Blog: Why brands are poor performers in Formula 1

Red Bull: taking global marketing to the next level
Red Bull: taking global marketing to the next level

David Hornby is founder and managing director of consultancy business Why Not, which has worked on projects including the England 2018 FIFA World Cup Bid.

Truly 'global'  marketing platforms are rare in the world. In sport and entertainment they are like hen's teeth. FIFA's World Cup and The Olympic Games are two well known examples. But these are only every four years and The IOC has not been to Africa or India and the World Cup has yet to go to China.

In terms of a yearly global sporting event and its massive cumulative audience there is only Formula 1.As a brand there are a number of entry points. Support a team, support a race or support the series. Or a mixture of the three.

Formula 1 has innovation and excitement at its heart. You would think that this would be a real sweet spot for brand experience activations.

Well if it is, I would love to hear of some fantastic examples. I have not seen many given the level of investments brands are making in rights fees.

I get the pure brand awareness media value of the audience. So for Rolex, Allianz and DHL I can kind of understand. But what a wasted opportunity.

Santander has done a reasonable job with McLaren, the British & Spanish Grand Prix and its ambassador network. It has also developed a few cheeky videos visualising a London race at an opportune moment for a stunt.

So I was excited to see how things were happening this year in Monaco. Sun, sea, super yachts and fast cars - surely a formula for excitement and brand engagement.

I was very disappointed indeed. The only brand in my opinion that 'gets' how to do this globally is Red Bull. Their "Energy Station" floating in Monaco’s harbour is pure genius. It's where everyone want to hang out including the broadcast media - I watched German, French, British and Japanese news crews interviewing and doing filler pieces for their broadcasts. I observed movie stars, sports stars and business stars rubbing shoulders together, sharing a drink and a wonderful location.

As I walked down the track at Rascasse Corner after Saturday's qualification session, it was coming alive with the fans looking for fun - there was Red Bull providing "entertainment and fun for all" - along with a few cans...

Red Bull has hit the jackpot with its strategy as other team and race partners struggle to get great access and cut through in a small place like Monaco.

However what is very present here is the private nature of the both the location, its key investors and behind the scene power broking.

The biggest ship in the harbour was not a super yacht but rather a massive cruise ship. Its brands were available in kiosks around town with a rather questionable marketing message - "you choose?"

With Heineken now signing a global multi year deal with Bernie - things might change! Will we see fan parks and festival-like drinking activations to pay for it? Let's see - I think they will shake things up!

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