How Dorna Hit Its Top Speed During COVID-19

Motorcycle racer
All images courtesy of Dorna Sports.
How Dorna Hit Its Top Speed During COVID-19

MotoGP™ is the world’s highest division of motorcycle racing. MotoGP races also make for an edge of your seat spectator experience, with riders like Andrea Dovizioso hitting record speeds of 356.5 km/hour during the 2018 Italian Grand Prix. In short, it is a thrilling sport for riders and fans alike.

As the commercial rights holder for MotoGP, Dorna is a major player in sports management, media, and entertainment, and holds an enviable position among its competitors. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has put all live sports on hold for the foreseeable future, presenting the company with a unique set of challenges. Dorna needed to fill the gap on digital channels created by a racing season on hiatus, plus keep production running so that fans and subscribers would remain engaged during these uncertain times.

For Sergi Sendra, senior director at Dorna, there is an added challenge that goes with moving from live events to digital experiences: more competition. “People may be stuck at home, but the entertainment business has never been bigger,” he argues. “On top of vying for eyeballs with other sports production companies, our video offering now competes with streaming giants like Netflix and Disney+”.

Full digital transformation in 13 days flat

It was crucial for Dorna to have a clear content and marketing strategy during the current  pandemic, as well as the technology to bring that strategy to life. “Our aim was to drive people to our content and keep them engaged after their first experience,” adds Sendra, “that’s how we gain advocates who help spread our reach even further”.

Working with Adobe, Dorna retooled and adapted their Digital  Video / Audio (DVA)  workflow in just 13 days. The team began by adopting Adobe Team Projects and Adobe Creative Cloud Asset Sync, which have proven invaluable in allowing them to collaborate and deliver high quality content while working remotely.

“Our top priority is the health and safety of our employees,” stresses David Arroyo, Digital Director at Dorna. “Social distancing is not just a government imperative, after all, it’s a must for any responsible organization. That’s why we started to use Team Projects”.

This was only the first phase of Dorna’s ambitious transformation. Phase two saw the company dive deeper by enhancing specific elements of its workflow with Adobe Premiere Pro’s Software Development Kit (SDK). Within days, a Dorna developer had built a custom Premiere Pro panel using the tool, automating a number of manual processes so that the team could work more efficiently.

Dorna’s new custom Premiere Pro panel.

“We may not be producing MotoGP races at the moment, but our day-to-day media activity has never delivered this kind of volume or speed. Adobe’s software has helped us to set and meet an entirely new ambition, which is to generate, edit, and distribute footage from a range of sources to our fans around the world,” says Sendra.

“We have been working with Dorna Sports for several years; it is incredible how quickly they can adopt new systems and processes,” says Frederic Rolland, manager of strategic development for Adobe’s video business. “They continually challenge us by their passion in looking at the details of our products, asking for new features, and testing new workflows. We could not drive innovation without this type of feedback and customer relationships with industry leaders such as Dorna Sports.”

Remote possibilities

With 20 Grands Prix to be managed in 2020, in addition to dozens of smaller events, Dorna’s team aren’t strangers to working from different locations. But the conditions of COVID-19 call for more than long distance communication and coordination, they require new levels of collaboration that the company’s old system could not support.

Dorna previously relied on relatively slow tools and processes to manage its test recordings and on-site editing. All content created on-site would have to be sent back to the studio for further work, and then returned to individual journalists or editors with the appropriate changes. The approach was not ideal, but it presented no roadblocks until recently. “COVID-19 had other plans,” admits Sendra, “and we realized we had to rethink our process.”

Dorna replaced its local servers with Adobe Creative Cloud, including Adobe Team Projects. To take advantage of the 1.4 petabytes of video content in its archives, the team created proxies for all of these files by linking them directly to Premiere Pro via remote desktop. “With these links in place, we began sharing all relevant resources with our editors and journalists via the Creative Cloud. In less than two weeks, we went from clunky processes to firing on all cylinders,” recalls Victor Segui, Dorna’s Senior Manager of Programs.

Editors and journalists using the solution can access any project from any location, make all necessary edits, share them internally, and finally export the finished videos to be published for Dorna’s audience. “We have helped our team win back hours of their time by getting rid of heavy data transfers and setting ourselves up to publish content more quickly than ever,” Segui adds.

Personalisation fit for the times

Setting the business up for remote work was only part of the battle. The most important consideration for Dorna was its relationship with customers, which now needed to be built entirely online through personalized digital experiences.

As Arroyo explains, this is no small feat when creating content for a range of channels, each with its own audience and formats to consider.

“Our Facebook viewers want tailored experiences directly in their feeds. Meanwhile, Twitter users consume a much larger volume of content quickly, so you need to deliver something short and sweet. YouTube is on the other end of the spectrum, with viewers happy to get comfortable and soak up a longer experience. And then there’s TikTok, which is also video but caters to a much shorter attention span,” he says. From editing to storytelling, Dorna must be mindful of these multiple endgames for every piece of content it produces.

Viewers watch the race highlights from a very chaotic Virtual Race 2 on demand.

 

Pre-COVID, that meant setting out a clear aim for its content, be it to engage audiences, amplify its reach, or simply create something viral. Since then, Dorna has worked with MotoGP to launch VirtualGP races, an eSports event series that aims to keep people in front of their devices for as long as possible. The first VirtualGP race was held in late April to replace the Spanish Grand Prix, but with fans still on partial lockdown the concept has gained serious traction and all roads lead to more digital races in the future.

A healthy dose of sport

The Coronavirus pandemic was unexpected, forcing companies to rethink their entire creative process. It was a major ask, but Sendra believes that the new Premiere Pro workflow his team put in place will pay dividends for Dorna through the crisis and beyond. “We’re working smarter than ever,” he stresses, “and that’s something we will carry forward with us even after live events pick up again.”

“Our biggest priority during the pandemic has been to focus on customer-centricity, and not just in the context of motorsport,” Sendra says. “Avid MotoGP fans have other priorities these days, including their health, their friends, and their families. Thanks to our new workflows, we can provide them with a bit of entertainment in a way that, we hope, injects some positivity into the world and brings people together.”

Iconic MotoGP™ race image showing riders neck and neck.

There is no way to recreate the thrill of a live MotoGP race online, and it would be naïve to say otherwise. However, by focusing on new ways to excite and engage their audiences, such as free documentaries featuring iconic races, regardless of which channel they use or where they’re located, Dorna can provide fans with a healthy dose of racing adrenaline whenever the need for speed strikes.


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