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. Jamin (USF2000), Cooper (PWC GTS) win first two races of weekend at Mid-Ohio

    Jul 31, 2015, 6:39 PM EDT

    Photo: Tony DiZinno Photo: Tony DiZinno

    Jamin, Cooper emerge victorious to kick off the weekend at Mid-Ohio.

  2. Nasr: Sauber must remain patient for updates

    Jul 31, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    xxxx during the Formula One Grand Prix of Hungary at Hungaroring on July 26, 2015 in Budapest, Hungary. Getty Images

    Nasr calls on the team to make it through a rough patch ahead of the next raft of updates in Belgium.

  3. Dixon fastest on Friday at Mid-Ohio

    Jul 31, 2015, 4:35 PM EDT

    © INDYCAR © INDYCAR

    The Mid-Ohio dominator tops Friday practice in 2015.

  4. Verstappen joins sim racing team to complement F1 duties

    Jul 31, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 26:  Max Verstappen of Scuderia Toro Rosso and The Netherlands during the Formula One Grand Prix of Hungary at Hungaroring on July 26, 2015 in Budapest, Hungary.  (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Verstappen joins Team Redline’s sim racing roster in a bid to keep sharp when not on the track.

  5. Friday Mid-Ohio news and notes: Walker fallout, Honda update, an extra Sonoma car?

    Jul 31, 2015, 2:57 PM EDT

    © INDYCAR © INDYCAR

    Some news and notes from the paddock at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

  6. Formula E team names revealed for season two; Trulli yet to confirm line-up

    Jul 31, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    Nextev TCRs German driver Nelson Piquet JR (C) drives during the final race of the 2015 FIA Formula E London ePrix championship at Battersea Park in London, England, on June 28, 2015. AFP PHOTO / IAN KINGTON        (Photo credit should read IAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    We round up all of the latest news and developments in Formula E ahead of pre-season testing next month.

  7. Hakkinen: Vettel a danger to Mercedes in title fight

    Jul 31, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    xxxx during the Formula One Grand Prix of Hungary at Hungaroring on July 26, 2015 in Budapest, Hungary. Getty Images

    With victory in Hungary, Vettel closed the gap at the top to 42 points – but can he catch Lewis Hamilton and challenge for a fifth world title?

  8. Bourdais quickest in opening practice at Mid-Ohio

    Jul 31, 2015, 12:07 PM EDT

    © INDYCAR © INDYCAR

    First blood to Bourdais in practice at Mid-Ohio ahead of Power and Newgarden.

  9. Hinchcliffe undergoes final surgery, now “can’t wait to be strapping back in”

    Jul 31, 2015, 10:24 AM EDT

    © INDYCAR © INDYCAR

    Hinchcliffe’s recovery continues following his accident in practice for the Indy 500 back in May.

  10. Gutierrez working hard to get back on F1 grid in 2016 as Haas speculation continues

    Jul 31, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT

    MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 24:  Esteban Gutierrez of Mexico and Ferrari looks on in the garage during a team filming day at Circuit de Catalunya on February 24, 2015 in Montmelo, Spain.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Gutierrez claims his work in a reserve role at Ferrari is helping to open up some new opportunities for 2016.

  11. With 2016 plans undetermined, Newgarden focused on finishing 2015 strong

    Jul 31, 2015, 8:42 AM EDT

    NewgyTORwin Getty Images

    Josef Newgarden’s future will become a talking point at some stage, but it appears it will be after the season.

  12. Tickets for German GP at Hockenheim to go on sale

    Jul 30, 2015, 5:11 PM EDT

    Mercedes-AMG's German driver and race winner Nico Rosberg (C) celebrates next to second placed Williams' Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas (L) and Mercedes-AMG's British driver Lewis Hamilton (R) after the German Formula One Grand Prix at the Hockenheimring racing circuit in Hockenheim, southern Germany, on July 20, 2014.     AFP PHOTO / CHRISTOF STACHE        (Photo credit should read CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Discounted tickets set to go on sale this Friday in a bid to improve attendance figures.

  13. Exploring what’s next for Derrick Walker as he announces he’s leaving IndyCar

    Jul 30, 2015, 4:48 PM EDT

    Photo: © INDYCAR Photo: © INDYCAR

    Derrick Walker on the prowl for whatever’s next in his long racing career.

  14. Power refusing to give up in IndyCar title defense

    Jul 30, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    © INDYCAR © INDYCAR

    Despite running fifth in the standings with three races to go, Power hasn’t given up on retaining the no. 1 for 2016.

  15. Drivers unfazed by longer F1 calendar in 2016

    Jul 30, 2015, 2:22 PM EDT

    xxxx during previews to the Formula One Grand Prix of Hungary at Hungaroring on July 23, 2015 in Budapest, Hungary. Getty Images

    The 2016 F1 season is set to swell to a record 21 races.

  16. Ericsson pleased with first ten races at Sauber, but regrets missed opportunities

    Jul 30, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT

    BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 26:  Marcus Ericsson of Sweden and Sauber F1 drives ahead of Felipe Nasr of Brazil and Sauber F1 during the Formula One Grand Prix of Hungary at Hungaroring on July 26, 2015 in Budapest, Hungary.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Ericsson reflects on his first half-season with Sauber that has brought his first points in F1, but also presented some missed opportunities.

  17. MRTI: Seven races on tap for Indy Lights, Pro Mazda, USF2000 in critical weekend

    Jul 30, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT

    MazdaRoadToIndy

    With seven races at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course this weekend, it’s an important one for the entire Mazda Road to Indy.