But yeah hey, that video was very cool. Brilliantly conceived and executed. Kudo's Yamaha and Barcelona.

Total votes: 127

There is no doubt that sponsors simply do not see the potential of bike racing. I don't wish to insult the sponsors, but I find it intellectually crass that sponsors suppose 4-wheels and a steering wheel is sufficient to link F1 cars to the production road vehicles. By that line of reasoning, MotoGP will never be widely accepted by the general public b/c far fewer people operate 2-wheeled vehicles ergo GP will only be popular in places where people are familiar with 2-wheel vehicles.

MotoGP actually enjoys the highest popularity in societies where two wheeled vehicle ownership is most common; however, F1 does not enjoy the highest viewership in the United States or China where car sales are greatest. The relevance narrative has an inherent flaw.

Dorna cannot convince sponsors that relevance is bogus unless they can grow MotoGP. As you suggest, Oscar, MotoGP needs personality marketing. Motorcycle racing is very personal b/c the audience can see the rider at work. Every input on the bars, levers, and pegs can be viewed by the audience, and the act of riding a motorcycle is unique to the individual which introduces the concept of style. Style and personality are a slam dunk in this day and age, and they provide a more diverse entertainment product b/c people can appreciate more than just winning.

MotoGP has so much potential for growth. Watching it contract over the last 5 years has been very painful indeed.

Total votes: 120

Agreed with most of this except the F1 in America part. F1 has and always will have a hard time growing a huge fanbase here because another form of 4 wheel racing rules the sponsor dollars here, NASCAR. I think many people here who have grown up watching the popularity of NASCAR explode feel that it's America's racing and they want nothing to do with watching "that European" racing where cars don't bump back and forth all race. They likely lump MotoGP into that same category but not AMA Supercross. The bottom line is that MotoGP and F1 have work to do in America getting fans but meanwhile have a problem keeping and potential increasing sponsors worldwide which is a shame.

Total votes: 92

NASCAR just shows what really good marketing and a smart business plan can do. I'm not that old but I can remember when USAC ran a stock car series that was bigger than NASCAR and the Champ Car stars were slumming when they went to Daytona to race in the 500

Total votes: 110

... more fun in bike racing. This is a great start. Next stop The Mall or the House of Commons?

Total votes: 100

Bravo Yamaha's agency! Creative brilliant piece.
The root problem with the commercial expansion of motorcycle racing is that the audience is essentially motorcyclists. I think it is a blessing that audience isn't larger for all the reasons you stated about the size of F1s audience. If you think about it, MotoGP would be much worst than it is if BIG money were involved. Even with Dorna's apeing of F1 it is still a purer competition. May it remain so.

Total votes: 104

But forgive me for hoping MotoGP et al stay on the fringe. Not to say I want the sport teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, or risk losing the sport altogether. But, when these types of sports go mainstream or corporate, they really start to suck. NASCAR being a perfect example, and I haven't watched a race since 1986.

F1? Yawn... I don't care how may celebrities are there. I actually went to the Canadian GP last year. The only reason it wasn't a complete waste was the vintage F1 race on Saturday. Also, getting to hear a modern F1 engine turn 19K rpm in person and downshift 6 times in a second entering the hairpin was the only thing worth witnessing come Sunday. The actual head to head racing? ZZZZZZZZ......

I always hoped AMA SBK would follow the AMA SX model. Live Nation seem to be the only ones who know how to promote 2 wheeled sport. Those events sell out constantly, and there's no shortage of sponsors. Maybe it's just the fact those guys fly through the air, but I suspect there's more to it then that. Perhaps Dorna should hire them as consultants.

Total votes: 119

Actually I believe a few of the top riders have had trouble getting sponsors this last year so it's not all swimming pools of $100 bills over there.

You voted 5. Total votes: 110

Does anyone believe that the present direction of escalating costs, greater reliance on electronics & greater engineering homogenization is a formula for better racing?

I bet there isn't a single rider on the grid who at age 13 made the "career choice" of racing for financial gain, nor one who would leave the sport if their paycheck were 1/2ed.

Much has been said here of NASCRAP (err..NASCAR) as some paradigm of motorsport marketing..lol. From what little interest I can muster (I also stopped sleeping..err watching 20 years ago), they are in STEEP decline in large part from their "corporate" correctness..ie. all the "color" has been purged, I see MotoGP on the same trajectory.

I think MotoGP needs modern TZ750s & RG500s & modestly paid passionate riders on teams that don't require multi-million Euro budgets. Don't we want to see 30 bike grids again? How many more teams can raise €300K than €5+million?

Show me a sport that improved when the big money arrived. We've got it backwards, MotoGP needs the Patons, Roberts, Ilmors & Konigs, not Factory Yamaha & Honda. Racing today is for the benefit of the factories not the fans. It dosen't need more money..it needs less.

Total votes: 112

David, do you have any information on how many paying subscribers there are to motogp.com?
Do Dorna make pocket money from their pay wall, or is it a healthy earner for them?

Total votes: 107

I'm convinced Dorna's current model is the main limiting factor to their own success.

Who would buy coverage before being a fan? It's a chicken and an egg.

How can a team gain sponsorship when no one is watching?

How many people have throw away money to subscribe to this kind of thing?

If it were not for the power of the internet and the 'sharing' of files MotoGP would be unseen by most in NA.

SpeedTV is not worth mentioning. Really.

Total votes: 110

The Concept of Twitter is to get as many people to follow you. This then enables you to Capitalize on the Interaction.

With all its Resources Dorna literally puts up a Wall or does what it can to limit its access and thus it success.

Nascar attracted a audience then the Sponsors followed.

Which leads to my rant. In the U.S SpeedTV carries Motogp most the time tape delayed except for the true hardcore fans which get to see the shitty broadcast at the wee hours of the morning- full of commercials. They do not even have the decency on the delayed broadcast to place the commercials during points in the race in which the racing is slow, so you do not miss to much action.Then they do not show the other classes until later on in the week whenever they feel like it.

They show no pre-race, no podium NADA.How is the average person going to get any context of this sport. How can you succeed when this is what you subject your fans to?

Buying the infomercial time and showing the Races for free while scrolling advertising and directing people to your website would be more profitable.At least then you can have the Numbers to show potential advertisers.

Total votes: 118

I've just remembered that the FIM required promotional equality between WSBK and Dorna during the 2002-2003 reboot. I wonder if Dorna are maybe not able to promote the way they want to promote b/c of the equality clause?

Total votes: 110