Category: Formula 1

Sports Ambassadors – ‘The value of human engagement’

Robin Fenwick, Chief Executive

The dust has finally settled on what was an extraordinary sporting weekend just gone and we’ve now had some time for Sunday’s two major, record-breaking achievements to truly sink in.

I’m talking, of course, about Dustin ‘DJ’ Johnson winning The Masters and Lewis Hamilton reaching seven Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championships.

These were far from normal victories, with many records sent tumbling. DJ won by five shots in Augusta, the largest margin since Tiger Woods in 1997. He also equalled the lowest score in major history of -20, which became the best ever at Augusta National.

As for Hamilton, his Turkish Grand Prix masterclass takes him to the most amount of race wins by any Formula 1 driver (94) and a record-equalling seven drivers’ titles, matching Michael Schumacher’s total and essentially becoming the most successful driver of all time.


For me, it’s an interesting time to consider what this means for brands partnering with these two individuals. Bottom line, with few exceptions, success breeds success – so any brands associated with these ambassadors should be absolutely delighted given the significant positive exposure they have received.


The structure of the deals for the brands you will have seen on these two sportsmen’s clothing, however, are very different. Hamilton is contracted by Mercedes Motorsport not just to drive for them, but to give up most of his ‘marketing time’ and his intellectual property including name and image rights, for example, whilst on team duty.


While under heavy media attention at a Grand Prix, Hamilton is required to wear team kit displaying sponsored brands, which deliver huge exposure for partners. DJ, by comparison, can wear what he likes, when he likes. Of course, he will still be contracted to brands of his choosing, but at every golf event he attends it will be him that decides what to wear and how much marketing time to commit.

One is not necessarily better than the other, because Hamilton receives a very healthy salary from Mercedes Motorsport to cover the sacrifices he makes, but in doing so he also gives up quite a bit of ‘commercial freedom’. 

In terms of benefits to brands associated with Hamilton and DJ, put simply, an endorsement from one of these individuals will go a long way to drive sales and patronage for the brand.

Furthermore, Hamilton’s reputation now transcends the sport. His work to raise awareness for social issues including diversity in sport, Black Lives Matter and sustainability initiatives is heavily aligned to the core values of some of the world’s biggest brands.

When high-profile individuals convey your message in an authentic manner, it resonates more effectively with fans, leading to increased relevancy of your product – even if your customer only subconsciously realises it. 

Ambassadors can help set your business apart from your competition. While others traditionally promote through advertising, they are largely delivering the same kind of message. ‘Made with the finest ingredients’ or ‘We go above and beyond’, are examples that consumers are understandably sceptical of. Individuals can give your brand a personality that allows you to make much more personal and emotive connections with your desired audience. 

When customers understand your brand’s values, goals and beliefs, they are much more likely to trust what you have to say as an organisation. Particularly at this time during ‘lockdown’ in many countries, it can be difficult to effectively convey brand personality to the public without actual human interaction. Through ambassadors social channels, there is an opportunity to speak to your audience in a subtle, but persuasive manner that they will understand. Let us take some time to consider the most engaged social accounts around the globe – not only can ambassadors deliver a deeper level of social engagement, but they can also engage with consumers at far greater scale than many brands could through their own channels.


The crucial part when choosing an ambassador is to ensure the individual’s audience is right for your business. For example, two of DJ’s (personal) partners are Adidas and TaylorMade and two of Hamilton’s (team) partners are Tommy Hilfiger and IWC watches. Each brand mentioned chose to work with these ambassadors because they will resonate with their respective customer base. 

We at Right Formula, through smart technology, are able to put this into practice, and identify and target the customer personas of our clients that overlap with the audience of the chosen ambassadors in order to reduce wastage and ensure brands optimise their return on investment. 

It’s not only important to select the right partner for the brand, but also to decide what you would like to achieve, such as the ‘promotion of a specific product’ or to ‘align with a particular campaign’. Most audiences are pretty savvy and can easily spot a partnership that is not authentic, which in turn will have the reverse effect and possibly a negative impact of the talent and/or the brand if the messaging is forced. 

