ALI RUSSELL: INTRODUCING THE RACE FOR THE PLANET

26 Jul 2022

By: Sport Industry Group

In a world that is becoming more and more conscious of its impact on the planet, Extreme E is a sport that tackles the issues head on. The new off-road racing series showcases electric SUVs and futuristic technologies in locations damaged by climate change.

Now, Extreme E is ready to open its doors and provide unprecedented access with a behind-the-scenes docu-series capturing the inaugural season of the pioneering race series.

We sat down with Extreme E Chief Marketing Officer, Ali Russell, to find out more about The Race for the Planet…


Hi, Ali. Can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your background?


Absolutely. I have been involved in the sports business for a number of years in various commercial/marketing and general management positions. Before that I was working in marketing for Coca-Cola. From there I spent time in a number of positions across sport: Commercial and Marketing Director of Scottish Rugby, Chief Operating Officer at Rangers and Managing Director at Queens Park Rangers, before more recently in position as the Chief Marketing Officer at FIA Formula E from its inception, and now Chief Marketing Officer at Extreme E.

 

How would you describe Extreme E?

Extreme E’s mission is to use the powerful and entertaining platform sport provides to showcase electric vehicle performance in extreme climates, whilst raising awareness of the current environment crisis. Additionally, we are the first motorsport with a full gender equal sporting format – where females race equally alongside the men, which is hugely inspiring and truly transformative in this historically male dominated sport. 

Designed as a sport for purpose, Extreme E is breaking the motorsport mould. Not only is it about providing a gripping platform for accelerating sustainable innovation in motorsport, with world’s top drivers - from Jenson Button, to Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, and McLaren all involved - it’s also a movement. It’s about bringing a new, younger, purpose driven audience to motorsport which involves drivers in understanding more about the places we race, and why. Everywhere we go, we partner with local organisations working to restore the degraded environments in which we race via our Legacy Programmes.

We launched the series in the midst of a global pandemic which was incredibly challenging, but here we are in our second season of Extreme E, with the action on course getting better with each race, and the following for it growing all the time.

 
Can you give us a brief overview of Race For The Planet and what viewers can expect from the series?


Race for the Planet provides a unique, raw insight into the Extreme E paddock, the environmental challenges we aspire to overcome, and behind-the-scenes detail of the characters fundamental to the Championship. It is not solely a sporting story, but one which underlines how this series is raising of the climate crisis and tackling key issues such as sustainability, low carbon transport and gender equality.

Personalities play a huge role and you really get to know our drivers and teams in an authentic way, following their highs and lows as they and our series team navigate this totally new series as it gets off the ground. It’s not always pretty, it doesn’t sugar coat anything. It is real, gritty and you go on the journey with us.

 

How much access were your cameras given by the drivers and teams in the making of the docuseries?


Through working with NEO Studios, our audiences can enjoy a comprehensive look at Extreme E’s 2021 Championship and the stories that underpinned it. We provided a lot of access to tell the stories of the series’ major players.

You might want to issue a spoiler alert here, but audiences are in for a real treat as we get to see much more of the drivers than just behind the wheel of the ODYSSEY 21s – from the Hansen family enjoying some downtime in their native Sweden, to Jamie Chadwick inspiring the next generation at a Girls on Track event in London. We really want to bring the characters in Extreme E to life through Race for the Planet.


Which storylines throughout the docuseries do you consider a real highlight and worth looking out for?


There are some really powerful messages throughout Race for the Planet – both on and off the course. I found Professor Peter Wadhams’ words detailing the traumatic effects of climate change in Greenland truly moving, while the unique insights you get from those responsible for organising the series and ensuring the races run smoothly are fascinating to watch - who made it happen in the face of the pandemic let’s not forget.

Of course, though, the series does capture all of the drama of race days - from spectacular off road action, to blistering crashes – there was so much of it in our first campaign. We have been extremely open to detail the challenges faced and overcome in Season 1.



Did the success of Netflix’s Drive To Survive inspire Race For The Planet?


Drive to Survive has certainly set the benchmark for a behind-the-scenes motorsport series, bringing it to a whole new audience. Although we have taken inspiration from that, as well as other sporting docu-series out there, we feel that Race for the Planet is unique.

Extreme E’s objective is to raise awareness of the climate crisis audiences and although the docu-series takes comprehensive look at Extreme E’s 2021 season, its main goal is to highlight the climate change story that underpinned it. It goes into great depth to shed light on the consequences of climate change in each race location.


What have been the biggest challenges in producing the docuseries?


I think, as mentioned earlier, delivering a racing championship let alone a five-part docu-series on one of the biggest streaming platforms in the world is no mean feat. We were faced with so many challenges – we had to cancel our two planned races in South America no less – but we came through it and delivered a racing Championship which went down to the final corner of the final lap.

We are extremely proud of that and are pushing the boundaries once more in Season 2. We feel like we have really captured that in Race for the Planet and that’s a testament to everyone involved.


What is your hope for the sport once the series launches, how will this impact Extreme E?


We have captured what it is like to race and breathe Extreme E. We break down the barriers, bring authenticity to displaying the ups and down of motorsport, the challenges and essentially, how gladiatorial Extreme E is. Listening into the intimate thoughts of some of the best drivers in motorsport makes this documentary even more exciting and entertaining.

We have seen the success in other sport docu-series’ reaching a wider audience and we intend to follow suit. Not only will ‘Race for the Planet’ bring our fans and viewers into the heart of our racing and legacy projects, but this documentary will also attract a new audience to Extreme E.

How can this series impact the world outside of the sport, cn it have a wider influence? 


I believe so. Race without a trace is part of our ethos as a series and we have delivered that so far. We have spoken with our Scientific Committee who feel that Extreme E is significantly raising the profile of their hugely important research and findings regarding the climate crisis. If we can continue to do that, and help support change through our pioneering motorsport series, we will consider that a huge success.

 

Where and when can we watch Race For The Planet?


Race for the Planet is available on Prime Video now in the UK and Ireland.