Drivers Market(ing)

 
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Is it a sport? Is it a business? Or is it entertainment? The answer is a cocktail of all three. It's an elite sport with a profound whiff of money, dissolved in an entertainment bubble. Delicious, no doubt. But in recent weeks and months there have been more than a few grumblings about how F1 needs to market itself, and maybe more so its stars - the drivers - more in keeping with other top line sports around the globe. The simple question is, should it?

As is often the case, the answer is not quite so simple. There can be no denying that F1 has been slow to adopt and adapt to new technologies, new revenue streams and a new audience.

Football, NFL and cricket all go to great lengths to capitalise on the superstars of their game to attract, engage and educate their audiences - both nationally and internationally. You could argue that it's easier because they have hundreds, if not thousands, of personalities to choose from. F1 has just 20. But these are 20 elite drivers. 20 of the best drivers. The best 20 drivers?

That's an argument for another day, but you get the idea. We have the superstars there. They're on a global stage in one of the most exhilarating, gladiatorial stages of them all. Yet there are those with the power, with the pen and paper, calling for the sport to market its drivers better.

The teams have done a great job with the social media audience, and continue to do so. The same too can be said with some of the drivers. The drivers that want to, that is. And I have no issue with that. Not everyone wants to or should have to share every little facet of their lives; both at and away from the circuit.

Do we need Kimi on Twitter? Of course we don't. We love him because of his straightness, his mysteriousness and the fact that he's somewhat of a throwback to an era of which some still seem to believe we should be in. A man who loves his racing. I don't need to know much more than that. I'm paraphrasing here, but on a recent Sky F1 Show I heard Jon Noble of motorsport.com highlight that the most popular driver on the grid is the one that says the least. It's true, and it's brilliant.

The battle between driver and machine, and the racing that it brings with it creates the characters, the heroes and the legends that the sport's foundations are built on. Drivers, teams and circuits come and go. But what they do when they're here creates the legacy for the present and for the future. We all have our favourites, and all for differing reasons. I admire, support and respect drivers for their on track talents.

Maybe it does need to become 'more difficult' for drivers again. Maybe we do need more of a drivers versus machine scrap. After all, racing breeds heroes. And heroes are marketable.

Merchandise at racetracks. It's everywhere. But is it as good as it could be? Do the teams and the circuits capitalise on this as much as they should or could? Having recently experienced this first hand in Budapest, I would say no. And here's why.

Sebastian Vettel. A four time World Champion. A big winter move to the iconic Ferrari. Drives the Red 5 machine. Races with a superbly distinctive helmet. But was as much made of that as it could have been? I'd say no. Sure, I bought a Ferrari cap with the Vettel signature on. It's great, and I'll take it to future races. But what surprised me as I stood at the Ferrari stand, desperately in need of a cap to prevent my head turning into a tomato, was the lack of Vettel caps with the helmet design - white base with an off centre German flag running down it. It my head looks brilliant. On a helmet it looks brilliant. So why isn't it yet a thing? Surely it can't take long to produce? It'd make a fortune!

This of course is just one example, I'm sure there were many others. Merchandising at the track is big business. Thousands of pennies and pounds are spent there every race weekend on caps, t-shirts, tops etc. There's a big, big market there. And it's not being utilised. There were only stands for Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren and Mercedes in Budapest. And an official F1 one, which sold...Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren and Mercedes merch. Oh, and a bit of Force India too.

No sign of Williams, Lotus, Sauber. All iconic names of the sport, yet no sign of them. If a team doesn't have a stand there, you'd surely think the F1 stand would supply some of their stuff? Maybe we should also have F1 shops dotted around the world, in major cities or areas known as hotbeds for motorsport. Heck, if there was an F1 near me I'd be there every week.

The mystique and talent of the drivers, combined with their chosen numbers and singular helmet designs. It's this that creates the brand, the marketability. They are here to race, so let's let them race!

Drivers are drivers. Marketers and marketers. The driving creates the brand. The marketing delivers the brand.

Paul Godley 12/08/2015

Top Drivers

 
Driver Points
Hamilton 252
Rosberg 211
Vettel 203
Raikkonen 107
Bottas 101
Massa 97
 

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