“I read it and agree with these guys. We are not satisfied, but know how wonderful our product is.”
These are not my words, or the words of any journalist. They are actually the words of MotoGP’s new Chief Commercial Officer Dan Rossomondo, who made that comment recently on Twitter/X in response to a thread on Reddit.
It is no secret that MotoGP has a task in front of itself to build the next generation of fans, as discussed previously on these pages. But MotoGP have a new man spearheading their commercial operations.
Rossomondo started with MotoGP earlier this year, and Motorsport Broadcasting caught up with him during the British Grand Prix weekend to get his take on where MotoGP is heading.
Give a little flavour of what you were up to before MotoGP.
I spent the majority of my career at the National Basketball Association, the NBA. I had a variety of jobs there mostly on the revenue generation side, trying to figure out how to architect revenues for the league and our various properties.
I worked in sponsorship, licencing branded attractions media. We represented not only the NBA, we represented the WMBA (Women’s National Basketball Association), the G League, USA basketball, NBA 2K League (esports). Before that I was at IMG and before that at Madison Square Garden working for the Knicks, the Rangers and the Yankees.
Coming over here to MotoGP, it’s the first time you’ve been in a motor sport role. Are there things though that you learnt in the NBA that you want to bring over here?
Yeah, there are definitely things that I want to take from the NBA. But I am very conscious of the fact that MotoGP and Dorna, it’s a very unique organisation. And look, they do things really well.
I do want to take some learnings [from NBA] but in no way shape or form do I want to impose the NBA culture on Dorna or MotoGP because I think it’s a very good business as I’ve said before, and I want to make it better.
What have you observed in the first few months, both things that you think ‘Yeah, that works really well’, and what have you observed that you think ‘we need to refine’ and do that better.
Let’s start on the sporting side, because there are things that I can’t control. It’s a typical American attitude to try to find things that you can’t control. I knew that if I came in and the sport was in a bad way or broken, I would be in trouble, but it’s not, the sport is brilliant. The sport is exhilarating. It moves at a great pace, and the paddock has some of the nicest people I’ve met, so that’s all good.
On the business side, I’ve got a lot of smart people, but what I really have learnt is that there’s a lot of opportunity. I’ve been to events but I’ve never been a fan of it [motor sport]. None of my kids liked it, but they instantly gravitated towards this sport because it’s very magnetic.
I think if we can utilise our media partners and brands to attract a wider audience, they will be as attractive to it as I’ve been, so it’s more about finding that right base and getting people to really identify with the sport. There’s a great opportunity is the shortest answer to that question.
I guess that’s what attracted you to the role, the fact that you’re not a motor sport man and this is new to you.
It’s new and there’s an opportunity to build something. There’s an opportunity to go in and change certain process[es], bring in some new ideas, rejuvenate some people who might have been there for a long time and just get them excited about what the sport is, and then we just go and build a business. That’s what I’m excited about.
Did it feel like MotoGP became stagnant, or is that the wrong word to use here?
I don’t think it’s stagnant. The easiest comparison that people make is to Formula 1. Formula 1 seems to be on a meteoric trajectory specifically in the United States, so everybody then compares it to MotoGP.
While Formula 1 was creating Drive to Survive and having good ratings success in the United States, we had Valentino Rossi retiring, we had Marc Marquez miss some racing. I don’t think stale is the right word, I think this is just an opportunity to get the throttle up again.
You touched on F1 there, it’s getting younger and more diverse. You could say ‘let’s copy what F1 has done’, but actually, that’s not the right answer to the question you’re trying to answer.
Not only is it not the right answer, but it would be impossible to do. You can’t put the tactics that they employed and put it in a different time. I’m very envious, I think they did a wonderful job. But they were also very fortunate in the fact that Drive to Survive was introducing new episodes during the pandemic and had people loved it, it was fantastic.
We’re a different sport. Our competition is not just Formula 1. Our competition is other sports, other entertainment, leisure time. We have to figure out what can we do that is unique to us because we are unique sport.
One of the big changes for 2023, is the introduction of Sprints. F1 did six races, whereas MotoGP went all in. Coming in fresh, what have you thought about the Saturday format?
I think it’s awesome. We created a new property, but we also created a property that bolsters our main property. We’re in the best of both worlds, we created a new property that we can point to and say ‘here’s something that’s going to happen every Saturday before the main race on Sunday’, that’s going to market the main race on Sunday.
