A refreshing start

At the Canadian Grand Prix of 2016, Formula One Group introduced their most exciting sponsor of recent times. Heineken, one of the worlds largest advertisers and the world’s best-selling beer, promises big things in terms of activation and fan engagement.

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Here are several reasons why the arrival of the Dutch brewer to Formula 1 is good news:

Mass consumer-focused activation – off track 

Formula 1 has longed for a partner of Heineken’s firepower for a number of years now. Other sports enjoy brand partnerships that heavily activate their participation and Formula 1 has always seemed to lack partners that did the same. Rolex is a great brand to have on board; Emirates, DHL and others spend big on trackside advertising, but ultimately do little to promote the sport to a wider consumer base.

Heineken with all of their football, rugby and marketing know-how should quickly change this for Formula 1. We can expect to see cool TV advertising, vast out-of-home advertising campaigns, exciting and creative social and digital media campaigns and plenty of in-market activities such as fan parks and city centre bar activities. Whilst all of this is great for helping Heineken to sell more beer and expose the brand to new consumers, it is also great news for Formula 1 in general as it means, the sport will be much more prominent from now on.

Heineken is in the privileged position to take Formula 1 into the super league of social and digital activation.

Increased digital & social focus 

Formula 1 has never been fully on-board with social & digital media. Bernie has said as much on multiple occasions. Maybe it is due to a CEO who doesn’t get it? There is probably some truth in that, but also a major part of the problem is to do with the broadcast partners and the rights they have acquired to showcase Formula 1 on their own digital platforms. As the Rights Holder renegotiates these agreements it is able to relax restrictions on its partners in this area and things will change.

We’ve seen evidence of this as Formula 1 has made improvements in its digital and social channels, the Formula 1 website and the Formula 1 App show how far they have moved forward in recent times. Heineken is in the privileged position to take Formula 1 into the super league of social and digital activation. Mr Gianluca Di Tondo, Heineken’s global brand director revealed casually that Heineken communicated with 2.5 Billion consumers through its Twitter channel around the Champions League. Those are impressive numbers! Formula 1’s digital team would like some of that!

Increased global promotion of the sport 

Using Formula 1 to sell beer will promote the sport to new audiences. Heineken has mastered marrying brand promotion and the promotion of series it is partnered with. They never sponsor the team or the main protagonists in order to maintain neutrality within the series and this ensures the series benefits rather than an individual. Take the UEFA Champions League, or the Rugby World Cup, Heineken brings fans closer to the sport. They seem to repeatedly invent fantastically creative campaigns that allow fans the opportunity to experience the sport via YouTube, Snapchat and Twitter. By integrating Formula 1 into Heineken’s brands’ communications the sport will benefit, it will once again be seen as current, cool, and relevant. A new demographic will be exposed to the sport which will ultimately extend the life of the sport for a new generation.

Requirement for other brands to step up 

Heineken has an opportunity to raise the bar in Formula 1 marketing to show the world what they’ve been missing. Others have taken the mantle in the past, Red Bull, Johnnie Walker, Shell to name a few. But the opportunity for a step change is exactly what will give Heineken the opportunity to stand out and achieve its objectives. It is also the reason for the other brands to raise their game so as not to be drowned out.

It is easy to get carried away when a brand of Heineken’s calibre comes into the sport. The proof will be in the pudding of course. Formula 1 has an opportunity to grow and evolve, some might say, catch up with other sports. Heineken is a lifestyle brand, Formula 1 is a lifestyle sport, here’s hoping this union will be the catalyst change. Cheers to that!

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