Category Archives: Football

Formula One: Heineken F1 – More than a race

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The Italian Grand Prix saw Heineken formally launch its Formula One partnership. Whilst the Dutch brewer took title sponsorship at the Canadian Grand Prix earlier in the year, Monza was always set to be the event in which the campaign shifted into high gear.

In the weeks preceding the Italian Grand Prix at the Black Book Motorsport Forum, Heineken executives spoke of strategy to bring Formula One to the fans, to improve the race going experience and seek ways in which to engage a millennial audience. If I am entirely honest I was somewhat sceptical. Brands all to often focus Formula One activation strategies around corporate entertainment and business to business network development.

With this in mind, upon arriving in Monza on the Thursday ahead of the Grand Prix the first thing I did was head to the fan village. In recent years the fan village, an area surrounding the circuit open to all ticket holders, has become little more than a few merchandising stands. It can feel as though the interests of the fan have been overlooked. Heineken have gone to great lengths to address this issue erecting a huge pop bar and entertainment space for fans, as pictured below. Whilst the beer isn’t free, prices are reasonable and they have created a communal space for fans away from the circuit.


Building on this, Heineken have addressed another common frustration amongst race going fans. How do you fill your time outside of track action? On Thursday evening, Heineken installed a temporary five a side football pitch on the start finish straight challenging Champions League stars to a game against Fernando Alonso, Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Jolyon Palmer. Whilst it soon became clear the F1 drivers’ talents did not extend to the football pitch, it was fantastic to see Heineken hosting an event for the public outside of the regular F1 weekend schedule. More than 2000 fans filled the main grandstand to watch the game.

Of course Heineken must also use their partnership within F1 to address the fans at home and it would be naive to think there are no business to business expectations around the agreement. On Friday evening, Heineken set about explaining how these would be addressed. At the core of this session was the launch of the two advertisements Heineken have developed featuring Sir Jackie Stewart and David Coulthard. The production values of both films are incredible, and both have been extremely positively received. So much so, that Freddie Hunt, son of the late James Hunt has suggested Heineken use footage of his father in their next campaign.

To see the Heineken F1 adverts in full click here

What struck me about the Jackie Stewart film in particular was the core of the message. If You Drive, Never Drink.  Whilst anti drink drive campaigns are nothing new, making this the fundamental message of a campaign for a beer company is a bold strategy. One unimaginable in other sectors. Heineken should be commended for this approach. They have acknowledged the challenges of associating alcohol with motorsport and addressed it head on.  More over they are seeking to evolve an F1 weekend, from 2 hours of racing on Sunday into something much more significant. This is neatly tied up in the tagline ‘more than a race’.

I am hopeful that Heineken’s approach to fan engagement within Formula One, alongside a fresh approach from the sport’s new owners Liberty Media, will apply pressure to existing brands in the sport to do more with fans. In the beverage sector brand loyalty is fundamental to success and if Heineken can demonstrate new customer loyalty through Formula One and through engaging with fans you can be sure more brands will follow and the Formula One experience will only improve.

To read my interview with Heineken ambassador David Coulthard follow this link

Formula One: Honda yet to determine the condition of Alonso’s PU

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Honda Motor Sports have confirmed they are yet to determine the situation of Fernando Alonso’s power unit following his terrifying accident during the Australian Grand Prix.

Alonso’s MP4-31 was returned to Mclaren on Sunday evening following the conclusion of the race and scrutineering . The power unit was immediately removed from the remains of the vehicle and sent to Japan for inspection.  The Honda Motor Sports Division are now working to understand the full extent of any damage to the power unit and which elements under FIA regulations can be repaired without incurring any form of penalty.

Honda’s ability to recover the power unit is critical to  Mclaren and Alonso. Under current regulations each driver has been allocated 5 power units for the season (an increase from 4 in 2015 owing to the increased number of rounds in the 2016 calender) loosing a power unit after a single event will compromise team strategy for the entire season. The team will be forced  to either accept a penalty later in the season or limit Alonso’s running in free practice sessions to extend the life of the remaining power unit Supply.

Regulations do not mandate power unit usage occur in sequence, it will therefore be possible for Honda to introduce a second power unit for the Bahrain Grand Prix in a little over one week from now then revert to the original Power Unit once Honda have confirmed which elements can be recovered.

Mclaren are responsible for gearbox design and construction, the number of which available to a driver over a single season is also limited, the team have not confirmed if the gearbox was damaged beyond repair in the accident.

