Category Archives: Sport

Formula E: Raising the Bar in Motorsport Sponsorship

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Season Four of the FIA Formula E World Championship resumes this weekend with the third round in the calendar coming from Marrakesh. As the first major motorsport event of 2018, now is a good time to reflect on the success of the championship and explore how Formula E’s approach to partners is changing the face of motorsport sponsorship.

As motorsport goes, Formula E is a Championship still very much in its infancy. When considering the achievements of the championship, this fact is something many forget. Over three seasons Formula E has established a global audience in excess of 200M, this compared to Formula One which using the same metrics reported an audience of 350M across 2017 is hugely impressive. On average, Formula E appeals to a younger audience, with a gender split whilst still leaning towards males is far more balanced than any other form of motorsport. The city-centre, single day format has proven successful, as have affordable ticketing policies. Attendance of an ePrix is successfully positioned as a family event.

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The level of manufacturer support Formula E has achieved since its inception has exceeded all expectations. Championship management targeted 4-5 OEMs to have committed to the championship by season five. With DS, Jaguar, NIO, Mahindra, Audi, Renault (set to run as Nissan from next season) Venturi, BMW, Mercedes, and Porsche now involved, the championship finds itself in the position of having the most manufacturer-backed entries in any form of motorsport. Of course championship management acknowledge manufacturer support is cyclical, but Formula E represents a unique platform for manufacturers to showcase Electric Vehicle technology in a cost-controlled environment. The appeal of the championship goes beyond racing, Formula E gives manufacturers access to an audience demographic they would otherwise struggle to connect with. There is every reason to expect the current level of manufacturer support to be sustained.

Season Five will see the most significant change in the championship to date. In a bid to keep team costs under control, Formula E limits the development of components on a season by season basis and in some cases mandates the use of standard equipment across all teams. Through season five, two of the most significant standard elements will be upgraded, in the battery and the car itself. Whilst both elements will remain standard items, significant improvements in battery technology will remove the requirement for a mid-race car change, alongside delivering a sizable increase in performance. With the new car, Formula E promises to amaze fans with a futuristic design incorporating FIA mandated cockpit safety structures in a fully integrated design concept. The new look championship promises to leave other forms of motorsport looking old-fashioned by comparison.

Following the lead of Mumm Champagne, long time partners of Formula One including Allianz and Hugo Boss continue to transition towards Formula E. This shift is due in part to the way in which Formula E engages with its audience and has positioned itself at the forefront of the conversation around Electric Vehicles. The technology demonstrated within Formula E is perceived to be of greater relevance to the future of the automotive industry and as a consequence, has positioned itself as a sport which a broad and diverse audience can engage with. Free from shackles of history, the Formula E message evolves with it’s fans. This open and dynamic approach sits well with the marketing teams behind the championships growing list of partners and continues to attract new partners to the sport.

Formula E and its approach to fan engagement has not gone unnoticed.  2017 saw Formula One announce a partnership with premium partner Carbon Champagne. In attempts to build awareness of the F1 – Carbon Champagne partnership, CEO, Alexander Mea has acknowledged taking inspiration from the Formula E podium celebrations. Carbon have already employed ideas such as the use of a DJ to build atmosphere around the podium (as seen at the Mexican Grand Prix), to branding the cool down room and presenting drivers through the crowds to increase visibility. Formula E and its partners have inspired the established brands to up their game to maximize any return on investment.

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Engagement extends far beyond the podium ceremony, for race attending fans the eVillage supporting every ePrix provides an area for championship partners to engage with fans, delivering both tangible sales and the ability to build brand awareness. Formula E encourage championship partners and local partners to embrace the eVillage and its captive audience of fans. Beyond the eVillage is the The EMOTION Club.  Formula E’s unique take on the VIP paddock life experience. In contrast to other forms of motorsport where team and championship guests are hosted in separate motorhomes or paddock buildings, Formula E, through the EMOTION Club, have created a shared environment in which all guests and partners are together, facilitating an environment which truly lends itself to the development of new business to business partnerships and allows guests to maximize their experience from both an entertainment and commercial perspective. Formula E has always been keen to ensure all brands and partners involved with the championship have every opportunity to maximize their position in the sport. Success in this open approach is evidenced by the fact that to date, all partners joining the championship have chosen to renew and extend their commitments.

Another great asset of Formula E is its relationship with the media.  Of course the sport has it doubters and critics, but media reporting from within the championship hold Formula E in high regard. Motorsport will be criticized irrespective of any decisions taken, but Formula E seeks to balance this by engaging with the media, explaining the strategy of the championship, ensuring a feeling of inclusion and community. Many journalists have been a part of the championship from the very beginning, they feel part of the championship and their value in its continued growth does not go unnoticed by championship management.

