December is always a period of reflection in Formula 1. A time to look back at what worked well and plan for the new season. Let’s praise and examine some of the best F1 content marketing of the year.
Whilst the teams push for engineering innovations, Formula 1 sponsors will consider how to revitalise their marketing plans for the new season. The challenge is that the way audiences engage with sponsors is changing. Audiences no longer want brands to interrupt their entertainment. They expect brands to be their entertainment.
Just look at the music industry. Look at how Adele’s record label has promoted her new album. In the past TV and print advertising would have been the core of the campaign. And now? A TV special on the BBC with Graham Norton unveils the album (seen by 5 million viewers) and a video of her impersonating herself – with smart distribution – goes viral (so far seen by almost 40 million people) to become omnipresent on our social media timelines.
What does that mean for Formula 1 marketeers? It’s time to think differently, to challenge themselves when answering these two simple yet key questions: How can they create compelling stories audiences care about? How can they distribute that content to make sure the right audiences see it?
For inspiration and other purposes, here is a small collection of some of the best pieces of F1 content marketing from the 2015 season.
Best Stunt: Puma
Hats off to Puma for staging one of the most outlandish stunts of the year. Just days after winning the 2015 F1 World Championship, Puma persuaded Lewis Hamilton to test his skills at Lucha Libre, taking on the former Mexican Wrestling champion, the legendary Mistico.
Creating an event that generates such ‘talk-about’ content deserves an award in its own right, but persuading a world champion driver to step into the ring and bodyslam his opponent days before the Mexican GP surely deserves a knighthood.
It is a perfect example of an idea that earns media with content that contagiously spreads in an instant.
Best Use Of TV: Johnnie Walker
OK, hands up. I have to admit that I’m biased here, as we managed this for Johnnie Walker with our friends at Precious and JMI. However, the results are thought-provoking.
We produced a series of 3-minute features for distribution to Formula 1 broadcasters. Insightful, entertaining stories told by Jenson, Fernando and Mika about what the drivers do off-track – whether that be acting, attending glamorous parties or the benefits of a positive mind-set – in a format that could fit in Formula 1 broadcasters TV show. All created with Johnnie Walker brand messaging seamlessly weaved into the pieces.
The last feature, distributed at the Mexico GP, was watched by 25 million viewers in over 160 countries. Get it right and this approach will tap into the global appeal of the sport and deliver colossal audience reach for sponsors.
Best Interactive App: Shell
Shell created an interactive app that allows fans to take a ‘virtual tour’ of the Ferrari Garage.
This immersive digital experience gives curious fans insight into what happens in the garage. You take control, choose where you want to go and content pops-up on your journey as you steer your way through the experience. Shell branding is subtle, and its core product messaging is naturally integrated.
Try it for a minute and you’ll find yourself engaging with the brand far longer than you imagined. You might even learn something on the journey.
Best Use Of Virtual Reality: Esso
Esso went one step further in creating an immersive experience with their #FuelYourSenses Virtual Realty initiative.
They created a film in which you can view the Silverstone track from the cockpit of Jenson Button’s Formula 1 car he races to catch a Honda Civic Sport and a McLaren 650S.
Look left, look right as you hoon around the track ‘as Jenson’ with a full 360 view as he puts his foot to the floor and attempts to catch the other cars.
By pushing the boundaries the brand has racked up 400,000 views and generated a mass of PR.
Best TV Show: UBS
Brands can now fund and distribute their own TV shows. UBS created its own documentary observing the Mercedes team’s preparations for the start of the 2015 season that aired on Sky F1 and other broadcasters around the world.
These 24- or 48-minute TV documentaries (with numerous opportunities for digital distribution) offer brands a chance to tell a longer story amplifying its sponsorship association, and – if you get the distribution right – reach a global audience.
From our own experience, there is a big demand for these types of shows that can offer access to drivers, particularly in pre-season, from sports broadcasters and in-flight entertainment services.
Best Business-To-Business Video Award goes to…
I’m afraid there’ll be no weeping speeches from emotional Marketing Directors after collecting this prize.
We could not find one stand-out example of a Formula 1 B2B sponsor who had created a video that delivered more than just a corporate piece of PR.
Yes, of course it’s easier to create a dazzling story if you have Jude Law or Jenson Button in your video, but there are more creative ways to bring your sponsor story to life than getting a couple of techies to read off a script, as many B2B brands do.
And now, with the ability to pin-point target business audiences in specific markets via digital distribution, it’s time that B2B sponsors begin creating videos that convey their story in a more entertaining and educational manner.
Just search for SAP or GE videos and see how these businesses tell riveting stories about subjects that at first sight seem dull.
Instead of an epilogue
So that was 2015. What should we expect in 2016? More sponsors will craft content that tells their story in more compelling ways. Consumer brands will look for reach and engagement via TV and social, and hopefully B2B sponsors will harness digital distribution to laser-target a ‘quality’ rather than a ‘quantity’ audience.