Image:  Provided by Getty Images


Formula One: Mclaren secure major new partner

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As the cars took to the track earlier today, the eagle eyed among you will have noticed significant additional branding on the Mclaren Honda. Confidence from the business world  that Mclaren will find success with Honda seems to have been restored with GSK joining other new partners to the team Chandon, Richard Mille, & Volvo Trucks for 2016. This confidence was some what validated through the teams strong performance in qualifying were Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button qualified 12th & 13th respectively.

Full details of the partnership will be formally announced in the coming weeks, but sources within the team indicate the deal is significant in value and part of a multi-year commitment. For the Austrian Grand Prix  GSK have elected to promote their toothpaste brand Sensodyne, it is expected GSK will use their on car sponsorship windows to promote a variety of brands over the course of the season. Ron Dennis has many times commented on a refusal from the team to reduce their sponsorship rate card despite a period of challenging results, with this in mind GSK branding appearing on driver helmet’s, cockpit head rests and on the rear wing of the MP4-31 suggest the funding involved in this agreement will be significant for the team.

GSK and Mclaren are no strangers having entered into a business to business partnership a number of years ago. Within this initial agreement Mclaren Applied Technologies shared knowledge and experience in lean and efficient process to facilitate efficiency gains within GSK manufacturing lines. Full details of this partnership can be found through this link.

This expanded GSK Mclaren relationship may trigger other FMCG’s (Fast Moving Consumer Good’s) companies to re-evaluate Formula One as a marketing platform. With this likes of Johnson & Johnson walking away from Olympic Games sponsorship following continued  doping scandals, and from International Football tournaments owing to corruption allegations. The prospect of Formula One partnership, despite  issues the sport faces in it’s ability to define regulations, offers huge market exposure in critical growth markets such as the Americas.

Formula One: Opinion -What Football can learn from the F1 Show

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It isn’t often I find myself watching football, but earlier this week I found myself watching the Liverpool vs West Ham match on BT Sport.  It was my first experience of the channel and it was interesting to see a few Formula One presentation techniques have been adopted.

Firstly, it was great to see the natural presentation style of Jake Humphrey and his trusty iPad back on screen, arguably the most comfortable sports anchor on screen today. What surprised me was to see Jake and his team of pundits covering the game not only from the stadium but actually on the pitch. At first I wondered if this had become Jake’s signature style, having made the integrated presentation style his own during his time as lead F1 anchor for the BBC. In fact, I looked into the production team behind the BT Sport content to see if it was the work of the Jake’s production team, future Channel 4 F1 content provider Whisper Films, but it appears not to be.

The technique on the face it of it worked well, during half time analysis, the viewer was not left feeling removed from the action by heading to a studio. Unfortunately, the novelty quickly wears off, whilst the team are on the pitch they have no interaction with anyone involved with the game. It feels like BT Sport are working towards an integrated show but the clubs or key players aren’t’ quite ready for it.  Which frankly after the broadcaster elevating broadcast rights deals into Billion-pound territory is unacceptable.

What works so well about the style for Sky and the BBC in Formula One is that a viewer feels closer to the sport, they feel like they know the venue, and that the stars of the show can be, and are, approached at any moment.  The reason this approach is favoured by Sky and other channels is that the element of unknown keeps viewers tuned in. This is something Football struggles to achieve. Fans have no inclination to stick around after the conclusion of a game.  Especially if their team has lost

So what can Football take from Formula One presentation techniques?

Broadcasters must demand access on their terms. Players and all levels of management must be willing to be approached at any point post and pre match by the broadcaster in locations defined by the broadcaster not the team. Interviews should be conducted in the stadium in full view of supporters, with supporter interaction encouraged. Commentators could engage in post match social media conversations with fans, the output of which could then used to produce post show content on air. Movement of players and management through the stadium should be tracked by film crews, minimal areas of any stadium should be off limits.  Having an anchor and pundit team on the pitch is irrelevant if they do not / can not interact with what or who is around them. It’s time for football broadcasters to elevate broadcasts to the next generation. Social media interaction, fan response, live player response is all key. Football clubs must earn the huge expense they have now become for broadcasters. For the value of the industry to be sustained broadcasters need to turn a 90-minute game into an engaging must see 3 hour show.

BT Sport, with Jake Humphrey, seem to be working toward this ambition, it would be fantastic to see a presentation style successfully pioneered in F1 be adopted throughout Football.