A quiet year in terms of sponsorship


In the championship, Lewis and Mercedes have done a great job again. The revelation this year has been at Toro Rosso, with Max and Carlos producing some of the more exciting moves of the year. Mention should also go to Force India, who has taken another step forward securing 5th in the Constructors Championship, not by spending vast sums of money, but by utilising what they have available to the best of their ability. Off-the-track, on the sponsorship front, 2015 felt relatively quiet. Let’s look back at the season highlights, even if there’s actually not much that really stands out from 2015…

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  1. The Shell Scuderia Ferrari Uncovered virtual reality tour of the team’s garage was definitely the best of the bunch. It went against those that say Formula 1 is out of touch, non-inclusive and ‘elitist’, and made an effort to open up the team to fans digitally.
  2. I also particularly liked Airbnb’s competition ‘A Night At’ the Malaysian GP. Airbnb built a three-bedroom suite with panoramic views of the circuit and included pit lane-access. This was a unique opportunity and garnered international media attention.
  3. Finally, a mention for the BBC’s feature; Jenson Button takes on David Coulthard at Rallycross – a really engaging and entertaining piece of content. The sort of pre-race features even non-F1 fans enjoy and the type of content I personally hope for a lot more of in 2016.

You may have realised that of those three highlights of the year, a Formula 1 sponsor developed only one. It could be argued that 2015 was a year of missed opportunities. Below are a few ideas that never came to pass that maybe should have during 2015.

If I’d wanted to lie, I could’ve easily built up campaigns to sound better than they were, but that wouldn’t have helped anyone.

Smirnoff is at the end of their second year of sponsorship with Force India. The company’s sponsorship strategy is mainly focused on music, and bringing consumers closer to the action and excitement. When you layer the ‘elitism’ we mentioned prior, Formula 1’s lack of music integration, and a lack of events outside of the Grand Prix for consumers to attend, you might think a Formula 1 music event outside of the Grand Prix was an opportunity not to be missed for Smirnoff. Or I guess not!

Bose announced a sponsorship with Mercedes earlier this year. I’m a fan of the Bose brand, but their early activations, particularly ‘The Sound Of _’ was underwhelming. It felt like content for the sake of it. I appreciate that Bose didn’t want to copy the Beats formula, but when you have a global star like Lewis, who has a real authentic passion for music, I felt the investment made by Bose on these videos could have been used more effectively. I was expecting something roughly along these lines:

Lewis, wearing his Bose headphones, is sat at the back of the garage. A soundtrack is slowly building in the background. The camera slowly gets closer to Lewis as he stares down the camera lens. He talks about preparation for racing wheel-to-wheel at 200mph; ‘getting in the zone’. As the camera gets closer to Lewis, it stops. You can now clearly see his intense focus. Then, the soundtrack’s baseline drops. The emotion soars. The picture fades to black.
‘A Champions Soundtrack’

Rolex was a brand everyone linked with Formula 1 had talked about for years – why hasn’t Rolex sponsored Formula 1, when will they? Then in 2013 the brand finally announced it would be sponsoring the sport. I for one was excited to see what they did with their sponsorship.

Three full seasons later, it’s a shame to say that the word most used to describe their Formula 1 sponsorship would be wallpaper.

Visibility alone doesn’t drive meaningful metrics, and Rolex has been around long enough to know this. This year I’d hoped Rolex would bring to life some great stories around Formula 1. In other sports Rolex has done some really good work, so why not here? The largest sport in the world and the one sport that has the potential to drive purchase preference on a large scale?

Both Rolex and Formula 1 are steeped in heritage. FOM are sitting on huge piles of content in old, out-dated formats that could bring these stories to life – the offer to digitalise this content in return for the right to use it must be attractive to FOM. Will we see it? Only time will tell, but I for one hope 2016 will see Rolex step up their activation of Formula 1. If done well fans will thank them for it, and that can’t be bad for business when China’s luxury goods market is faltering!

The verdict?

This all may sound fairly negative. The truth is, I would have loved to eulogise about a host of truly great sponsor-activations this year. And if I’d wanted to lie, I could’ve easily built up campaigns to sound better than they were, but that wouldn’t have helped anyone. The truth is 2015 wasn’t that great. As we go into the new year with resolutions and fresh ambitions, I implore brands to make the most of their sponsorships. A Formula 1 sponsorship is arguably one of the most exciting projects to work on in marketing. It would be a shame to waste the opportunity.

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