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With the imminent announcement of title sponsorship of the entire Formula E Championship, Formula E management can be proud of what has been achieved. Formula E continues to outperform rival motorsport championships in terms of its reach and engagement. Founding partners including Qualcomm, DHL, Michelin, and Mumm Champagne continue to be rewarded for their willingness to embrace a new form of motorsport. As the championship grows, so will their return on investment.

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Formula E: Julias Bär confirmed as Title Partner for the Zürich ePrix

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Julius Bär – leading Swiss private banking group and Global Partner of the FIA Formula E Championship – has today been announced as the title sponsor for the historic first running of the Julius Bär Zürich E-Prix.

The electric street racing series will be bringing circuit racing back to Switzerland for the first time in over 60 years, with the inaugural Julius Bär Zürich E-Prix set to take place on June 10.

With its headquarters in Zürich, Julius Bär has been Formula E’s global partner since the inception of the championship in 2014. Julius Bär has been instrumental in bringing Formula E to the streets of Zürich for the very first time and have acquired the naming rights for the inaugural race.

Gian A. Rossi, Head Switzerland at Julius Bär, emphasises the Bank’s pioneering spirit and its commitment to future technologies as the main reason to support Formula E and the Zürich E-Prix: “Formula E is an investment in our society’s future. The racing series serves as a test bed for innovations advancing the future of mobility and ‘smart cities’. We firmly believe that in a country whose flair for innovation is the secret of its success, the racing series will generate great interest and underscore the image of Switzerland as a hotspot for technology. The decision to pick Zürich to stage the race is the right one – after all, it is a flagship for research and innovation as home to ETH, one of the two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology, as well as being the country’s largest city.”

Racing had previously been forbidden in Switzerland for decades, with the last event taking place at Bremgarten circuit in 1954. However, a law change in 2015 lifted restrictions on fully-electric racing and paved the way for Formula E to bring electrifying wheel-to-wheel action to the streets of Zürich.

Alejandro Agag, Founder & CEO of Formula E, said: “It’s only fitting that at such an historic moment in the championship and for motorsport in general, one of the main protagonists in bringing racing back to Switzerland for the first time in over 60 years, has put its name to the first-ever Julius Baer Zürich E-Prix. Since even before the first race in 2014, our global partner has believed in the concept of electric street racing and has been instrumental in making the championship what it is today. Formula E makes history at every race, but on June 10, Formula E becomes the first category to bring back professional circuit racing to Switzerland – none of this would have been possible without Julius Baer and the vision of electric racing.”

Sebastien Buemi, Renault e.dams driver and proud Swiss, with his country’s flag emblazoned on his helmet, has stood on the top step of the podium 12 times before in Formula E, and will be looking to not only secure the Julius Bär pole position award, but put his name in the history books as the first professional circuit racer to win at home in over six decades.

“I cannot wait to be able to race on home soil – it’s something no other professional circuit racer has said in 63 years! The atmosphere of racing on the streets, coupled with having your home crowd cheering you on is something I’ve never experienced before and this will be one of my dreams achieved – I can’t thank everyone enough who has played their part in bringing racing back to Switzerland; from the city, the fans who have supported this, Julius Bär and Formula E,” the 2015/16 champion said.

Head to the Zürich ePrix website for all the latest on the event and to order your tickets, by clicking here

Formula One: Confirmed – Renault will not feature in McLaren team name designation

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McLaren has confirmed that Renault will not be referenced in the official team name designation for the 2018 season. Whilst Renault branding will feature within the team environment and livery as would be expected in a customer power unit relationship, the team will not be referred to as McLaren Renault.

As speculated on this site in September 2017, such a move will facilitate a single focus for the McLaren brand and enable consistent naming conventions should the team implement its own Power Unit solution under future F1 regulations.  Unlike fellow Renault customers, Red Bull Racing, McLaren have not taken the route of rebadging their Power Unit.

The Renault Power Unit supplied to Red Bull Racing has been badged TAG Heuer since 2016, in an agreement which saw the LVMH owned brand end a long-standing partnership with McLaren switching to the Milton Keynes based team.

The naming convention surrounding Toro Rosso’s relationship with power unit partner Honda is yet to be confirmed.

Formula One: Improving the Show – Tune in to the #USGP Early!

