Skip to content

Q&A: Circuit of the Americas president Jason Dial on F1 year 2 prep

Nov 15, 2013, 9:00 AM EDT

F1 Fan - Austin Getty Images

As Circuit of the Americas in Austin prepares for its second United States Grand Prix, we had the opportunity to speak with new track president Jason Dial. Dial, a veteran of Procter & Gamble for nearly 20 years and most recently chief marketing officer for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has hit the ground running in his first month.

MST: Given your background, you see sports in several different contexts. How does a “race fan” compare to a “football fan,” per se?

Jason Dial: You realize going in that in F1, or in NASCAR, the fan is avid for different reasons. For a race, you’re usually backing a driver. NFL allegiance is usually skewed toward where you grew up, and since I grew up in Detroit, I was a Red Wings/Lions/Tigers/Pistons. Here, you’re a driver, and certainly in F1, a team fan.

MST: Last year’s race had the huge buildup, but it was also the first major event for a brand new facility. What were the pressures leading into that which you heard?

JD: I’ve been here a month, so I wasn’t here through the opening. But I heard things as simple as making sure the fences and gates were installed correctly, and making sure things were right from an ingress/egress standpoint.

Easy to forget, but 18 months ago this was fields. That’s when I tell people about seeing this place, that the staff worked around the clock to make it work.

This year it’s more planning, and making sure our transportation plan has sufficient infrastructure. We’re thankful that 94 percent said they’ll come back for another race; that’s the thing we need to see to grow our fan base 3-5 years down the road.

source:  MST: How has having 5-6 additional race weekends this year helped the preparation for this weekend? What are some of the great achievements?

JD: We’re celebrating our millionth fan in one year. And that’s an incredible feat on many levels, not just business operations, but really showcasing Austin. I was at Procter & Gamble for 18 and a half years, and you need time to develop a level of critical reach to justify an investment. We want people to say, “Wow, I’m going to Austin.”

MST: How does this race then avoid the so-called “sophomore slump” to sustain the promotional efforts for year two?

JD: I think first of all, 94 percent said they’d come back, but they didn’t say “come back next year.” What we’ve had to do is continue to build awareness and excitement, and expand the experience. We have the fan fest for instance, which is free, and magnifies the entertainment value of Austin. We’ve also built up our digital marketing fairly heavily.

We’re competing for everyone’s time and treasure. If we’re not compelling enough, people won’t come to Austin. F1 is amazing, but everything is amazing. We are integrating a lot more live music, because that is authentically Austin. It’s very important because this is the “live music capital of the world.”

Between the Longhorns (Texas game on Saturday), live music and entertainment, we need to expand our footprint. But having six stages, 12 blocks, music almost all around the clock all free downtown is great to have.

MST: Any concern about the UT game on Saturday?

JD: I don’t think it’s ideal and we tried to avoid the conflict, but to be honest some others come because they are in for the game and wouldn’t otherwise. The reality is that most hotels require a 4-night minimum. So what do you do for the other 3 days?

We know 55 percent of our fans bought tickets from outside the state of Texas. Over 50 percent are coming for first time. We have all 50 states and more than 40 countries in attendance. We’ve done a good job of creating compelling content.

MST: That will transition nicely into asking about ticket sales. Are they on course to match or exceed the first year?

JD: Yes. We’ll be up 30 percent on general admission this year, and new this year, people can buy just the race day ticket. It’s $129 for a GA and up; for $229, a reserved bleacher seat. Our attendance will be very strong, over 250,000 for the three days.

MST: What’s been your racing integration like?

JD: I think what’s great about our calendar of racing, is that it can be very different for different series. F1 versus vintage for instance? It’s pretty amazing to watch the muscle car era around the 3.4 mile track, where you’ve got a Shelby and a Sting Ray battling for the lead! That’s a different fan than the F1 fan.

We need to continue to appeal to a very diverse consumer. What we’re trying to do is think of Circuit of the Americas as an entertainment destination. And it’s always amazing to have (different generations) because that’s what everyone can relate to.

MST: Do you have a particular favorite part of the track?

JD: I’ve only been here a month to see the vintage race. But I’d say based on all the walkthroughs, I like Turn 1 the most, because you’ve got that hairpin after the rocketing up the hill. That one’s probably my favorite. Otherwise Turns 18/19 are very good if you’re elevated. There are several great general admission places.

The drivers love it. When you get drivers raving about the complexity, the challenge, the design, that’s when you know you’ve hit something special. It’s so amazing to watch them go through here. But then to have to break it down really fast, and put it in layman’s terms, I couldn’t believe how challenging it was with a 40 mph go kart up the hill! That gives you a brief idea of how tough it is.

MST: The USGP has, for several reasons, always struggled to “stick” at a single facility. What’s COTA’s “master plan” to ensuring OK, this is it for the next 5-10-15 years?

JD: We’re very confident and the big difference here is only 9,000 of our seats are permanent fixtures. We build to demand. We’re not bound by concrete. But we’re purpose-built for racing and other events as an entertainment destination.

This year you’ll see more high-end hospitality and GA. We’ll read our consumer reviews. That’s part of our DNA from P&G is asking what the consumer wants, and making sure we’re delighting them. People said they want to bring clients in. We have families that love general admission. We’ll be up 30 percent on that.

The calendar of events helps too. A lot of the places that struggled didn’t have 19 concerts to diversify. It’s a portfolio play.

We’re not just F1. We absolutely want to have F1 for foreseeable future, and it’s very important we do. From an international attraction play, we have to showcase how incredible of a brand F1 is.

But we want to make sure we grow our MotoGP event. We have the X Games coming in June. We’ll have another incredible other festival in May we’re getting ready to announce. And the versatility helps us with our television partners, NBC for F1 in this case, to be one of our strategic advantages.

