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“We have 21 races, we should have 21 Super Bowls” - what F1 can learn from the NFL

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“We have 21 races, we should have 21 Super Bowls” - what F1 can learn from the NFL
Jan 31, 2017, 4:00 PM

After its shareholders and the FIA recently approved Liberty Media’s Formula 1 takeover, the championship’s new CEO Chasey Carey stated that he...

After its shareholders and the FIA recently approved Liberty Media’s Formula 1 takeover, the championship’s new CEO Chasey Carey stated that he wanted to make the sport “bigger, broader and better”.

One idea Carey suggested to improve F1 was to scale up the entertainment and atmosphere surrounding each race and make every Grand Prix a festival of motorsport.

“We have 21 races,” he said. “We should have 21 Super Bowls. They should be week-long extravaganzas with entertainment and music, events that capture a whole city.”

Chase Carey

Drawing inspiration from America Football’s showpiece event has been suggested before – as recently as December 2016 by McLaren boss Zak Brown and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton.

So ahead of the 51st Super Bowl, which is scheduled to take place in Houston this weekend with the Atlanta Falcons playing the New England Patriots, JA on F1 takes a look at what else F1 could learn from the NFL.

Super Bowl status

The Falcons and the Patriots jetted off to Houston this week and the teams will go through a week-long festival of mass media coverage, fan events and celebrations, all of which take place before the climatic event of the NFL season: the Super Bowl.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BPpsWp4hmOR/

While F1 does not necessarily always build up to a stand alone winner-takes-all event – all 20 races on the 2017 calendar will have the same number of points on offer – the marketing and promotional opportunities of grand prix events taking place at many venues located near major cities across the world could be aligned in similar ways.

Why not have Hamilton addressing fans from a venue showing off the London skyline, the Shard for example, ahead of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone? Then, in a similar way to the NFL’s Pro Bowl Skills Challenge where superstar players such as Odell Beckham, Ezekiel Elliott and Drew Brees showed off their talents last week, have the triple world champion demonstrating his driving skills in an F1 show car around Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square? F1's demo event in London in 2004 (below) proved incredibly popular.

F1 London

Like the Super Bowl, F1 would become the number one show in town: a festival of motorsport. Carey has spoken of the need to maintain F1’s historic traditions and races – but why not have Fernando Alonso act as the starter of a Formula E race in downtown Barcelona a few hours after qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix?

Liberty Global and Discovery Communications, which are part of the same business group owned by John Malone as Liberty Media, have the largest shareholding in the all-electric series after all.

One caveat to this mass-promotion approach would be that the Super Bowl’s unique finale status enhances and encourages the hype around it, whereas 20, 21 or even more races – as suggested by Liberty’s CEO Greg Maffei – could become too much of a good thing and turn off casual viewers who know they can just tune in for the next event and pick up the story there.

Revenue sharing

One area where F1 falls miles behind the NFL is its approach to revenue sharing. According to an Autosport report last year, F1’s $965m in payments to the teams for 2015 was split via a complicated system of previous championship finishing positions, constructors’ championship bonuses to certain squads and other payments such as Ferrari’s $70m historic payment.

Australian Grand Prix

All of this added up to Ferrari getting $192m, Mercedes $171m and Red Bull $144m, while Sauber received just $54m and the recently closed Manor squad got $47m.

In the NFL, $7.2bn in revenue – boosted by massive TV deals with US networks – is shared out equally. In the financial year of 2014, the records of the publically owned Green Bay Packers showed that every one of the NFL's 32 teams received $226.4m each.

NFL teams also take up 28 slots on Forbes’ list of most valuable sports teams and the Dallas Cowboys topped it in 2016 with a valuation of $4bn, ahead of soccer giants Real Madrid and Barcelona.

XPB.cc Manor F1

The even distribution of revenue helps the NFL teams with the worst records stay healthily in business even if they are run badly and therefore perform poorly in competition. The Cleveland Browns won just one game out of 16 regular fixtures in 2016 and will return next year. Manor, which scored one point in last year’s F1 season, will not.

Draft system

The NFL and other popular sports in America use a draft system to pick the new crop of players from universities and colleges. The teams with the worst records go first – Cleveland will get first choice in 2017 followed by the San Francisco 49ers and the Chicago Bears – while the more successful teams will enter the selection process later on.

George Russell
Mercedes F1 junior, George Russell

Such a system would be unwieldy in F1 as there far fewer positions available, but if a better revenue distribution system meant more teams on the grid it would lead to more seats at the smaller squads being available for up-and-coming drivers.

What do you think of the idea of F1 adopting a Super Bowl approach to each race? Are there ideas from other sports that you think F1 should look at? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JA on F1 Facebook page for more discussion.
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