The Isle of Man TT returns in June after a two-year absence thanks to the coronavirus pandemic – but when one of motorsport’s most historic events does return, it will be a very different event thanks to a series of twisted changes to the future, according to TT Business Development Manager Paul Phillips.
These changes were first showcased last year, as Phillips and his team used the two-year hiatus to consider the future of racing from multiple angles and chart out comprehensive changes ranging from TV coverage in live for the very first time to a host of new measures designed to enhance the safety of competitors.
Speaking exclusively to The Race, the Manx native said traditional fans of the event might find it looks very different in 2022 – but the change is needed to secure a race’s future which has been repeatedly threatened during its 114-year history.
“It’s a weird feeling,” he admitted of the extended break the race took, the longest since World War II, “because when it was canceled and then canceled again, I felt like she was so far from reproducing..
“We used that time so well, to do critical work that we might never have had the opportunity to do otherwise, we really went out there and we were really proactive and focused, and we did a very good work. And now, all of a sudden, it’s like five months from now!
“For me personally, a mix of not having done it for two years and the fear of failure and the stress of childbirth means I have a wobble right now! Not having done it during a three-year gap, and doing it after a three-year gap with almost everything different, and a lot more ambition means it’s a bit unnerving at the moment.
“But I think that’s a good thing, because if you were sitting here complacent or if you just turned tools off and turned them back on exactly as they were after two years, that would be mediocre. Fear is a good scare; if you’re a TT participant – not just a rider, but a team, a journalist, a sponsor, someone who’s part of making it happen, then you really need to understand the changes because they’re so fundamental in all aspects.
“If you come into it expecting it to be the same thing and things happening at the same time in the same place, it’s going to be difficult for you because so many things are different.”
So what do these changes entail? Well, while the most important might be a whole new proactive look at the safety of the event, one that will obviously please fans is the planned live TV coverage of the event – a complete change of direction for a race that has traditionally been difficult to follow. , especially outside of its traditional market in the UK and Ireland.
Yet while this might be the main element of the new digital content plan that Phillips and his team are conceiving, he is quick to point out that it is actually just one element of a broader strategy that will fundamentally reinvent the TT and bring it in line with other sports.
“The whole approach to content,” he explained, “of which live TV is a part, is going to be the biggest change, along with the approach to security and risk management. Those are the two biggest game changers. But everything down to the smallest detail has probably changed.
“Being a digital entertainment brand is first and foremost a fundamental shift in who we are and what we do. It’s really ambitious in terms of the scale of doing that through TT, and how tricky it is in terms of landscape, culture and technical infrastructure, but also in terms of breaking the mould.We are not breaking a mold in terms of sport, but we are in terms of TT and road racing.
“What we do is actually a textbook in terms of sports; there is almost nothing innovative. It’s just innovative for the TT. In terms of resources, both human and financial, it’s big for us, but it’s really exciting. All purchases are available by the minute for many things, and there will be a good two or three hundred people working on content creation at the next TT, be it TV, radio or digital.
This is somewhat at odds with the somewhat traditional and conservative orientation of the TT, even in recent times, but it is also clear that the team in charge of the event believe this is the only way to ensure the long-term viability of the race as the world emerges into a post-pandemic landscape.
“You can’t succeed in the digital age without being a digital brand,” insisted Phillips. “It’s not open for discussion. It’s just a fact.
“The TT went through a decade and a half of growth from a low starting point using methods that were appropriate at the time and worked for us. But if you go back, it was pre-use. -wide of social media.
“It feels like yesterday, but when I started, I wouldn’t have dreamed of using Facebook. If the TT did not change, it would be discovered, and it [the change] Is exciting.
“The big opportunity for us to gain traction in the motorsport property rankings is that our event has so much history, so many interesting characters, and it’s so spectacular. Those three things together are the magic ingredients. The part about creating and delivering the content is almost the easiest, if you didn’t have those ingredients, the other job is so much harder.
“For me, Dakar is probably the best comparison, because there are so many similarities in terms of history, danger, rough terrain, pros and amateurs, once a year. It belongs to ASO [French company Amaury Sport Organisation] and they know what they are doing; they really succeeded. Maybe there are things of what they’ve done with the reinvention of this brand that we can look to.
It’s not the easiest thing in the world to deliver, mind you, partly because of the nature of the event and partly because of the rather unique position Phillips finds himself in. Not a race organizer in the traditional sense, but more of an Isle of Man government official, he admitted the combination of that and the somewhat conservative attitudes in road racing have made it more difficult.
“There is always noise around the TT change,” admitted the Manxman. “It’s the perfect storm of traditional sport with a traditional fan base on a traditional island with, and as a Manx I can say, a race that doesn’t always like change and is a bit wired against it. However, if you think back to some of the things we’ve had resistance to in the past, here we’re giving more to the fans.
“They like racing and we give them more racing. More access to their heroes. More behind-the-scenes access to it all. More than they’ve ever had before, and we’re doing the vast majority of it for free. There might not be too much to get upset about, as it’s basically designed to build more and more new fans – but if you’re a die-hard, fully-registered TT fan, we’re giving you more of what you want.
“Not just this year in terms of content, but in 2023 there will also be more races. In many ways we are going back to basics. We know some of the mistakes we have made around the TT in the past, and we know we need to serve our traditional fan base better. What’s nirvana is being able to provide what new fans need while satisfying old fans, and I think we’ve come a long way there.
Yet while there may be a need for a mindset shift not just at the level of organizers, but among those responsible for delivering the TT, it’s a shift that Phillips seems up to. present confident that it will be able to deliver at the beginning of June.
“A successful TT has many things,” he replied when asked what would imply success in the first year of the drastically revised event.
“First, we have to put it on. It’s always a tricky world to operate by the minute; I speak to you from COVID isolation. We have to set it up, achieve it and successfully bring it back. We have to deliver the event that we knew before, but also carry out all these new initiatives.
“We have the opportunity to strive for excellence in what we do over the past two years, and I really want us to improve our game in all areas to provide a better experience for our fans and the people who take part in it. We want to make sure people returning to the TT or coming for the first time leave equally impressed and as strong advocates of the direction it is headed.
“We need to make sure we return profits to the really hard hit tourism and hospitality sectors after the last two years and a bit. The TT is very important to them and they need a successful TT that delivers visitors, and I want us to deliver our security management system according to what we have planned, both the elements that it contains and the beginning of this cultural change, which is a never-ending thing, but we have to start the journey and 2022 marks the beginning of it.
“It’s quite daunting because it’s a mix of getting back to basics and reviving an event, which will look like a success, but realizing the potential and the ambition of what we’re doing is really important. for me and my colleagues.