In last year’s October edition of the Paddock magazine, I described what an amazing event the Goodwood Revival has become. Living literally a few hundred meters from the boundary fence of the Goodwood circuit, it was no hardship to head back there again this year. In fact, I’d have travelled a long way to once more sample the unique atmosphere of this motorsport extravaganza!
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Much as I would be delighted to outline all of the retro attractions that Lord March once again managed to create so realistically, I want to instead cover a different aspect of the Revival. As you may have read in earlier Money, Egos and Speed features, the fact that I’ve been able to enjoy a 40- year career in motorsport has been primarily due to my understanding of commercial sponsorship and my proven track record in sponsorship acquisition. With that in mind, I decided to look at the Revival this year from a more commercial perspective.
I’m sure you’ll have all become aware of the extraordinary rise in popularity of historic motorsport, both here in the UK and internationally. Interestingly, it coincides with a similar rise in the value of so many famous classic cars, both road and race varieties. It’s now commonplace to read in the newspapers that a historic vehicle car has been auctioned for yet another record multi-million-pound price tag.
Numbers and reasons
148,000 spectators attended this year’s Goodwood Revival, a sell-out crowd at the West Sussex venue. What’s more interesting to me, however, is the number of high-profile commercial sponsors that have now been successfully wooed by historic motorsport and cars. What’s the appeal to them? Whether it’s historic Formula 1 racing, the series that celebrates the magnificent era of Group C sports cars or any other historic event, more sponsors are increasingly becoming involved.
I decided that one of the best ways to find out more about the reasons for this increase would be to get the views of one of the most high-profile sponsors, a financial services company that originally chose the Formula 1 route. I’m sure you’ll remember Credit Suisse as a major sponsor of the BMW Sauber F1 Team, up until 2009.
It wasn’t difficult to find the company’s unique facility at Goodwood. The famous Control Tower building is at the very heart of the Revival and was recently fully restored by Credit Suisse as part of its partnership role with Lord March and the Revival. The resultant signage on the Control Tower ensured that the perennial favourite of motorsport sponsors, brand awareness, was in good supply!
Whether it’s historic Formula 1 racing, the series that celebrates the magnificent era of Group C sports cars or any other historic event, more sponsors are increasingly becoming involved.
I’d been invited to the company’s media Forum, which allowed me to meet up once again with Jochen Mass, Derek Bell and Alain de Cadenet, three of the official Credit Suisse Ambassadors. These appointments were part of the company’s sponsorship strategy and what a smart move that has proved to be! All three former racers know how to talk to and amuse their audience, unlike some modern-day drivers who can only pour out what I refer to as bland sponsor-speak.
After the Forum, I met with Bastian Lossen, a Managing Director of Credit Suisse in the Private Banking and Wealth Management division. I asked him about the company’s involvement with historic racing. For me, as a sponsorship acquisition exponent, it’s always good to hear the reasons behind a company’s decision to become a motorsport sponsor. I started by asking him about the decision to appoint the Ambassadors, including Mass, Bell and De Cadenet. He explained that it was a deliberate policy to try to engage more with people at events, both the media and invited guests, as a way of ensuring two-way communication. This is in stark contrast to so many motorsport sponsorships that rely purely on brand awareness, hospitality and PR to try to achieve their objectives, often failing in the process.
Bastian then told me how the company’s highly successful Classic Car Programme had really been the precursor to Credit Suisse moving into historic motorsport. The programme was based on a decision to engage with the classic car and historic motorsport communities through classic car rallies, as well as by supporting some of the world’s leading historic motoring events, including the Grand Prix de Monaco Historique and the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. It was then an obvious choice for him to talk to Lord March about securing a major role at the increasingly popular Goodwood Revival.
Bastian was keen to stress that an important factor within the company’s sponsorship strategy is to avoid falling into the trap of just handing over a load of money to the event’s Rights Holder and hoping that this will bring its reward. Those involved in securing and working with sponsors should take note, of this. Credit Suisse insists upon finding out from the Rights Holder what the event is all about, what its aims and objectives are and then identifying the best ways in which, as a sponsor, it can play a constructive role in merging its own business capabilities with those of the Rights Holder. In other words, by building a partnership it creates a situation where one plus one really does equal three!
This conversation reminded me of a sponsorship deal that I helped introduce to the Williams F1 Team back in 1996. Having secured Accenture as a sponsor of the Motorsport Industry Association, which I set up in 1994, the person with whom I’d negotiated that agreement, Rob Baldock, asked me if I could introduce Accenture to an F1 Team. The subsequent partnership deal with Williams F1 was based on Accenture’s desire to help the Grand Prix team develop as a profitable business by providing commercial advice and expertise in a range of areas, such as the development of additional revenue streams.
In a similar way, it became more and more apparent, talking to Bastian, that this was a key element in Credit Suisse building a relationship with the Goodwood Revival, as an event. In my sponsorship- acquisition training courses for Rights Holders, I am constantly reminding delegates to encourage companies that they introduce as sponsors to actually become “business partners”. This should involve them also bringing with them into the planning stages of the sponsorship strategy, the resources of their external agencies in areas such as PR, event management and communications, into the design stages of the sponsorship strategy. In that way, a far more dynamic, measurable and sustainable sponsorship is the end result. All too often, the Rightsholder is somewhat lacking in these areas of expertise, mainly for financial reasons.
Bastian then went on to explain that what they have discovered through by being involved in motorsport, initially F1 before moving into historic motorsport, is that the sport attracts a high number of really passionate people. It was also identified by Credit Suisse that a large percentage of its own client base was also passionate about cars, motoring and motorsport. By providing innovative opportunities for them to come together and play a role in building and developing specific events, everyone benefitted.
In addition, the opportunities that the company identified for developing new networks were highly attractive. As an example, by partnering with the Goodwood Revival, Credit Suisse acquired the opportunity to meet with a wide range of potential clients, both through interaction and specific introduction by Lord March to other partners, competitors, entrants and suppliers to the event.
The discussion with Bastian Lossen opened my eyes to a few interesting new and innovative ways of attracting potential sponsors, It also confirmed my long-held view that whilst brand awareness, hospitality and PR might be the apparent reasons for a company deciding to embark on the sponsorship route, the primary, the underlying objective is nearly always to sell more of its product or services in a measurable, sustainable way. What I discovered from my meeting with Credit Suisse is that in the process of achieving its own objectives, a worthwhile sponsor really does become a “partner” with the Rights Holder and in the process helps them achieve so much more than they could in their own right.
Finally, I’m sure that some of you want to know why Credit Suisse decided to end its successful relationship with the BMW Sauber F1 Team after seven years. Very simple, the company changed its marketing strategy from a global to a more focused, regional platform. As such, F1 no longer provided the criteria that it was looking for. It happens! The advice to those of you out there looking for sponsorship is clear. You need to research a company’s real business needs and show how your sponsorship property can help to meet those needs. Don’t assume what a company wants from sponsorship.