Brands rev up for Formula One 2013

Formula One commercial partners Burn, Sky and BlackBerry are putting fan engagement at the heart of their sponsorship strategies in a bid to exploit the global interest around this year’s season.

Brands are readying global fan engagement campaigns ahead of the start of the Formula One 2013 season this weekend.

The tournament starts this weekend (14 March) with the Australian Grand Prix and follows an influx of sponsorship deals from companies including Coca-Cola, Rolex and UPS in recent months.

Coca-Cola’s energy drink brand Burn has kicked off its multi-year deal with the Lotus team with a Twitter push to encourage fans to ask drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean questions about the season ahead. It is also using Facebook and Flickr to promote a teaser trailer shot by Ridley Scott for the team’s ‘Showtime’ campaign.

It marks the first phase of a wider strategy Burn claims will “incorporate art and music in a way that will break the conventions of traditional Formula 1 sponsorship marketing”.

Elsewhere, BlackBerry is speaking to fans on Twitter and Facebook in the run up to Sunday’s race and will use the Mercedes AMG Petronas team’s drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in “content-orientated projects” along similar lines to its ‘Keep Moving’ activity with singer Alicia Keys and author Neil Gaiman.

The smartphone maker is using the tie-up to promote its BB10 operating system and handsets. It is developing co-branded apps to promote its global marketing strategy and will also give the team access to the BB10 platform at both a technical and operational level.

The $12m (£7.9m) annual deal aims to capitalise on the sport’s following in emerging markets such as India and Brazil, BlackBerry says.

Sky Sports F1, which is entering its second season as the sport’s main broadcaster in the UK, is shifting its marketing strategy to using brand advocates to promote its offering after focusing efforts last year on educating viewers about its services.


The business is to launch a multi-million pound Twitter campaign in partnership with agency Brothers & Sisters where fans race against the clock answering questions in real-time on the micro-blogging site. The competition kicks off on Sunday and prizes will be awarded each week with an overall championship winner receiving tickets to a race next season.

A spokesman for Sky Sports F1 says: “A weapon we’ve now got in our arsenal, which we didn’t have last year, is to use some of the positive vibes of the people who watched our coverage last season to try to convince non-customers to purchase the product. It’s not something we’ve done much of it but we’re starting to do more of it now along with some of the other content strands on the channel.”

Sponsors have primarily used the sport for B2B relationship building in the past with brand exposure through logos on cars and on trackside billboards being the main way media rights have been leveraged. However, the growing presence of consumer-minded brands such as Burn, Blackberry and Rolex in the sport could see this shift with marketers upping their activation spend to reach more fans.

Carsten Thode, director of consulting at Synergy Sponsorship and former brand manager for Reuters deal with Williams F1, says: “There are a lot of B2B campaigns in Formula One but you’re never going to get major activation campaigns from them. They see it more as a one-to-one sales opportunity so don’t need to invest in mass campaigns. The emergence of new sponsors like Burn and BlackBerry suggests this could be about to change.

“As these brands start taking more risks with their budgets, things will start to move in the right direction. I don’t think it will be an incredibly fast moving train as it will take time to change the thinking of brands who have been involved with the sport for years.”

Despite the raft of deals, sponsorship accounts for only 15 per cent of Formula One’s $1.5bn (£990.5m) annual revenue, according to financial experts UBS AG. The majority of its revenues come from race promotion fees and broadcast deals, which both account for around a third of overall earnings.

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