Formula E's inaugural Paris ePrix this weekend will set a new revenue record for local sponsorship deals, helping to fuel a 10-fold increase in the category this season, according to HJ Mai of Sports Business Daily
The race in the French capital has drawn significant local partnership support and is set to beat out London, which had been the most successful event in the series' short history.
"On a day-on-day basis it is bigger than London," said Mike Papadimitriou, Formula E's chief financial officer. The London ePrix was a two-day event. Global payment service provider Visa signed a one-year deal to become the title sponsor of the 2016 Paris ePrix. Organizers were also able to secure French companies Renault, DS Automobiles, Michelin and EDF as official partners. The majority of sponsors already have ties to the series.
Visa, for example, is an official partner of the series after signing a three-year deal in October. Car brands Renault and DS Automobile have agreements with Formula E teams and Michelin is its official tire provider.
EDF, however, seized the opportunity to team up with the world's first fully electric racing series for its home event. The energy company will have a branded grandstand along the temporary racetrack around Les Invalides, Formula E Chief Revenue Officer Sam Piccione said. The former AEG exec, who joined the series six months ago, declined to disclose any financial terms of the deals.
FINAL STRETCH: Saturday's race will mark the beginning of Formula E's final European leg of the '15-16 season. More than 15,000 are expected to attend the year's first sold out race in Paris before finishing the out the season with stops in Berlin, Moscow and London.
Formula E has seen steady growth since its debut in "14, and with only 17 races under its belt the momentum's building, said Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag.
"We've proved everybody wrong," he said. "If they would have told me four years ago that I would be here today, I would have signed immediately."
To handle the increasing interest in the series on the sponsorship and hospitality side, Piccione has assembled a nine-member team. He and his team have been able to bring in more than â‚¬10M ($11.3M) in new local sponsors throughout this season.
That is up from just around â‚¬1M during Formula E's inaugural season, according to a source. "With the new races in Mexico and Paris, the new track location in Berlin and going back to markets like Long Beach and London, we've been able to attract new local sponsors and that's key," Piccione said. "We've grown 60 percent year-on-year to date in hospitality and sponsorship revenue."
U.S. EXCEPTIONALISM: While European brands and cities have been quick to embrace the new racing concept, the U.S. market has yet to make up its mind about Formula E. Jaguar will become the third big European car brand after Renault and DS Automobiles in the series when it joins next season.
German manufacturers BMW, Volkswagen and Audi are already involved in the series through partnership deals.
Miami was dropped from the calendar due to low local support in South Florida, which left Long Beach as the series' lone U.S. event.
Talks about a race in New York are "at an advanced stage," a Formula E spokesperson said.
The series' two American teams, Dragon Racing and Amlin Andretti, both say Formula E needs "at least" a second U.S. race to gain traction in the market. TV viewership for the Long Beach ePrix earlier this month, which aired on FS1, increased by 73% from 109,000 in "15 to 189,000 this year, according to Fox Sports. F1's Bahrain Grand Prix, which aired a day after the Long Beach ePrix, drew 578,000 viewers on NBCSN.
|Faraday Future was the title sponsor of the race in Long Beach, Calif.
ROOM TO GROW: Jay Penske, the founder of Dragon Racing, is confident American involvement will grow going forward, considering two of the U.S.'s biggest media companies are investors in the series, Liberty Global and Discovery Communications.
"In North America you have seen a lot of series come and go," he said.
"There's some patience with some of the manufacturers and also some of the corporations saying, "Hey let's see how this thing develops.'"
Penske is convinced that Formula E is the future of motorsports given the car industry's increasing focus on hybrid and electric vehicles.
"When I had the opportunity, I jumped at it," Penske said, referring to his team's move from IndyCar to Formula E in "14. "And I'm so happy I did."
The series' focus on technology, innovation and sustainability is bringing in industries that have had no prior involvement in motorsports, Piccione said. After failing to land a title partner last season, Los Angeles-based electric car company Faraday Future signed a mid-six figure deal to be the title sponsor of this year's Long Beach ePrix.