Interview with Goodwood Festival of Speed General Manager Dan Garlick and Sponsorship Director Mark Fetherstone
Somehow it didn’t seem a surprise when I learned that the man in charge of overseeing the Goodwood Festival of speed (FOS) is an ex-RAF pilot who spent the first part of his career flying Tornado jets.
Aside from the fact that it must require nerves of steel to deliver an event of such scale, it was more the thought of the military style planning that goes into the project and stakeholder management.
For Dan Garlick – General Manager for FOS – any signs of stress or fatigue leading up to the festival, barely register in his demeanour. At all times during our meeting, he seems to be thriving in the buzz and excitement, witnessing the culmination of 10,000 contractors putting the finishing touches on an exhibition site that completely transforms the grounds of the Goodwood estate.
A few weeks earlier I had driven up the driveway to the house, flanked by a field of grazing sheep, taking in the tranquil ambience of the stately setting. At that point it was hard to imagine I was travelling up the famous hill climb, where assorted racing and sports cars would seek to break the 41.6 second record set in 1995 by Nick Heidfeld in a McLaren Formula 1 car.
Pretty soon the hill climb and other related track would be lined by 9,000 bales of hay, each retained by three sturdy stakes separating spectators from speeding cars. The bales the first step in a masterplan to build the event, including: 15 kilometres of metal trackway, many kilometres of electric caballing, water tanks and an underground reservoir carrying a million litres of water. The latter a new measure to offer free drinking water, as part of Goodwood’s commitment to build sustainability and avoid tonnes of plastic bottle waste.
Strategic and tactical
For Dan, planning a festival begins some 3-years out, strategically looking ahead to the anniversaries and themes likely to coincide with future years. 2019, for example, will see exhibits from Bentley and Citroen celebrating their centenaries.
Such an approach is a relatively new measure. Seven to eight years ago, it was more a case of delivering each event, then taking it easy during the summer and autumn, before an all hands to the pump rush to get things ready for the following year.
Few areas are more planned than the curation of the exhibition cars, with a high-bar set to ensure exacting provenance and complementarity. According to Garlick, it’s an area that the Duke of Richmond - Goodwood’s owner and FOS host – likes to get personally involved in.
While many cars are selected and sourced a couple of years ahead, other exhibits are collated on a tactical or reactive basis – for example, this year’s event includes a photography tribute to celebrate Formula 1 legend Niki Lauda, who passed away in May.
The need to respond to external events is a principle that has become more important as Goodwood faces the reality that Manufacturers are eschewing traditional motor shows, as they juggle competing investment pressures and spread budgets across an increasingly global and Asian customer base.
While Goodwood seem to be bucking this trend, they are also up against competing demands for family entertainment and share of wallet. One notable local competitor is CarFest – a hybrid music, cars and food festival that attracts 100k visitors across two separate sites, one a short distance from Goodwood.
When it comes to responding to market demands, Sponsorship Director Mark Fetherstone says, “we’re very much aware of the financial pressures our clients are under and we take this into account when agreeing multi-year contracts, with break agreements in place to encourage a longer-term strategic partnership that acknowledges not all manufacturers have product to launch and promote each and every year.”
That focus on value also extends to a strategic goal to deliver support beyond the four-day event “offering year-round opportunities through our web site and social coverage as well as constantly reviewing content themes and activations.”
“Having listened to clients, we’ve introduced some key changes, including the format of our Moving Motor Show, a feature that used to see visitors queue up for hill climb rides in manufacturer cars. While hugely popular, it all required a lot of effort, distracting resource from the task of gathering sales leads for cars. This year will see a reduced number of manufacturer hill climb rides, with journeys allocated to selected car buying customers and competition winners. It also means we can run a broader mix of hill climbs, involving speciality cars and motorsports celebrities.”
As Fetherstone continues, “the aim is to deliver a family friendly festival vibe, with action-packed activities and themed areas that provide a backdrop to world class cars and motorsports.”
It's this interactive and live dynamic delivered over a grand outdoors scale, that makes Goodwood such a difficult formula for other motor shows to cover.
Proving ROI is key
With 50% of event revenues generated from sponsorship and exhibitors – the other 50% split equally between ticket sales and hospitality – Fetherstone’s team have also begun to place an increasing emphasis on proving ROI.
Sponsors now have access to a huge amount of data to demonstrate the media value and sales leads generated over the four days, “data starts with electronically tracking footfall to every stand, as well as recording leads and enquiries generated, test drives booked and, in some cases, attributable sales. We can even track footfall around key features like the central sculpture (a focal point at the event that is sponsored by a different manufacturer every year). Working with Mazda, who featured on the central feature in 2015, we were able to prove a media value in the region of twelve times the investment.
Tracking attendees and spectators is also made possible through Goodwood’s mobile App, which launched last year. Aside from providing a guide to the event, the App also tracks a wealth of geo-location data, monitoring where visitors originate from, their journey to the event and their footfall across the grounds.
Such a focus on proving return appears to have paid off, with 2019 one of the most successful years yet for attracting manufacturers and sponsorship. This year will feature 58 significant partners, as well as a return for brands like Audi who declined to attend in 2018. It also sees a host of non-traditional automotive brands including electronic gaming brand Forza Horizon 2 Lego Speed Racers, as well as Samsung, Vodafone and Huawei taking a presence near Future Lab. The latter an exhibition of future technology sweeping the world of urban living, autonomy and car connectivity.
Speak to any manufacturer Marketing Director at the event and the phrase UK's Motor Show and Festival of Speed seem to be almost interchangeable. Its a brand association that affords Goodwood a unique marketing advantage. While Goodwood run a modicum of above the line and online advertising - mainly outdoor railway station posters and digital display - the majority of effort goes into relationship marketing and cross-marketing at events.
Mark Fetherstone, cites the Goodwood Road Racing Club (GRRC) as instrumental in building Goodwood's fanbase; a membership club that provides exclusive offers to Goodwood events, including the annual Members Meeting race weekend.
More recently they launched the Goodwood Breakfast Club, an informal series of car meets for owners and admirers of selected themed cars, be they supercars, V8s, classics or other. According to Fetherstone 50% of people attending the breakfast club have yet to attend a paid Goodwood motoring event and therefore represent a substantial captive pool of future Festival of Speed or Revival attendees.
This sense of recycling visitors and building sustainable marketing platforms is a brand-led ethos that has a direct crossover to their events strategy. As the 2019 Festival of Speed gets underway this week, Dan Garlick is very much aware that once it's over, he has just two weeks to clear the grounds to get them back to tranquility.
Included in the process is a huge focus on recycling - the 31-tonne central feature sculpture has been recycled every year but one in FOS's 26-year history. The protective hale bales are used on the adjoining Goodwood farm. And in a bid to build for future years, targets are set for tree-planting and environmental improvements.
In more ways than one, Goodwood is building for the future.