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Was the Malaysian Grand Prix just a "marketing exercise"?

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In a recent interview with CNA, former F1 driver Alex Yoong said called the Malaysian Grand Prix a "marketing exercise", and said it wasn't surprising that the event is coming to a wrap a year earlier than expected. But he was of the view that despite not reaping fantastic rewards, it did gain Malaysia some global recognition.Agreeing with the driver that the whole event was a "marketing exercise" was Nick Foley, president, SEA and Japan, Landor Associates. But he added that often the term "marketing exercises" is perceived negatively. However, in a country with unique cultural dynamics, making the decision to invest millions of dollars in the F1 20 years ago took vision and courage. As such, he lauded the Malaysian government's efforts to stage the race in Malaysia.Similarly, Zayn Khan, CEO, Southeast Asia, Dragon Rouge, added that the event was indeed integral in building brand Malaysia.It was part of the mix to help build Brand Malaysia. I think it's a shame that Malaysia will lose a world-class event.He added, "In light of current fiscal realities with the government and the title sponsor Petronas, it was probably inevitable. If the price of oil were still US$100 per barrel, we would not be having this conversation."Malaysia was not the only country to be hit by dwindling numbers. Singapore also saw a drop in attendance with an average of only 73,000 spectators in 2016 when compared to 87,000 spectators in 2015, and 100, 000 in 2008. But now with the cease in operation of the Malaysian GP, will Singapore stand to benefit being the only country in the SEA region to host the races?In the short term, Khan certainly thinks so.He explained that Malaysia's loss could end up being Singapore's gain as the Singapore Grand Prix may see some improvement in initial attendance and sponsorship interest. But the long-term gains are yet to be understood. He said:Whether this increase will be enough to get the event into the black remains to be seen."The young and affluent Asian consumer now has a lot more entertainment and leisure experiences to chose from than they did a couple of years ago. Therefore, the issue is product relevance," he said. And in order to overcome this, F1 needs to tap into deeper insights among this emerging segment and evolve the product to make it worth paying such a big premium for.Foley too agreed that this is an opportunity for Singapore to emerge as the "jewel of Southeast Asia". He added, "This is Singapore's chance to cement its place in the minds of  consumers around the world.  It would be a travesty if the F1 in Singapore disappeared from the world circuit."Foley added:Singapore has invested so much in the F1. Now is not the right time to cash out of that investment. (Photo courtesy: 123RF)  

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