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If you’re the type of Formula One fan that likes to tune into Race Day coverage 5 minutes before the start having grown tired of former driver pundits sitting on the fence over pre-race predictions, you might want to make an exception for today’s US Grand Prix.

As Formula One Management continue to evaluate new ways in which to engage with fans, one focus of this weekend is a plan to “showcase the talent”. Formula One drivers, with a few notable exceptions, have long been criticised for lacking personality and not engaging with fans. Formula One Management plans to start to address this in the build-up to the US Grand Prix this weekend with a new addition to the Show.

WWE legend Michael Buffer has been drafted in for the race and will announce each of the drivers as they take to the grid ahead of the race. At this time, it is unclear what format this will take, and how driver introductions will be incorporated into the pre-race schedule, but if Buffer’s profile in WWE is anything to go by, an approach of ‘Go big or Go home’ will be on the agenda. Perhaps in a bid to inspire drivers to come out of themselves in their introductions, Usain Bolt, who bought showmanship to the world of athletics, is a guest of Formula One Management this weekend at the Grand Prix, no doubt he’ll be offering advice to a few of the drivers less comfortable being the centre of attention. Can you imagine the likes of Pascal Wehrlein mimicking Usian Bolt’s classic moments seen here:

One driver likely to thieve in this feature of an F1 race will be Daniel Ricciardo, never afraid to out his personality out there for the world to enjoy:

For drivers still looking for inspiration for the big roll call, perhaps they should check out these classic moments from WWE. Will Formula One management open a social media poll for the best introduction?

Another key point of interest in the build-up to the USGP will be the actions of drivers during the National Anthem, and rather than read about the actions of any driver in a post-race write-up, fans would do well to watch for themselves and hear the rationale for any actions directly from the drivers.

Should any driver elect to take a knee or simply not attend the National Anthem ceremony ahead of the Grand Prix, there are two key points to remain mindful of. First, the process of drivers coming together at the front of the grid to collectively pay respect to the National Anthem of the country in which a Grand Prix is taking place was actually only introduced in 2014 at the request of Russian Grand Prix officials. It is not a long-held tradition within the sport. Secondly, Sebastian Vettel’s reprimand for missing the start of the Japanese National Anthem 2 weeks go set a precedent for other drivers. If a driver misses the National Anthem or behaves in a manner outside of the recommended procedure they can expect a reprimand and penalty points. Armed with this knowledge driver’s can make an informed decision around how to present themselves ahead of the Grand Prix with team’s well positioned to define a rational penalties with a precedent having been set.

So, if for no other reason than to hear the voice of Michael Buffer and to see Daniel Ricciardo throwing some magnificent pre-race shapes. Every F1 fan should take the time to tune into today’s pre-race show, Live on Sky Sports and Channel 4.

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Formula E: Why Audi don’t need Formula One

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Following on from yesterday’s post suggesting that after their success in the World Endurance Championship, Porsche may be considering a future in Formula One, Livery designer extraordinaire & MsportXtra partner Sean Bull went on to post livery concepts around a Future for Audi in F1 again partnering with Red Bull Racing.

Whilst I’m a huge fan of the livery concept. To me, Audi’s future in motorsport sits within Formula E. Earlier this month Audi became the first German Automotive manufacturer to officially commit to the championship, taking over the Abt team license.

As an automotive manufacturer, Audi has recognised the trend towards Electric Vehicles and are embracing it. In motorsports, with Formula One, Audi would be forced into a battle of the budget in order to compete and to be seen as a success. With Formula E, they can engage with a younger audience demographic within a cost controlled environment, in a sport supported by governments and industry. They have an opportunity to lead, not follow.

As Audi works driver Lucas Di Grassi tweeted last month, drivers might miss the 1000bhp LMP1 beasts of Le Mans but the future is Electric, and Audi have embraced their future.

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Formula One: Throwback Thursday – Red Bull Racing (don’t) split from Renault

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If you’ve caught more than 10 minutes F1 coverage or spent anytime on popular F1 news aggregator sites over the last few weeks you would be forgiven for thinking the Mclaren Honda divorce was complete. Based on all confirmed sources this is not the case.

F1 media, as with any media, has a tendency towards sensationalism. A controversial headline will attract readership.  I have to admit, I’m not adverse to the occasional sensationalist headline here on JWGP.

So, whilst the F1 world awaits formal confirmation from both Mclaren and Honda around future plans, now seems as good a time as ever to reflect on the last “SENSATIONAL” Team and power unit supplier fall out. When with no official word from either Red Bull Racing or Renault, after 18 months of continuous headlines around a fallout, their split was announced by the media. Except it wasn’t. Two seasons later the partnership is still alive. Yes it has been modified, but the fact remains Red Bull Racing and Renault are partners.  Below is a screen grab of just a few of the credible outlets that “confirmed” the news.