However, research shows that consumers are more likely to pay attention to their social circle than they are to paid advertising, and this social circle includes people they follow online. Consumers often tend not to follow brands online, but 72% of people decide what they want to buy based on social media posts, proving if you find the right individual who resonates with your customers, it can deliver significant results.

So while we are all going through our own challenges at the moment and are more receptive than ever to the ‘value of human engagement’, now is the time to consider how an ambassador can accelerate your business in a way that truly sets you apart.



Opinion: Why F1’s positive CSR movements should no longer come as a surprise


Few sports have done more than Formula 1 to enforce change for the better in recent times. Arguably, none have, which may still come as a surprise to many.

Whether it was assisting in the build of life-saving ventilators during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, announcing its plan to have a net-zero carbon footprint by 2030 or introducing the #WeRaceAsOne initiative to improve inclusion and diversity across the board, the sport has made no shortage of important strides that have generated news headlines in the last six months.

It’s not just Formula 1 as an entity making moves, either. The constructors themselves are too paving the way for a more sustainable, all-encompassing incarnation of the sport we love.

Mercedes’ new black livery for the 2020 season – another signal of commitment to greater diversity and inclusion in motorsport – has been at the forefront of those statements. McLaren have also instilled rainbow-coloured streaks on their chassis, as a “universal symbol of unity, solidarity and hope”.

Once considered behind the times and out of touch with an ever-changing world, Formula 1 and all involved with it are now setting the standards for positive change across global sport and society.

But for those who remain surprised by it, perhaps needn’t be. There has been plenty of corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives being executed for a while.


Take Williams’ Advanced Engineering, who helped introduce energy saving Aerofoil refrigeration to major UK supermarket Sainsbury’s back in 2017. 

Initially technology that was created to divert air over and around race cars to maximise performance, these days it helps prevent the waste of cold air, which now directs back into the units. This innovative, F1-inspired concept not only keeps aisles warmer and reduces food waste, but has helped Sainsbury’s record a 15% energy saving across its nationwide stores.

Elsewhere, McLaren have provided data management, predictive analytics and simulation assistance to clinical research firm GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) for nearly a decade. Their contribution helps explore and understand new compounds more comprehensively, allowing GSK to reach swifter, better informed decisions about its medicine discovery processes.

The sport’s ability to initiate technology that later improves lives even extends to the treatment room, where data systems evolutionised  from Formula 1 can now continuously monitor patients in intensive care wards and improve operational procedures. 

On track, it’s no different. Since a shake up in the rules for 2014, Formula 1 engines now boast 20% more power, yet produce 26% less in the way of CO2 emissions. Overall, they’re 10% more efficient – a seismic figure considering it’s been achieved in just six seasons.

Such progress has also made its way to the road cars of the participating manufacturers, and taken on other forms to power city transport, buildings and businesses. A greener sport, lighting the way for a greener everyday life.

For good measure, F1-derived technology across 5G infrastructure now drives complex road, rail, underground and even air transportation systems around the world – ensuring maximum efficiency for highly-complex logistical demands.

As someone who’s worked in and around the sport for constructors, brands and agencies for many years, I’m proud that Formula 1 continues to be at the forefront of thought leadership, innovations and CSR efforts.

Too often branded as the world’s most expensive and glamorous exhaustion of fossil fuels, it is doing much more in the way of implementing change than that of many of its critics. 

While the events of 2020 have undoubtedly helped lift the lid on these good news stories to a greater extent – and even shown how it can do more – make no mistake, the goodwill of the paddock has long been at play.

Roll on the racing in Spielberg this weekend, where Formula 1 returns an even better sport.



Opinion: Ignore the doomsters – Now is the time to invest in F1 partnerships

Robin Fenwick, Chief Executive

Looking back at the liveries of the cars at the first F1 race I attended in the early 2000’s shows just how far the industry has come. It was the Italian Grand Prix and I was working on Vodafone’s partnership with Scuderia Ferrari; I was amazed at the investments in F1 compared to other sports. Soon after, I moved to McLaren and quickly discovered that brands were investing up to $100m for what I would today describe as a very traditional form of sponsorship – principally providing awareness and customer entertainment opportunities.

So how were brands of that era making a return on investment? 

