Category: Motorsport

Insight: Brand adaptation that drives results

It has often been said that changing the way a brand is perceived is one of the toughest challenges for any marketeer to undertake. In many cases, what a brand stands for is something that has been developed over many years, with the resulting brand image re-enforcing the understanding and feelings that an audience holds over time. 

But every now and then, an element of change may be required. This could be a new product being launched for a different audience, or the likes of cultural and environmental trends forcing a change of direction. What for so long has become a virtue or position of strength can quickly become a barrier to change.

Whatever the reason, marketing teams will be searching for ways to achieve this brand shift as effectively and efficiently as possible.

It’s at this point that partnership marketing can really flex its muscles and demonstrate why it plays such an important role as a marketing channel.

From the perspective of the brand, it is the power of association that is so valuable. The act of sponsoring another entity, in order to borrow valuable equity, is what makes it such a powerful marketing channel to aid re-appraisal or drive positional change.

In time, a clearly defined partnership strategy will fuel purposeful and powerful activations, from which a brand can begin to move in the direction they so desire over a sustained period.

Re-defining a category

Recently, we have seen examples of brands entering long-term partnerships with the aim of redefining a whole category.

Formula E, the fully electric single-seater racing championship, has become a powerful platform for brands within the petroleum and oils space to drive their re-appraisal and perception as more holistic ‘energy’ companies. A position that naturally fits far better alongside the wider sustainability agenda that is so prominent across the electric mobility and engineering landscape.

There are multiple examples of global petroleum brands expanding their motorsport presence into this space – with the subsequent partnership equity powering a new brand narrative suitable for sustainable and future-thinking energy brands.

Indeed, the power of Formula E to lend its credibility around sustainability goes far beyond the petroleum and oil industry. SAP’s partnership with Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E team allows them to reach their B2B and B2C audiences via the unique filter that the sport provides, differentiating their partnership activation compared to anything else within their marketing mix.


Speaking to a new audience without alienating another

Let’s take a second to consider the task of repositioning a brand in the eyes of one audience, without diluting the core message that is so important to another.

For so long, Dove have spoken to their female heartland in an honest and real way that drew much admiration. Their Real Beauty campaign changed the conversation around female beauty and empowered a whole generation of women to have the confidence to embrace themselves in a way that was unique in the category.

It is a hugely powerful and effective campaign and one that had to be considered when speaking to a male audience on behalf of their Men Care range.

Over time, they have utilised the power of their partnerships within rugby union to speak to a male audience in a way that works for them. Crucially, this has involved exploring the emotive side of sportsmen who, on the surface, have traditionally displayed a tough exterior shell. Not only have they supported their male product range when so much of their brand has been female focused, but they have successfully broken-down barriers within how the sport of rugby is perceived – thus allowing the fanbase to more openly discuss, embrace and purchase their product category – skin care.



Brand re-appraisal and successfully driving a brand narrative in a new direction is no easy feat.

To begin, we require a complete understanding of how the brand is perceived in the market, an oversight of the business challenges to be overcome, along with the desired end-goal or direction of travel.

Once this is clear, we turn our attention to sourcing the right partner that not only allows the brand to engage with their target audience, but also provides authenticity and credibility to help fuel the desired change of direction and narrative. For those brands that have already secured these partnerships, the focus is on leveraging the rights acquired in the most effective and efficient way, across the entire marketing mix, to re-shape brand perception, build a new story and positively engage with audiences both new and old.

Partnership marketing is a channel that offers up huge value, and brand re-appraisal is just one area that can benefit when it is executed successfully. It is never too late to change or be seen in a different way.

But it doesn’t need to be done alone. Finding the right partner to work alongside makes a tricky task a whole lot easier.

For more information, contact Right Formula Brands Director Damien Gillman here.


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.