Having grid girls at motorsport events is as traditional as rain in an English summer. Grid girls have been the face of motorsport teams for more than 40 years but over the years the role of the girls has changed significantly. Nichola Clydesdale, Director of Pitlane Promotion and Envisage Promotions Ltd, tells us how grid girls help important brands today.
In the 70’s it was all about the sex appeal. Motorsport was a really sexy affair with drivers as popular as rock stars and living very similar lives. The motorsport industry was not as safety conscious as it is today and races often ended with horrendous crashes, which was as appealing to the fans as the race itself. During this period of ’70s and early ’80s, grid girls reflected this rock star lifestyle and often the girls would see being a grid girl as a simple ticket to the high life. Team owners wanted the girls wearing as little as possible to attract attention to their team and the girls wanted to get as close as possible to the rock-star racing drivers.
Over recent years there has been a really huge shift in the way that companies want their brand represented at motorsport events. There is more emphasis on what the girls can actually bring to the party other than just good looks. Companies understand that while racegoers do want to see attractive girls, this alone does not have an impact on everyone.
There is a lot of waiting around between races, and if you’re not looking busy then a client will want you walking around the retail areas in the branded clothing, getting noticed, distributing flyers, talking to guests and even collecting sales leads.
Don’t bring the sexy back
Grid girls are the face of a brand while they are wearing the company colours and branding. At some events, the traditional grid girl all in one catsuit has been substituted for a more conservative shirt and skirt. This is simply because the sponsors want to attract people but choose to shy away from the sexy style of marketing as they understand this is not necessarily the audience that buys their products.
A lot of sponsors that hire grid girls to want more for their buck and expect the girls to be confident and able to talk to the audience about their products and demonstrate them when required as well as posing for the pictures and giving out flyers. Being articulate and engaging is now as important as looking beautiful. In some cases, it’s even more important!
As a promotional events agency, we are inundated every day with girls that want to be grid girls. The prestige and glamour of this position is still there, but sometimes the new girls understand so little about the inside world of working in this competitive industry. They believe that working in the promo industry is pretty easy. We have applications from girls that have just left school who will contact us saying they “have always wanted to be a grid girl” and how it would be a “dream come true”. This job is not that different from any other job, and it requires a lot of preparation and concentration.
The more experienced promotional girls that have worked in this role previously understand it’s not as glamorous as the new girls on the block want to believe. There is a lot of waiting around between races, and if you’re not looking busy then a client will want you walking around the retail areas in the branded clothing, getting noticed, distributing flyers, talking to guests and even collecting sales leads.
We have lots of clients that will hire grid girls for non-motorsport events because the image still goes well with their marketing strategy. We have noticed a real increase in enquiries from clients that will ask for grid girls to promote energy drinks, nightclub events and electronic cigarettes. But just like the shift in grid girls’ skill set for motoring events, these clients want girls that can sell their product, hit targets and collect valuable data. It’s business.
All in all, being a Formula 1 grid girl is still a golden ticket and this is always going to be the case. We provide grid girls for Formula 1 and the work involved is phenomenal: the look has to be right, there has to be an equal mix of race, hair colour, skin tone and, most importantly, a requirement from all the clients… height. Having thirty grid girls of different height just looks bad on the photos so clients tend to want all the girls between 5’8’’ and 5’10’’. Managing the casting and filtering through many, many applications for the right look is just half of the work. We then have to consider their personality and if this fits what the client is after, we must train the girls to understand and follow the client’s strategy.
Despite the changes and additional demands put on the girls over recent years, there will always be a place for grid girls, and promotional girls will always admit that being selected as an F1 grid girl is a real feather in their cap. The feedback that we usually get from girls that work at the motorsport events is that they have absolutely loved it. The smells, the atmosphere, the clients, the crowds and the excitement of motor racing has always been a huge attraction. While we continue to educate the girls that it is hard work and they need more than just good looks, they will jump through hoops for the opportunity to stand on a track in a catsuit, the wind blowing through their hair with crowds of people cheering. Who are we kidding – what’s not to love about being a grid girl?