It’s also going to give the circuits another really great draw to sell tickets. I think it’s been a fantastic addition to the calendar. And the consistency too, no one can misunderstand what we’re doing. If you qualify first, you qualify first for both [the Sprint and Main Race]. You race every Saturday, it’s half as many laps, it’s half as many points if you win, it’s very simple, there’s no mystery behind it.
In the first few months of your role have you spoken much to the broadcasters and stakeholders? What’s the feeling you’re getting from them?
I’d say for Sky Italia, they decided to put the sprint on free-to-air for the entire season, which is great because they love how it pushes towards the Sunday Grand Prix. I’ve talked to a lot of the broadcasters. I think they all are heavily invested in the sport.
We have some key renewals and key markets that we have to address and we will. We have some markets that we know we’re going to have some uncertainty with, in terms of, we would love to be [in a] better position there, but we’ve got to work really closely in the market. We’ve got to be more active in how we bring this sport to the market.
I think you’ve touched on two excellent points. The first one I want to tackle is around direct-to-consumer/over-the-top. MotoGP has been in this space for many years, but has it been exposed properly and is the entry price, right?
Very good question. I think there are a lot of sports that are probably envious, because of the production that we bring, how we control it and how we then disseminate that to our broadcast partners. People would love to be able to control how they’re seen.
I think people would also be a bit envious that we have been in the DTC world for quite a while. But being a DTC marketer is a very hard thing, it’s a business in and of itself. We have to figure out whether we have the muscle to actually be a DTC marketer. That said, we put on a great product.
And for people who want to go really deep into the sport, or fans that are maybe displaced a little bit in terms of they don’t get the broadcast coverage in their home market that they want, it’s a great property.
It was interesting the point that you made about Sky Italia and the Sprint’s being free, is that something that you want to think about in the Sprint space?
We have conversations on a daily basis with all of our broadcasters. The sprint is new, we’re going to continue to learn about it. Anything you learn about after five or six races, is just anecdotal. Let’s get a full season under our belts and that’ll be data [to analyse]. Right now, it’s all anecdotal.
UK specific, it’s not been a fantastic market in recent years. BT/TNT have done a fantastic job. Sky F1’s UK pay TV figures are going up, whereas TNT’s MotoGP figures have flatlined. Some of that for F1 is Drive to Survive related, but how do you turn your sport into bigger numbers or do you need to bring in the free element which hasn’t happened here [for Silverstone]?
I think we were the victim of the Community Shield and the Women’s World Cup coming together. Listen, we get that, that’s fine. One weekend is not going to make any difference for our business. We’ve identified the UK as a priority market, which means we’re going to work very hard on driving the audience, not just when we’re coming to Silverstone, but for 52 weeks of the year, and the 21 or 22 that we are racing.
What does that mean? We have to work with TNT more closely to market the sport. We have to cultivate more riders who are British. And then we have to make sure that we are taking advantage of what is a very good motorcycle culture in the UK. There’s a lot of foundations for us to be successful here. It’s us really prioritising how to build this market.
I think free-to-air versus pay, it’s always a constant give and take, it’s always, do you maximise exposure so you can get more fans or do you take revenue. I think there’s no easy answer. Every sport in every market deal with that issue.
How do you see things going from your perspective for the next six to twelve months?
I’m very fortunate in that I have a very supportive executive team and a very supportive organisation that wants to get things done. What we want to do takes time. People’s reputations are not made on the things that they say that they’re going to do, it’s made on the things that they actually do. I’m actually going to get things done.
We’re starting to have the right conversations with people across the board. To me, it’s just a matter of prioritising. We can’t do everything all at once and then just attacking those priorities. I think you’ll see in the next six to 12 months a real focus on priority markets, a real focus on digital media, a real focus on emphasising the sheer exhilaration of this sport. We have a lot of work to do.
I imagine you had a 1-3-5-year road map in place.
My team’s three-year plan is my six-month plan! I’m continuing to manage my expectations because we can’t pull everything off in once, but I’m very aggressive in that regard. I think that when they say, yeah, we can get this done by 2025, I’m like, what about 2024? There’s a little bit of give and take there.
It’s good to ambitious.
Yeah, you have to be!
The 2023 MotoGP season continues live on TNT Sports, with highlights on ITV4, concluding with the season finale in Valencia on Sunday 26th November, which airs live across TNT Sports and ITV.
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