WRC commercial chief Ciesla to step down

Change at the top of WRC Promoter after eight years

Oliver Ciesla

Changes are coming at the very highest level of the World Rally Championship’s commercial operation, DirtFish can reveal, with WRC Promoter CEO Oliver Ciesla stepping down from his position in June.

Ciesla arrived in the WRC in 2013 after the collapse of previous promoter North One Sport’s parent company Convers Sports Initiatives following the arrest of Russian banker Vladimir Antonov.

Ciesla headed up the WRC Promoter – a company formed by the collaboration between Red Bull Media House and Sportsman Media – and oversaw radical changes in the delivery of WRC coverage.

WRC.com’s All Live service arrived at the start of 2018 offering fans the chance, for the first time in history, to watch every WRC stage live.

Ciesla told DirtFish: “There is no reason for speculation, I decided to step down from my role as CEO of WRC Promoter from the end of June.

“It is a personal decision after almost eight years by then.

“I love this sport, it is and it was a great time.

“As a manager I had the feeling that part of the mission is accomplished. The contribution I could do is accomplished and I felt this inner desire for a new challenge or a new management task. It’s a desire for change after so many years.”

Ciesla confirmed the search for his replacement had begun and discussions are ongoing with potential candidates.

Reflecting on his time in the WRC, Ciesla said WRC Promoter had delivered a revolution in the consumption of the championship’s media and he was also proud of the step the firm had made commercially.

“The media value you get in the WRC is 500% higher than it was in 2012,” said Ciesla.

“That’s significant improvement. From 2012, this is a very stable competition and, commercially, this is a very sound and sustainable business and this has not been the case before.”

In terms of sporting achievements, he added: “The way we found it in 2012, unfortunately, the championship was not in a great position.

“What we achieved since is to get the spirit of the rally family together, irrespective of individual objectives to build this platform and make it stronger.

“In the first step we achieved this by changing the sport: we changed the powerstage. We made it a more attractive aspect of the show, with a regular time slot and more points to add relevance. It became more important to watch it.

“We changed the start order which had a strong impact on the entire outcome of the rally and since we did these evolutions without cannibalizing the real DNA of our sport, we achieved what we want to achieve, which is the unpredictability – nobody can tell who is going to win a rally or the championship now.

“This was a big, big, big achievement on the sport.

“The media improved, we reach out to more people on television and on social media and the championship’s own online channel and WRC+. This was a game-changer in terms of how fans can follow the rally sport from now on.

“All of this together was leading to a more enjoyable sport for the fans and a much higher return for all the partners investing here.”

Words:David Evans