Fast forward through the last two decades and the landscape has substantially changed. Not only have other forms of motorsport grown in stature, but there are thousands of sports and entertainment rightsholders outside of motorsport that are tempting brands to invest with them as an alternative – ultimately driving F1 prices down. 

Understandably, and rightly in my view, brands are shifting to purpose-driven partnerships. That’s not to say partnerships were conducted in the wrong way before, far from it; rather, it’s that society has moved on and the commercial sponsorship landscape has changed with it. Take Sky and it’s hugely successful Sky Ocean Rescue partnership; or the #PassOnPlastic initiative with the Premier League; Kia Motors using its sponsorship of UEFA’s Europa League to donate unwanted boots and trainers to young children living in refugee camps; and Paddy Power’s #SaveOurShirt campaign to clean up football jerseys. There are many more examples. 

While the sponsorship landscape is more competitive than before, appetite for F1 amongst global fans is at an all-time high. 


Race attendance is reaching approximately 200,000 fans per race and the cumulative global TV audience is just short of 2 billion. Even Netflix has commissioned a second series of its ‘Drive to Survive’ programme showing evidence of the ever-growing confluence of sport and entertainment. These are exciting times for F1.

Importantly too, the sport itself is changing – and for the better. The latest Concorde Agreement, signed by the FIA, all teams and the Formula One Group comes into effect in 2021. Key headlines include the introduction of a £175m cost cap and the ambition to go carbon neutral by 2030. FIA President Jean Todt described it as “a major change in how the pinnacle of motorsport will be run”. As a major plus for fans, both current and potential, these new regulations will, many believe, level out the playing field, making the sport an even more compelling proposition. 

There are a number of other under-publicised positives too, that will help the sport remain current and authentic in a world where brands are trying to appeal to younger audiences. The experience at track, both in the exclusive VIP Paddock Club Hospitality and in the general F1 Fanzone, is host to new and innovative forms of music and entertainment activities that allow you to ‘get closer’ than ever before. F1 Esports and Fantasy F1 are just a couple of new initiatives that target the younger generation – Generation Z – and it’s working: 40% of fans today are under 35, which is a significant shift from the early 2000’s.

Regardless of what era a brand was involved in F1, one thing always rings true: successful sponsorships occur when brands and rightsholders approach it in the mindset of creating a true partnership. In today’s competitive sponsorship landscape, no longer does a one-size-fits-all approach work and brands are no longer able to view sponsorship as a ‘cash for access’ proposition; the sponsorship needs to positively, and tangibly, affect the business, commercially or otherwise.

With a financial cap in place, F1 will be capitalising on its entrepreneurial, ‘can do’ ethos to work with its partners to find constructive solutions and ways of working within the parameters of the cap. The sport utilises some of the smartest technologies and talent anywhere in the world, and so now more than ever is the time for partners and teams to share resources and intelligence which will benefit brands and rights holders. The opportunities lying in F1’s wake today are greater than they have ever been.

This line of thinking is nothing new. As part of its Advanced Technologies division, Williams worked with its partner Unilever to engage air-flow specialist engineers who collaboratively developed up to 70% more efficient supermarket refrigeration units. Williams are not alone in this. McLaren, through its Applied Technologies division, utilised its agreement with Deloitte to help the UK Air Traffic Service.

Liberty Media’s reign in F1 has been in place three years, and they continue to make progressive changes to their personnel and strategy that will take the sport on to even greater successes.

That Liberty has not opted for overnight solutions to change the sport – like some have called for – is understandable and, in my view, absolutely the right approach, because, F1 is a complex sport and requires long term solutions.


And this is why consultancies such as ours exist: to help brands and rights holders alike achieve results efficiently and effectively by using genuine industry specialists to deliver positive and quantifiable business outcomes. Outcomes that deliver on a business’ objective.

With major rule changes coming in soon that will make the sport ever-more exciting, sponsorship rates in F1 at an all-time low and with barriers to entry (in F1) now removed, the opportunity for brands and rights holders to tailor rights and engage in truly meaningful partnerships is greater than it has ever been. 

Think of it like house prices, would you rather invest at the peak of the market or when the market has dipped and you think you can get a great deal? 

Now is the time to ignore the cynics – there has never been a better time to invest in F1.