The all-electric E1 powerboating series successfully launched earlier this month (February 3) with the E1 World Championship in Jeddah being won by American Football legend Tom Brady’s team after two days of racing on the Red Sea.
The self-proclaimed “world’s first all-electric race boat championship” saw eight teams compete with speeds above 50 knots (92kph / 57 mph), with Team Brady pilots Sam Coleman and Emma Kimiläinen coming back to defeat day one leaders Team Miami, who are owned by singer-songwriter Marc Anthony, with cricket superstar Virat Kohli’s Team Blue Rising coming third.
The inaugural season continues in Venice from May 11 to 12, eventually ending with a race in Hong Kong from November 9 to 10.
Other E1 teams confirmed so far are owned by the likes of soccer’s Didier Drogba, Formula 1’s Sergio Perez, tennis star Rafael Nadal, and US music producer Steve Aoki, with E1 using celebrity involvement as a means of driving interest in the series.
With preparations already beginning for the next race in Venice, E1’s chief commercial officer Rupert Hunter explains the series’ strategy for sustainable global growth via partnerships with celebrities, brands, cities, and broadcasters.
What is your partnership strategy?
"We're not dissimilar to most motorsport series or sports franchises in so far as we are very focused on introducing partners and sponsors into the championship and across our events as well.
"For lots of reasons there's a commercial aspect to it, but at the same time, we want to create the opportunity for brands and broader stakeholders and investors to essentially utilize E1 as a powerful platform to communicate really important messages around sustainability and the electrification of the marine industry.
"When we talk about partners, typically we would naturally immediately think of sponsors and brands, but actually when I think about partners, I'm thinking as much about our city hosts, who will be our partners in this endeavor, and in terms of the right locations and environments for us to race and to promote those messages."
What is your broadcast strategy?
"We are very focused on securing the broadest possible distribution that we can and that is a function of playing on the fact that we've created a brand new sporting proposition, which is ultimately highly entertaining, very competitive, very dynamic, and will make very compelling viewing.
"I think the other interesting aspect of E1 and the championship is, that not only do we have a very robust and compelling sports proposition, but we are interested in lifestyle and entertainment concepts as well, which I think will broaden the appeal of what we're doing beyond a traditional sports audience to an audience that is as interested in sustainability, electrification, the lifestyle aspects of these incredibly iconic cities that were racing in. That's one critical aspect of the overall strategy.
"We were as interested in our partnership with [video-streaming platform] Twitch, which is a different audience base that is young and aspirational and connected and very well informed about what's going on in the world. And the natural racing component of the E1 proposition I think will naturally appeal to gamers.
"We're certainly very focused on thinking strategically about how we build that out and think about a more developed gaming strategy as we move forward.
"I would say that of equal importance is what we're going to do digitally and socially, for all the obvious reasons, and I'm no different to any other rights holder in that respect, but there's just a reality to the way that people are consuming content and we need to be super relevant in that respect."
How do you decide who to approach in terms of ownership?
"The large number of our celebrities that have some sort of sports connection was natural in the sense that the competitive aspect of what we're creating was super appealing to iconic sports stars, as well as getting them focused on everything that we stand for and everything we represent.
"It's ultimately about creating a super competitive racing series and what's going to drive that forward is having competitive and focused team owners who know exactly how to encourage their teams and focus their minds and create the sort of energy around winning that is going to be a key component to the championship.
"So that was an obvious place for us to look, but beyond that, we wanted to appeal to a broader audience, so it made sense to look at people within the world of entertainment.
"Having that sort of flavor is important, that blend of sport and entertainment, lifestyle, and music, because ultimately our events will reflect that. And beyond that, we wanted to try and create the most international flavor that we can and to globalize E1 through that.
"So obviously whether it's Tom Brady, being the legend that he is and as iconic as he is in the US, through Virat Kohli, who is on an equal level of iconic status in India, and represents a completely different culture and different part of the world in a different geography, and Didier Drogba the same.
"I think we've only just started in that respect because we are thinking truly internationally and globally and we want to be able to connect with fans all over the world, across all disciplines in the sports, lifestyle, music, and entertainment space, so I think there's more to come."
How do you plan to target the entire globe without overstretching yourself, or do you aim to start with Europe and MENA?
"We want to be able to be relevant to everyone in the world, because ultimately, the mission and the message that we have is such a powerful one that everyone will be able to relate to, and it is equally as important for everyone around the world.
"We want to expand and attract celebrities from all corners so that we'll be able to introduce a new audience to what we're trying to achieve and what our core objectives are, as well as having the benefit of races taking place in those markets, and celebrities that they can relate to that are part of this incredible new movement that is the E1 World Championship.
"We haven't wanted to overstretch as we get the whole championship up and running. But I think if you were to look at a world map, we've got great foundations in North, Central, South America, Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia.
We've already got a fantastic geographic spread, but there's more to come and a wider audience to talk to, so that's certainly informing the way that we're thinking about expansion, both about teams and race locations."
What challenges do you anticipate facing with E1 this year and how do you plan to overcome them?
"Not only are we launching a new world championship, but we're also creating a new sport, in the sense that this is the first truly international electric powerboat championship.
"So we are innovating and pioneering and breaking down barriers. So I'm sure as every Formula 1 team will tell you, and every Formula E team and any team in the world of motorsport, you'll come across hurdles along the way, but you're always going to back yourself to manage yourself around them.
"I think we've got the right people, and the right mindset, and the right broader strategy to deal with them as and when we get confronted by them."
Last month Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) announced a new partnership with Formula E, Extreme E, and E1, can you go into more detail about the PIF Electric 360 deal?
"It's an incredibly exciting partnership, not just for E1, but also for Formula E and Extreme E, and I think for PIF, I would suggest that it's pretty unique in world sport, for lots of obvious reasons.
"But the opportunity to bring those three relatively new championships together to create a platform for an organization like PIF to promote causes and messages that they feel very strongly about is an incredibly humbling and rewarding opportunity for the three championship series.
"It's something that has been in discussions for months and months so it was particularly rewarding to celebrate the announcement on Monday alongside PIF Formula E and Extreme E.
"I think it sends a really powerful message to the world about what it is that we stand for as a collective of electric motorsport properties, and what it is that PIF stands for, and want to represent and want to associate themselves with and we share so many of the same values and objectives and are on a shared mission together to do all the things that we've discussed in terms of that promotion of electrification and a more sustainable future."
Can you name a recent brand partnership success?
"We've got some fantastic partners already on board, whether it's Mercury Racing, Navico, Kreisel our battery provider, Sparco, McLaren Applied, or QiOn, who are providing our charges.
"We're also very excited to be partnering with Lucid Motors for our first-ever race in Jeddah, they’re one of the most premium brands in the world, let alone in the automotive industry.
"So we've got some incredible partners, and I think that again, it's only the beginning and I think that the announcement that we had with PIF is a signal of things to come. I think we feel like we're on the threshold of something really exciting and truly unique. I think that we're very excited about how the future looks on the partnership side."