Formula One is the world’s most-watched annual sport and last year drew 352.3 million unique television viewers, according to an official statement from Formula One.
Several countries have tried to harness this reach and the sport’s push beyond its traditional European heartland into newer markets to advertise their credentials as tourism and business hubs.
But few have been able to match Singapore, Formula One’s first night race. The city state’s blend of glamour, spectacle and entertainment plus its standing as a major global business hub, has fast established the Singapore Grand Prix as a jewel in the sport’s crown.
“It’s been at the forefront of what we want our events to be,” said Formula One chief executive Chase Carey last September on the sidelines of the tenth edition of the race while announcing a four-year contract extension keeping Singapore on the calendar until 2021.
“A week-long celebration that has entertainment, information, a range of activities for people of all ages, of all types that really make it a week-long celebration with the race at the centre of it,” added the American.
Carey took over as Formula One’s Chief Executive from longtime commercial tsar Bernie Ecclestone last January, after Liberty Media acquired the sport’s commercial rights, and has talked of turning each grand prix into a ‘Superbowl-like’ event with a range of activities building up to Sunday’s race.
He held Singapore up as an example for newer races, especially potential candidates in Asia, as despite the country having a very small motorsport following when it first joined the calendar in 2008, ten years on it continues to thrive.
“Ultimately, Singapore provides everything Formula One would want,” James Walton, Sports Business Group Leader at Deloitte Singapore and Southeast Asia.
“A secure, safe location; an iconic track with the Singapore skyline; world-class hotels, restaurants and tourism venues; good travel logistics with the track being just 20 minutes from the airport and hotels surrounding it; a high net worth local audience and established status as a business destination; and a government that is easy to work with and makes doing business simple.”
The dazzling spectacle of cars racing through the heart of Singapore along an illuminated ribbon of road against a backdrop of the city state’s glittering skyline has been beamed onto the television sets of 780 million international viewers since the inaugural race, according to Singapore Tourism Board (STB) Director Jean Ng.
This, she said , has helped “showcase Singapore as a beautiful, vibrant and attractive destination to a global audience”.
A 2012 study by the Boston Consulting Group, commissioned by the Singapore government, found that 10 percent of the high net worth individuals polled who had watched the race on television said they were more likely to visit the city-state.
About 30 to 40 percent of them said they had an improved perception and awareness of Singapore after having watched the race.
Over the ten years the race has been held, over 450,000 international visitors have flown to Singapore for the race, the STB director Ng said, generating an estimated S$1.4 billion in total incremental tourism receipts.
This in large part is down to the experiences built around the on-track action, especially a ten-day long build-up called the Grand Prix Season Singapore (GPSS).
This offers visitors the chance to explore everything Singapore has to offer from its variety of cuisine, night life and shopping to the country’s history and heritage.
“Driven by stakeholders ranging from culture and heritage, retail, entertainment to dining, the specially curated experiences have showcased our destination’s vibrant lifestyle options,” said Ng.
Businesses, she said, use the race as an opportunity to try out new concepts that they can then roll out for tourists to enjoy all year long.
“Today, Singapore Grand Prix and GPSS have become signature events, bolstering Singapore’s status as an exciting lifestyle and entertainment hub and adding to the diversity of experiences that Singapore residents and international visitors can enjoy,” she added.
But the benefits Singapore has derived from hosting the race extend beyond simply tourism.
The logistics of organising and running a race in the heart of a thriving metropolis involve a lot of work from cordoning off roads to managing ticketing and over 90 percent of race-related work is sub-contracted to local companies.
Just as the race is a chance for Singapore to shine on the world stage, so too is it an opportunity for local businesses to prove their capabilities to the watching world.
“There have been a few prominent examples of Singaporean companies that have gone on to international prominence and used their Formula One experience to build expertise and innovation,” says Deloitte’s Walton.
“Besides Steward’s Solution who have expanded into China, the U.S. and the Philippines, audio-visual lighting company Hexogon Solution is another example.”
The organisers and government are also using the race to drive community engagement programmes, such as encouraging the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects.
“In addition, over 2,100 students and volunteers are actively involved in the race each year, providing invaluable hands-on opportunities for them to sharpen their skillsets,” said STB’s Ng.
Singapore expects to continue to draw in the region of 45,000 international visitors a year over the next four years of its fresh contract.
But the costs of putting on the event, 60 percent of which are borne by the government, are set to fall to S$135 million a year from S$150 million.
“This is a very positive sign for the years to come,” said Singapore GP Pte Ltd Executive Director Michael Roche after overall attendance at last September’s race hit 260,400, higher than the event’s 10-year average.
“Our aim, as always, is to improve the event both on and off the track to keep people coming back and to attract even more visitors to Singapore.”
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