Formula 1 Teams Combining Forces

Ron Dennis says sponsors cannot afford 'title' sponsorship
Ron Dennis says sponsors cannot afford 'title' sponsorship

F1 "has been viewed as an anachronism, running on excess and fossil fuels," according to Kate Walker of the FINANCIAL TIMES.

Much of this is "down to title sponsorship." However, things "may now be changing." McLaren CEO Ron Dennis "made waves" this year when he said, "Title sponsorship doesn't exist any more as a concept." Dennis: "If you look at what title sponsorship would normally be, it would be somewhere between 40-50 percent of your budget. Where the budgets are for a competitive team, no company will come in and give you that kind of money." But it is "not only about the car." The fabric of F1's global audience is "largely middle class and entrance to the paddock brings access to global business leaders, politicians and decision makers."

In an attempt to take advantage of this, teams such as Ferrari, Force India and Red Bull are "starting to work together to offer their sponsors and partners shared networking opportunities at races." Where once, each team would guard its VIP guests, "they are now considering creating spaces within the paddock where guests from competing teams can meet and do business." For the bulk of F1 sponsors, however, the "public platform is what they seek" and for companies wanting int'l brand awareness — global TV viewers number 500 million — F1 is seen as the sport with the "best business-to-business reach" FT.

In London, James Allen reported the color scheme of an F1 car is the team's "identity statement, it defines who it is and what it stands for."

This is "quite straightforward" for manufacturer teams such as Mercedes and Ferrari; "they have to reinforce their automotive look and feel in silver and red respectively." But for teams such as Williams and McLaren, "the livery changes according to which sponsor is paying the bills and the thinking has not evolved much in the past 40 years." Nick Downes of London-based design company Interstate said that given the range of materials available to make a visual impact, "the lack of imagination in F1 liveries is disappointing." Interstate "devised the serpent look for Eddie Jordan's Benson and Hedges sponsored cars" in the late '90s.

Downes: "F1 is about going beyond what is accepted; it's innovation. It should be about creating personality. F1 used to be the best, but other sports have caught up. They [F1] are not the pacesetters any more." Williams F1 Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams accepts the mantra is "If it doesn't make the car go faster, then it's of secondary importance." But she said that her marketing group "puts significant effort into making the cars look good." She said, "The livery is a tool; it's a simple canvas to showcase our partners" FT

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