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So while we wait for official news from Mclaren and Honda about the future of their partnership, one fact to bare in mind;

As per FIA sporting regulations, Honda and Mercedes have already confirmed power unit supply plans to the FIA for 2018 (see story with verified sources here). Within this confirmation, Mercedes will supply the same teams they are in 2017, Honda will supply Mclaren and Sauber.

In retrospect Looking back at the “confirmed” Red Bull Racing Renault split, the story ensured continual press coverage for a team performing well below expectations over a 12 month period. This coverage was arguably greater than that which Mercedes received whilst fighting for the championship. A masterstroke in marketing by a true marketeer Dietrich Mateschitz. In November last year, Mclaren replaced Ron Dennis with marketing guru Zak Brown.

How many newspapers are giving midweek coverage to Mercedes win on Sunday?

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Formula One: Red Bull Racing ready to fight for the championship – Ricciardo

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Heading into the second and final pre-season test ahead of the 2017 Formula One World Championship confidence is sky high on Daniel Ricciardo’s side of the Red Bull Racing Garage. From the bold ‘My time’ statement made by the Australian in his latest helmet design to his confident demeanour in recent interviews, Ricciardo is  projecting the air of a driver destinted to challenge for the drivers crown this season.

In his first in depth interview for Mobil One’s the Grid, Ricciardo speaks candidly about his expectations for the season ahead and why he believes 2017 will be his year.

Formula One: Premium partners flock to Force India

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Judging by additional branding adorning the VJM10 and partnership announcements in the off season,  plaudits surrounding Sahara Force India’s forth place finish in the 2016 Formula One Constructors Championship have extended far beyond the commentators and fans.

With an increasing number of leading teams in Formula One struggling to secure new partners Force India are bucking the trend. The teams ability to attract new partners can be attributed in part to their success on track, but perhaps of more relevance, the way in which the success has been achieved. It is a well known fact the Force India operate on a significantly lower budget than the majority of other teams on the grid. Rather than complaining about a lack of finances, the team focus there efforts on maximising what they do have. The ratio of investment to performance gain and as a consequence exposure gain is far higher with Force India than with any other team on the grid. No doubt the marketing team of the Silverstone based team use this information as a key factor in presenting to new partners. The approach is paying off!

Diageo, have upgraded their relationship with Force India, increasing branding space and influence on the 2017 livery and shifting the brand they are seeking to promote through the partnership from mass market offering Smirnoff, to premium brand Johnnie Walker.

Innovative premium watch brand Felio Siby have extended their partnership with Force India for a second year, with promises of unique brand activation events through the season.

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Hype Energy Drink have expanded their partnership within the sport for the third season in succession. With increased branding on the VJM1o in premium exposure positions.

New clothing partner Farah have joined the team, supplying a unique range of travel wear and fan range to be launched later in the season.

Eye Respect – LDNR eyewear join Force India as the official sunglasses / eyewear partner for the team, taking brand positioning on the wing mirrors of the VJM10

Forex Trading partner FXTM also join the team with branding on the rear sidepod of the car. As forex trading moves into the mainstream Force India have done well to secure a leader in the sector.

With online gambling partner W88.com and digital technology partner Orangebus also joining the team, the Force India marketing team should be more than satisfied with an impressive winter work rate!

Another interesting component of the partnerships Force India have established ahead of the 2017 season is the amount of deals which are customer facing. Increasingly partnerships within Formula One are focused on business to business relationship building or hosting high net worth individuals. Force India are establishing partnerships which incorporate a consumer facing offering. They are achieving this whilst also introducing partners with aspirational product offerings.

Formula One: Are Sauber ahead of Mclaren?

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With the first week of pre-season testing in Barcelona drawing to a close to decipher the true pace of any team is almost impossible. All teams will be running their own development programs with differing approaches to fuel loads, tyre usage, aero set up, and engine mode settings. However after four days of testing some trends are beginning to emerge. One such trend could be concerning for Mclaren.