How do we make sure we do this and market the hell out of it? We make it compelling, and sell it to the people.

Latest Posts
  1. Kyle Larson, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan featured in Cottonelle ads (VIDEO)

    Jul 22, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    LarsonCottonelle Getty Images

    Kyle Larson’s got a new house, a new kid on the way and now a new Cottonelle ad he might not be able to live down.

  2. Report: Toto Wolff speaks out against F1′s double points finale

    Jul 22, 2014, 10:08 AM EDT

    Spanish F1 Grand Prix - Practice Getty Images

    Mercedes’ Toto Wolff calls double points “unfair.”

  3. IndyCar: Toronto weekend analysis, musings and observations

    Jul 22, 2014, 9:25 AM EDT

    TorontoAnalysis Getty Images

    MST’s Tony DiZinno recaps the weekend in Toronto, that featured a host of surprises.

  4. IndyCar: Gaps grow, but few major changes in points over last month

    Jul 22, 2014, 8:26 AM EDT

    TorontoLeadPts Getty Images

    The stretch of six races in four weekends is over, as is the stretch of doubleheader weekends for the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season. Here’s the points breakdown.

  5. Chase Elliott keeps winning, but he’s not finished capturing checkered flags this season by any stretch

    Jul 22, 2014, 1:38 AM EDT

    Chase Elliott after Saturday's win at Chicagoland Speedway. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) AP

    With the third win of his rookie Nationwide Series career, Chase Elliott continued to make it look easy in this past Saturday night’s EnjoyIllinois.com 300 at Chicagoland Speedway.

  6. NASCAR: Bubba Wallace prepares for Eldora’s “Mudsummer Classic” (VIDEO)

    Jul 21, 2014, 8:05 PM EDT

    (Photo: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images) Getty Images

    For Wallace and his Truck Series rivals, racing on dirt presents a different set of challenges – and thus requires a different way to train.

  7. NASCAR’s Brian France on RTA’s formation: “We didn’t think it was necessary”

    Jul 21, 2014, 7:01 PM EDT

    Brian France AP

    In a satellite radio interview, France shared his thoughts on the consortium of NASCAR’s most powerful teams.

  8. IMSA: IndyCar rookie Hawksworth to make sports car debut in Brickyard GP

    Jul 21, 2014, 6:02 PM EDT

    Jack Hawksworth AP

    Jack Hawksworth will co-drive the No. 08 Prototype Challenge car for RSR Racing in Friday’s IMSA event on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

  9. Eldora and Indy putting a lot on Tony Stewart’s plate

    Jul 21, 2014, 5:10 PM EDT

    Will the 16th time be the charm for Tony Stewart in Sunday's Daytona 500? Getty Images

    Between his Eldora Speedway hosting the Truck Series and then competing at Indianapolis this weekend in Sprint Cup, Stewart’s in the middle of a busy week.

  10. Everything you need to know for Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at Indy

    Jul 21, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT

    Juan Pablo Montoya AP

    All the notes and numbers to keep in mind for NASCAR’s visit to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

  11. Hamlin best among NASCAR trio in American Century Champ. golf tourney (PHOTOS)

    Jul 21, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    Pocono 400 - Practice Getty Images

    One last bit of fun for Hamlin, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Michael Waltrip before the Sprint Cup Series returns to action at Indianapolis.

  12. Brickyard 400 ad promises “roundhouse of awesome, square in your facehole” (VIDEO)

    Jul 21, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT

    Ryan Newman AP

    Indianapolis Motor Speedway delivers a bizarre take on the classic “Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!” ads.

  13. Back to Bark River: TORC returns to Michigan’s U.P. (SPOILER)

    Jul 21, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT

    TORCLogo

    Writer’s Note: The following is a recap of this weekend’s TORC: The Off-Road Championship races from Bark River, Michigan. NBCSN will air the races on Sun., Aug. 3, at 1:30 p.m. ET. If you don’t want to know who won until then, we suggest you find another post to read here on MotorSportsTalk…

  14. IndyCar: Chevy captures doubleheader podium sweep in Toronto

    Jul 21, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    ChevyTOR Getty Images

    Chevrolet dominates the results sheet for IndyCar in Toronto.

  15. Pirelli World Challenge’s GT classes double up in Canada (SPOILER)

    Jul 21, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    WC

    Writer’s Note: The following is a recap of this weekend’s Pirelli World Challenge races from the streets of Toronto. NBCSN will broadcast the Toronto races on Sunday, Aug. 10, at 1:30 p.m. ET. If you don’t want to know who won until then, we suggest you find another post to read here on MotorSportsTalk…

  16. IndyCar: Coyne, SFHR, RLL tire gambles come up snake eyes in Toronto

    Jul 21, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    WilsonTORlead Getty Images

    Quartet of Hondas could have stolen the second of the Honda Indy Toronto races if not for the final red flag.

  17. IndyCar: Penske pair edge ahead in points at end of Toronto weekend

    Jul 21, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    PenskeTOR AP

    Podiums and successful damage limitation pay dividends for Team Penske teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves in Toronto.

  18. Conway: I had to be calm and seize my moment

    Jul 21, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    ConwayTOR3 AP

    Opportunistic Mike Conway and Ed Carpenter Racing delivered on their opportunity to succeed once again in Toronto.

  19. Bourdais conquers the seven-year road back to an IndyCar race win

    Jul 21, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

    BourdaisTOR12 AP

    Sebastien Bourdais is back to winning form in the Verizon IndyCar Series – and that’s a good thing for him and the series.

  20. Button: I overreacted to Hamilton’s overtake

    Jul 21, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Germany - Qualifying Getty Images

    JB and Lewis went toe-to-toe in Germany, and although Button wasn’t pleased at first, he soon realised he overreacted.