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Exclusive Interview: Robert Wicks, Managing Director of Powerboat P1

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Business News Wales interviews, Robert Wicks, Managing Director of Powerboat P1. He tells us about his career history and explains the impact that the P1 Grand Prix of the Seas has on the Welsh economy. He also explains the decision behind moving the event from Cardiff Bay to Milford Haven.

Can you give our readers a background into yourself and your role within Powerboat P1?

My role is that of Managing Director – I’ve been with the business for ten years in senior positions in marketing, commercial, sport and operations. I need to have clear oversight of all the business’ activities, particularly our commercial sales and venue development which are crucial to our future success.

P1 Grand Prix of the Sea is a globally recognised event. How does hosting such a major sports event impact on not only the local economy, but sport and marine tourism?

The event delivers large numbers of spectators who spend money in the local economy. The event also attracts divergent tourists who alter their travels to attend the event and extend their stay. Our research shows that people travel from considerable distances to attend, making use of transport infrastructure and local accommodation. This spending is a key ingredient and acts as a stimulus within the local economy. Additional tourism visits receive a further boost for a period of a year or more afterwards, prompted by the international TV exposure.

For example, our hosts in Invercylde are looking to position the local area as the ‘marine leisure capital of Scotland’ and the P1 event, together with the associated global media coverage, reinforces this message in a dynamic and compelling manner. The regeneration and development going on at Milford Haven will enjoy the same benefits as we showcase the remarkable transformation that is underway at the port together with the exciting plans for the future. From a pure sporting perspective, there must be something special in the Welsh water as five of our leading powerboat pilots hail from Wales.

Has Powerboat P1 formed partnerships with local broadcast media? What are the plans to create international exposure for the race events?

Ahead of every event, the P1 marketing team works closely with the venue to identify the best local media outlets and, where possible, partnerships are formed with radio, TV, print and online channels to maximise awareness of the event. The event is filmed and post produced for global distribution to more than 150 countries through the likes of Sky Sports, Fox Sports and Sport1. With powerboat racing considered a niche sport, P1 punches well above its weight in terms of TV distribution.

The event has been staged in Cardiff Bay for the last three years.  What is the strategy and the objective behind moving it to Milford Haven Waterfront?

Cardiff Bay was a wonderful host venue for three years (2014 – 2016) and our partnership with Welsh Government and Cardiff City Council was very successful. The Bay itself was considered to be a key ingredient in the event mix, in the belief that the experience of a place is a significant component of the sports tourism experience. This involves people being attracted to destinations with distinctive characteristics and qualities, and the fact that sport requires specific located resources. Over three years, the P1 events generated a cumulative audience of 150,000 spectators in Cardiff, together with £8.9m in tourism and local stimulus, with a further £3.5m in media value.

How do the P1 events set themselves apart from other sporting events? Explain what’s so different?

First and foremost, the events are easily staged, with minimal infrastructure expenditure for the host venue (unlike most other forms of motorsport). Secondly, the event makes maximum utilisation of the venue and provides the opportunity to showcase the host location in the best way possible. Our race courses are close to shore and designed to maximise spectator viewing and we can operate a flexible format and layout that is developed in consultation with the host venue. Finally, our event delivers several hours of on-water action, including powerboat and jet ski racing, as well as a wide variety of on-water support shows that are always a crowd favourite.

Do you implement a Corporate Social Responsibility policy?

Our CSR activities are largely focused around the P1 Marine Foundation, a marine charity which is focused on safeguarding and restoring the marine and coastal environment by raising awareness through education and effective partnerships. The charity’s mission is to deliver inspiring programmes that enhance understanding of the value of marine life together with increased personal responsibility, particularly amongst young people. Activities such as the successful Coastal Explorer Programme and Beach Clean-ups are examples of the great work undertaken by the foundation.

Tell us about how you work with partners of the P1 events and how these relationships fit into your business model?

Partnerships are at the heart of the P1 business model and we understand that the key to a great event is building long-term relationships with host venues, becoming a part of the venue’s social fabric, raising its profile nationally and internationally, boosting the local economy and delivering results for our sponsors. Media and television broadcast relationships play a vital role in building P1’s international presence and in delivering exposure for venues and commercial partners.

P1 events are created to balance between celebrating the sport and providing family entertainment. Do you have an idea of footfall of visitors to the event?

Indeed, that is precisely the objective and in recent years the demographic of those attending has moved from the ‘petrol head enthusiast’ to that of the wider family coming along. Our strategy has been to work closely with our various host venues to create additional on land entertainment such as food and drink festivals, marine-themed activities, exhibitions and displays and this has drawn in a wider and more diverse audience. Attendance over a race weekend is typically anywhere between 30,000 – 70,000 and often the weather has a fairly big say!