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Motorsports Increase Traction in Licensing image

Motorsports Increase Traction in Licensing

After years of racing to catch up to the likes of football or basketball, motorsports appear to have developed a winning formula for licensing.

Netflix’s popular Drive to Survive series has raised the profile of not only Formula One, but of all other motorsports as well. And as the popularity of this content continues to grow on social media and streaming platforms (a five-part NASCAR series is set to hit Netflix in 2024) the licensing of all motorsports is benefitting.

That includes the likes of the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) and the World of Outlaws’ modified and late-model dirt track series, as well as the Shelby automobile brand tied to the late Formula One driver Carroll Shelby.

“The rise of Formula One in the United States has lifted most forms of motorsports,” said Andrew Lieb, president of JRL Group, which represents NHRA and World of Outlaws as well as Shelby for licensing. “Manufacturers, licensees, and retailers have noticed this increased interest by consumers for automotive-themed brands.”

The upcoming Formula One race in Las Vegas (November 19) is expected to produce $500 million in revenue and generate $1.2 billion in economic benefit to the city, said Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei, whose company acquired the racing circuit in 2017. That includes the Netflix Cup (November 14), the streaming service’s first live sporting event that will pit professional golfers against Formula One drivers. And it follows the British Grand Prix having attracted 480,000 attendees in July.

Other motorsports are benefiting from Formula One’s surge in popularity. NASCAR’s social media following has risen 8% from November 2022, though average viewership for the races has been down slightly at 2.86 million. And the NHRA’s U.S. Nationals drag racing event on Fox Sports recently posted its highest viewership since 2017.

That growing engagement has helped drive licensing programs. NASCAR merchandise has expanded its presence at more than 20 retailers, including Dick’s Sporting Goods, Rallyhouse, Hot Topic, Tilly’s, and Boot Barn. It has also landed deals with LEGO and Hurley. The World of Outlaws recently announced an apparel DTR collection with Tilly’s and inked a deal for hot sauce. NHRA moved into automobile accessories in signing a recent agreement for branded caliper covers with MGP Calipers. And JRL Group landed five new licensing deals coming out of the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) automotive gear show in Las Vegas earlier this month, Lieb said.

“There will be more opportunities for licensing and sponsorships over the next few years because I don’t see Formula One slowing down in the U.S. and NHRA and World of Outlaws is expanding,” said Lieb. “Formula One has brought some new interest to the automotive theme, but the love affair with automobiles dates back many years. It has opened the eyes of retailers that they should not ignore this theme of automobiles.”

Indeed, Formula One has spent about $280 million so far on developing its Las Vegas facility, including $8 million in the recently completed third quarter, Maffei said. And the racing group recently paid $313 million for hospitality and travel experiences company QuintEvents, which includes the National Basketball Association (NBA) and commercial rights holder MotoGP among its investors. Formula One’s YouTube channel has 14 million subscribers and its global TV audience averages 70 million, according to Formula One CEO Stefano Domenicali.

“We are building richer and more varied content to satisfy the various types of fans,” said Domenicali. He noted that Formula One is launching a membership program at the Las Vegas race that promises year-round services, including exclusive access to the pit building at each race.

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