The role of the Race Promotor is a big one. It’s their job to make sure that some of the biggest events in the motorsport calendar go without a hitch. The Race Promotor is responsible for running the whole show. From sponsorship to crowd safety, marketing to rubbish removal, it’s one of the most challenging and varied roles in the business.
We sat down with Stuart Pringle – Managing Director of Silverstone Circuits Ltd. Stuart is responsible for managing the success of the British Grand Prix for both F1 and MotoGP, in addition to ensuring the commercial success of the racetrack itself. It’s a big job and he also has some advice for anyone looking to follow in his footsteps as a motorsport race promotor.
You can either scroll to the end to watch the video interview or read the transcript below.
What does a Race Promoter do?
Being a Race Promoter is a bit like being a boxing or music promoter. You are getting an act, putting on a show and selling tickets. For us here at Silverstone, by some significant margin, the biggest financial risk we take is promoting the Formula 1 British Grand Prix annually. We commit to a contract for a number of years to pay Formula 1 a sum of money – which is fairly eyewatering, for them to bring the Formula 1 World Championship to Silverstone. Then we sell tickets to the Great British fanbase. I say Great British because it is almost exclusively British actually! One area that we’ve really got to work on over the next few years is to try and get more overseas visitors. Even in a non-Covid year, typically only 2% or 3% are from overseas.
We’ve got to sell tickets, so that’s about marketing. It’s about selling. It’s about creating the interest and the atmosphere. Being a race promoter is about working with the commercial rights holder – Formula 1 and their broadcast partners. What’s important these days is the way media is consumed outside traditional television and broadcast. So, online, and social media – it’s about creating a buzz.
What advice would you give people looking to get into the commercial side of motorsport?
You don’t need a knowledge or passion for motorsport to be a race promotor per se, although I suspect that the vast majority of people doing your course will have that passion because it’s a significant personal commitment to go on and do a Master’s in it. Unquestionably it helps – but you need a passion for the live events business. You need a passion for the customer and putting that smile of people’s faces. The reality is that for most of us working here at Silverstone, our life is much more about carparks and lavatories than it is about champagne, private jets and the glamour of motorsport! Motorsport is not, in my experience of it, particularly glamorous.
With any live events business, you’ve got to get there before the customers turn up and you’ve got to turn the lights out after they’ve left. It’s hard graft. If you want a straightforward life, go and do a 9-5 job. But it’s terribly exciting, it’s terribly rewarding, and you work with some great people. I often say to younger members of our team, “see the people in these grandstands out here. Every single one of those people would swap places with you and I. They are looking out of that grandstand saying how do I get a job like that? How can I work there? How can I be in that person’s shoes?” We are so lucky to do something as interesting as this. We could work in a widget factory or sell photocopiers, or something that sounds terribly dull to me, but actually we are in the business of creating memories,
What skills do you need to be a Race Promoter?
I would just say determination. I would say you’ve got to absolutely strive for the best, but not fall into the trap of being a total perfectionist all of the time. In a live events environment, sometimes you just have to accept that things don’t quite go the way you want. But certainly, having high standards is important for a Race Promoter. It’s about being dynamic, being a people person and a focused team player.
What are the biggest challenges for a Race Promotor?
Well, it’s always cash flow! If you remember only one thing which will help in your job as a race promotor, it’s to know how much money you’ve got in your bank at any one time. There are things that turn up in life, like the Covid-19 pandemic, that you just didn’t have on your radar. I’m very focused here at Silverstone on diversifying our business. We’ve got a wonderful brand that we’ve built, with over seventy years of history based around motor racing and Formula 1. I always want that to be our defining brand element, but I need to use these enormous assets far more widely than just purely for motor racing.
What are your thoughts on the unpredictability of motorsport?
We need to get the balance within motorsport of the technical regulations, because it is a science led sport, and you’ve got to have that competition which starts when the regulations arrive in the office in-tray! But you’ve also got to have the unpredictability. In Football, we had Leicester City – underdogs, win the Premier League a few years ago. You’ve got to have a Leicester City moment in motorsport as well. You’ve got to have the chance that the underdog can have their day if everything goes right. Of course, you’re always going to have the big dogs dominating, but the underdog has also got to have a chance.
What would you say to those wanting to follow in your footsteps?
It’s tricky, it’s not predictable, it’s not formulaic and it’s a challenge as a race promoter. But I would 100% applaud the students on your course for having the commitment and making that career decision. I have thoroughly enjoyed twenty-one years in motorsport. I did something totally different before I got involved and I’ve not regretted at all turning my hobby into my day job. It makes getting of bed a whole lot easier in the mornings – so got for it I’d say!