Modern Marketing Brand

Partnering with Formula 1: a formula for success

By Catherine Hall | Sports marketing and sponsorship consultant

July 19, 2022 | 5 min read

For decades, Formula 1 racing has had legions of devoted European fans. Now its popularity is rapidly growing in the US. There’s never been a better time for brands to capitalize on the sport’s mass appeal through partnership deals – but it isn’t for the faint of heart.

Imagine if you could activate at the Super Bowl, with all its passion, glamor and excitement, 22 times per year. Imagine each event taking place in a different country, firing up a different audience each time.

That’s what it’s like for marketers who sponsor Formula 1 racing, the pinnacle of motorsport.

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The next Formula 1 US Grand Prix will take place this October in Austin, Texas / Adobe Stock

Formula 1 is one of the fastest-growing spectator sports in the world. Viewership has surged in the US, driven by expansion into Austin, Miami and – starting next year – Las Vegas. On a global scale, growth has been accelerated by Netflix’s wildly popular docuseries Drive to Survive, which has played up the conflicts and tensions between Formula 1 personalities over the past four seasons, giving new audiences reasons to love the sport.

The thrilling action of the sport, however, is reason enough. Drivers push one another to speeds of up to 230 mph, and they can experience G forces up to 6G. Each car is completely custom-built, which makes Formula 1 an engineering competition as well as an athletic one.

Then you have the spectacle of 22 races over nine months and five continents, tracks winding through glitzy urban locales, and drivers who are adored like top European footballers.

It all adds up to a very alluring sports partnership opportunity. The fusion of sport and technology is a perfect fit for B2B tech brands. It can be a great awareness play for brands in novel and disruptive categories such as crypto. And for mature brands in categories that do not organically inspire positive sentiment or strong loyalty, Formula 1 provides a proven way to connect with a passionate and global fan base.

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But sponsoring or partnering with Formula 1 is not for the faint of heart. For one thing, it’s expensive – typically starting at seven figures. Global logistics are challenging. The timelines are short. If you’re not fully prepared to execute on your sponsorship deal, you’ll be wasting your money. A lot of it.

If you have the passion, budget and fortitude to sponsor Formula 1, here are some tips to help you succeed:

  1. Be sure your brand fits the audience. Formula 1 fans tend to be younger and socially active, with international tastes and a love for technology

  2. Determine the best property for your objectives. You can partner with Formula 1, a team, a driver or a circuit

  3. Expect the unexpected. Teams rise and fall. An underdog driver may surprise the world

  4. Make sure you understand the particularities of your sponsorship, and how those can be maximally leveraged. Remember that every country, and every circuit, is unique

  5. Let your business objectives guide you. What are your goals for a sponsorship? Customer relations? Share of voice? Activate accordingly

The next US Grand Prix will be held in Austin, Texas in October – tickets are nearly sold out. Las Vegas will debut its Grand Prix in November 2023. It’s hard to imagine a more exciting and timely opportunity for high-rolling, excitement-seeking brands. And if that’s not your brand, you’re also in luck: you still get to watch for fun.

Catherine Hall is a sports marketing and sponsorship consultant for The Marketing Arm (TMA). TMA has negotiated and managed multiple partnerships with Formula 1 teams on behalf of clients such as Citrix, AT&T and Monster.

Check out The Drum’s latest Deep Dive, The New Sports Marketing Playbook, and learn the tactics employed by the world’s biggest sports organizations and their star athletes to stay top of their game.

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