With the Sauber F1 team opting to run a 2016 Ferrari power unit through the 2017 season many expect the team to struggle for outright performance. When the decision was first announced the team explained this move would ensure stability in design and reliability allowing them to focus on the challenges of the changes in aerodynamic regulations for 2017. This approach appears to have paid off as through the first week of testing, only Mercedes and Ferrari have covered more KM’s in testing, 2,597KM  & 2,173KM  to Sauber’s 1,624KM. Mclaren on the other hand have struggled for reliability and not to mention outright pace. Power unit supplier Honda have new approach to the 2017 engine configuration to address inherent performance shortcomings, unfortunately this new design coupled with a new fuel and lubricant supplier, has lead to unreliability. In four days testing Mclaren have covered less than 1000KM.  As teams head into the second pre season test in which performance will should become a greater focus, Mclaren are unlikely to have collected sufficient baseline data to understand how best to extract maximum performance from the MCL32.

As stated in the first week of pre-season testing teams rarely focus on outright performance, however there will certain simulation runs in which drivers are allowed to push the car and situations in which softer compound tyres will be used.

@MsportXtra has complied a useful summary of fastest time set by each driver, total number of laps, and tyre used to set the fastest lap in tweet below:

Comparing the data between Sauber and Mclaren in this format adds further weight to the suggestion Mclaren could be set for a difficult start to the season. In every session in which Mclaren and Sauber completed their fastest laps on the same compound tyre, Sauber were able to post faster lap times. Further more in the session in which Mclaren worked with the Ultra soft compound, Sauber were faster using the super soft compound.

In reviewing the below table provided by Pirelli of the overall fastest times over the test, Mclaren again look to be in a precarious position.

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It is widely understood that Mclaren are not able to use all performance modes with the Honda power unit owing to concerns over reliability. Much of the teams issues can be attributed to this, but with such limited running the team may struggle to validate aerodynamic concepts in the design of the MCL32. After a challenging 2 seasons for the Woking based team could 2017 see the team fall further back down the grid?

The approach taken by Sauber of focusing on understanding the new aerodynamic regulations and minimising the impact of using a year old power unit appears to be paying off, with strong reliability the team should be targeting points early in the season which should also attract interest from new partners, something most teams in Formula One are actively seeking.

Formula One: The Final Seats

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As the  F1 world rapidly heads towards the winter break. The sport finds its self in a highly unusual position of having for seats still to be confirmed on the 2017 grid.

Whilst it is not out of the ordinary for seats at the lower end of the field to still be open at this point on in the year, for a seat to be open with the championship winning team is almost unimaginable. Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement from the sport has effectively stalled the driver market with no driver or team wanting to make a commitment before Mercedes conclude a deal with whoever their new driver will be.

At the time of writing favourites for the drive alongside Lewis Hamilton with the Silver Arrows in 2017 are; Valtteri Bottas, Pascal Wehrlein, and my own favourite Sergio Perez. Which ever driver is awarded the drive will have a knock on effect for the teams they are currently or likely to be driving for.

Should Mercedes manage to agree terms with Williams and they release Bottas, the team will be left with serious lack of experience in their driver line up as they head towards one of the most technically challenging regulation changes in two decades., As such working with Pascal Wehrlein who has only taken part in 21 races in unlikely to be their first choice.  More likely would be development driver Paul Di Resta taking the role or recently retired Felipe Massa or Jenson Button making an unexpected return.

In the scenario in which Mercedes take the brave move of putting Pascal Wehrlein in the second seat of the W08, Manor Racing will be left with two seats to fill. The team are likely to be secure drivers with funding, which could lead to a return of a funded Rio Haryanto to the grid. Anther option could be Felipe Nasr should, a driver Bernie Ecclestone has commented he is keen to keep on the grid to assure Brazilian interest in the Championship. Manor Racing development driver Jordan King is likely to find a role within the team. Dependant on the budget he brings this could be in the role of reserve or second driver.

Moving to Sauber, with Marcus Ericsson confirmed the rejuvenated Swiss team have one seat still to fill. 2017 will be a season of rebuilding for the team, as such their focus will be on ensuring consistency and strong feedback. In an ideal world I can imagine the team would like to work with a driver already familiar with the world of F1. Critics may dismiss this option but I would not rule out Pastor Maldonado finding a new home in Hinwil. Should the team head down the rookie route GP2 vice champion Antonio Giovinazzi would be a bold move and one demonstrating the team’s commitment to the future.

Sergio Perez moving to Mercedes would cause Sahara Force India a great deal of pain. Of course Mercedes would compensate the team, but over the past 3 seasons Force India have focused the majority of their business development efforts around building a profile in Mexico. To loose Perez would be a major blow. As such I can see them looking to replace one Mexican for another and signing Esteban Gutiérrez to the team.

One thing is for sure, the F1 silly season is far from over and it still has a few surprises in store!