There is scope for organisers to take control of motorsport events if manufacturers pull-out.
This year’s Rain Forest Challenge India, and the situation with cross-country rally events, is a reminder of the need for the organisers of such events to not become beholden to a manufacturer for title sponsorship. With talks of Maruti Suzuki changing its strategy in the coming years, and only focusing on competing, some organisers of cross-country rallies have been struggling to think of life beyond that.
There has been talk of events merging with one another, but little else beyond that. However, seasoned campaigners in these events have been talking among themselves of the need to take charge and turn these events into platforms that a manufacturer cannot overlook.
Cougar Motorsports – the organiser of RFC India – was left high and dry when the title sponsor of the first four editions (Force Motors) conveyed that the product that they were trying to market through the event was not ready. And that, without it, there was no point in renewing their title sponsorship.
Cougar were able to fall back on Isuzu, who had only given them a verbal assurance years ago of being interested. The fact that Isuzu came on board on short notice was a testament to the profile of the RFC India within the Indian motorsports calendar.
Whether it’s networking with the media, promoting the event on social media or arranging photos and videos and handling the logistics, the organisers themselves are on top of it and this has resulted in the RFC India having an undeniable presence.
It’s an approach that organisers of events like the Desert Storm and Raid de Himalaya would do well to emulate. And there are those who are willing to step in and do so if the old guard is willing.
Depending on what a manufacturer’s title sponsorship deal entails, including dictating terms on media coverage – and in extreme circumstances, who gets to compete – it doesn’t really do much for the profile of an event. Rather, it only serves to benefit the profile of the title sponsor. And it increases the chances of the event itself being left high and dry if that sponsor suddenly decides to tighten its purse strings.
That is not a good situation to have in Indian motorsports’ current scenario, where there are barely any events that stand on their own merit. Aside from the RFC India, the India Baja and Coffee Day Rally are the only other such events that come to mind.
Everything else, whether it’s in circuit racing or in rallying, serves an all-encompassing title sponsor. In the past, I’ve even seen such a setup lead to the bizarre scenario of a title sponsor trying to stop the publication of photos from an event where high-profile international brands like Red Bull are visible.
How can it be a bad thing for an event to be seen associated with such a brand, or one like Monster Energy, which has just started operations in India and is aggressively trying to establish itself through motorsport events?
At the end of the day, organisers like Northern Motorsport and Himalayan Motorsport need to realise that there are many within the ranks of experienced competitors who know of ways to make an event like the Desert Storm or Raid de Himalaya work for everyone. It doesn’t all have to be just to placate one major sponsor – a situation that would make you worry about the long-term future of an event.
Hopefully the words of those who are willing to give this new approach a shot are heeded.