Formula 1 has seen an influx of alcohol brands in recent years: McLaren, Force India and Williams have them as major sponsors, while FOM itself has recently inked deals with Heineken, Johnnie Walker and Chandon. And while alcohol sponsorship has been on an upward trend, an opposite pattern is shown by technology brands in Formula 1.
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Rewind backwards by a decade and you’ll find companies like HP, Panasonic and Lenovo having a prominent presence in Grand Prix racing. HP and Lenovo logos adorned Williams cars in early- and mid-2000s, while Panasonic had a similar deal with Toyota that stretched until 2009, the year the Japanese manufacturer pulled out of the sport. Acer, meanwhile, had a sponsorship arrangement with Ferrari that extended to special edition laptops and mobile phones. Intel, too, has had a long history in Formula 1. Most recently it served as a technology partner for the now-defunct Caterham squad.
However, in recent years, these companies appear to have disappeared from the Formula 1 scene. Or have they? Instead of sticking giant logos onto the cars, technology companies are increasingly focusing on providing B2B services to teams. These companies showcase their Formula 1 involvement as case studies to potential and current clients. With the sport known for its cutting-edge technology, it serves as an effective tool to lure new customers. Moreover, many of these companies do not have a vast B2C portfolio and, hence, do not require brand visibility in form of sponsorship logos.
Away from the limelight, Qualcomm provides technical support to Mercedes, while Ferrari has a deal with internet security giant Kaspersky. Neither of the two teams carries prominent logos of their technology partners. At McLaren, giant SAP logos on sidepods and rear wing have been replaced by a small sticker on the nose cone.
Perhaps teams should reduce their dependence on alcohol companies and instead focus their efforts on luring back technology brands.
At a time when Formula 1 teams are finding it increasingly hard to raise sponsorship, the reduction in money from technological companies is another big blow.
While, as explained above, some companies are largely into the B2B business, many derive a major chunk of their revenue by selling their products and services to consumers. Perhaps teams should reduce their dependence on alcohol companies and instead focus their efforts on luring back technology brands.