MotoGP’s growing commitment to Asia


Joe Jones, Marketing and Event Coordinator

Who said this? “They make me feel like a Rockstar”; In 2018 there are few sports that can be likened to the previous statement, but the colossal boom of MotoGP in Asia has seen the personalities at the pinnacle of motorbike racing compared to some of the all-time greats of rock. Valentino Rossi, Marc Marquez and Maverick Viñales are swarmed at airports and frequently need police motorcades to get from event to event.
MotoGP heads to Thailand, Japan and Malaysia in the coming weeks, and without a doubt the crowds will gather at the prospect of their favourite sport. Although WorldSBK has been to the Buriram International Circuit in Thailand for several seasons, this will be MotoGP’s first venture into Thailand. With over 100,000 fans expected to attend on race day (WorldSBK drew 80,000 for their inaugural race at the Chang circuit), the appetite for racing in Asia is clearly endemic.

South East Asia is particularly hungry for more racing action; Malaysian rider Khairul Idham Pawi’s first MotoGP win back in 2016 drew more website traffic for than any other Moto3 or Moto2 piece, and would put the traffic numbers on multiple other MotoGP related articles to shame. The desire for racing in South East Asia is further supported by the constant sell-out of the Sepang Circuit for the annual Malaysian Grand Prix. Such was the response to MotoGP, the circuit eventually decided to drop the Formula 1 round as of 2018.

F1 may draw impressive crowds in China and Singapore, but MotoGP is unmatched in Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia. Motorcycles are at the heart of local everyday lives and there’s nothing more they want to see than two-wheeled action. It really is an accessible and relatable sport for all in the region
Evidently, the importance of Asia cannot be underplayed. For several seasons now the Repsol Honda outfit have been holding a team launch event in Indonesia – such is the importance of that market. Yet, the majority of sponsors adorning the sides of the various bikes in the paddock remain largely ‘European focused’, particularly in the premier class. Moto2 and Moto3 has several title sponsors from Asia, but aside from Takaaki Nakagami, respective Asian brands have generally enjoyed more discreet logo positioning  to the belly pan, sometimes lost in the multitude of smaller supplier and partner logos.
This is all set to change in 2019 when Petronas return to the grid as the title sponsor for the SIC Team, a truly ambitious project which sees them take over the running of the satellite Yamaha outfit. Given the success of the SIC Team in Moto2 and Moto3, Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli will likely draw that same rock star treatment enjoyed by Vale and Marquez when they touch down for pre-season testing. For Malaysian giant Petronas, this is a great addition to their stable alongside the hugely successful Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team.

Dorna, the commercial rights holder for MotoGP, understands the importance of the Asian Market and the need to have a strong source of Asian talent, which have been sorely missed on the grid since the age of the Japanese lightweight stars like Harada, Ui and Ueda. To combat this, Dorna and Honda created the Asia Talent Cup in 2014. The Asia Talent Cup helps riders from the continent compete on Grand Prix circuits on Grand Prix bikes, with the top riders often earning a spot in the Asia Talent Team, Spanish championships, or a run in the Red Bull Rookies Cup – all one step closer to MotoGP.
While a participant of the Asia Talent Cup is yet to reach MotoGP, the likes of Ayumu Sasaki, Kaito Toba, Kazuki Masaki and several others have raised eyebrows and are helping to bring more and more Asian riders – and sponsors – to the grid. This, in combination with the effort of the SIC Team, is sure to guarantee that Khairul Idham Pawi won’t be the only Asia-born rider to relish in a MotoGP victory.
Shell, and Idemitsu, have both benefited hugely from associating themselves with the Asia Talent Cup. Support of grass roots sporting activities and being seen to help elevate local talent to the world stage provides an incredibly positive message that a company, such as Shell and Idemitsu, can share to demonstrate their support for the sporting communities and tribes who regularly invest in their products and services, further strengthening top of mind awareness and purchase consideration.
Now, what about that rumoured return to Indonesia…