Progress at the Paddock Club

I have often been critical of the Formula One group’s response to new media, but it is good to report that part of the empire is responding to the needs of the moment, if only because it needs to generate more cash. Since the financial crash of 2009, the Paddock Club hospitality has been struggling. This operates 18 of the 21 events, with the other three races being allowed to do their own hospitality if they licence the Paddock Club name. The other problem has been complicated new compliance laws which have meant that a lot of big businesses have backed off on hospitality spending. In recent times, in an effort to improve financial returns, the group has taken over direct control of the Paddock Club. After that failed to be very successful, the business was sub-contracted to Do&Co, the Austria listed hospitality giant, which has long catered for the Paddock Club. This organisation tried to increase sales by increasing the number of resellers, but prices are high and companies want a good return on their investment. With tickets costing as much as $6,000 a weekend at the premium races, F1 needs to deliver more than champagne and lobster and the main thrust for years has been to promote the idea that companies can do business at events. The price, they argue, is nothing if two big wheels get together and do a billion dollar deal. It works too and, with government people often being seen in the Paddock Club. Networking is changing, however, and now the Paddock Club is looking to provide its customers with a little more. If they push the networking argument, the event becomes less of a junket and more of conference or convention, which is less of a problem with the corporate compliance rules. The latest idea is to have a Business Suite in the Paddock Club area, where executives from different companies can meet and network. The suite has a number of private meeting areas which can be closed off but as not, as yet, bookable. To help set up networking moments, the Formula One group has developed an app which allows Paddock Club guests to upload details and make contact with others who are there. The key to this is that the VIPs can choose whether their profiles are turned on or off and what information they display. It will be interesting to see how successful the new ideas are, but it is good to see that parts of the F1 empire are moving with the times.