By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) - Formula E boss Alejandro Agag is putting reach before revenue, and casting an envious glance at the Ultimate Fighting Championship and Conor McGregor, as he seeks to grow his electric car racing series.
The Spaniard told reporters on Wednesday that Formula E, which starts its fourth season in Hong Kong on Dec.2, was ramping up the marketing spend.
That means investing up to 40 million euros ($47 million) a year on promotion and remaining as freely accessible as possible.
"We make some money from media rights but our priority is reach," explained Agag. "We need to build a fan base. We've been studying a lot what happened with UFC, which is kind of the last big success new sport.
"That took 20 years and the TV following of UFC was quite low and quite flat for a long time, but the fan base was growing and growing.
"And suddenly boom! The TV grows and meets the fan base. So now we need to grow our fan base and the TV results will come. In three, four, five years we should have a really significant television following."
Created in 1993, the UFC boasts of being the world's fastest growing sport and largest pay-per-view event provider with a long-running reality TV show also taking it to mainstream audiences.
McGregor, who lost a big money boxing bout against Floyd Mayweather last August that still made him tens of millions, is the big name.
Agag said having such a 'rock star' attraction was important but they were also a product of the sport.
"We need to put Formula E in a position where our drivers are famous because they race in a great championship," said the Spaniard.
"We have 'rock stars' already but we need to make Formula E bigger so the rock star can be seen by 100 million people."
Formula E's current drivers are mostly a mixture of ex-Formula One drivers and younger men coming from junior categories.
The series is attracting increasing commercial interest, however, with Porsche, Mercedes and Nissan set to join a cast of other manufacturers.
Agag said the sport had reached the point where prominent companies, such as long-term Formula One sponsor Hugo Boss, were making the first move.
The German fashion brand emailed Agag's office in June seeking more information about Formula E and their switch was announced this week.
"It's because these companies are looking for alternatives to position themselves well in what is coming," explained Agag.
The lower rate card was attractive, but other concerns also came into play.
"I think there is the perception that this is where the future is going," said Agag.
"Every company, in whatever sector, is trying to prepare themselves for the future, but they don't know what the future looks like. One of the few things that they know is going to be the future is electric mobility.
"So they look around, and they see Formula E and they call us. It's not that we have to go and look for the sponsors."
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)