Tech & Sports : Sponsorship from Presence to Engagement

Formula 1

Much as I am loathe to admit it (being a diehard Lewis Hamilton fan), Red Bull have really nailed it as sports sponsor and nowhere is it more apparent than in F1. Wherever there is an act of daring, of doing things that appear to exceed the limits of the human body, Red Bull are apace with Formula 1 sponsorship, taking ownership of the whole show.

It may be a lunatic plummeting from the higher reaches of our atmosphere to set a parachuting record. Or other lunatics-in-training who spend most of their time immersed in video fighting games. Red Bull’s logo – two enraged male bovines going head-to-head against the background of a setting sun – is ubiquitous.

But more important, Red Bull have gone beyond the mere presence of a sponsor with no obvious connection to the sport. Their engagement with extreme sport complements their brand identity perfectly; ‘Red Bull gives you wiiings’. This is in contrast to, say, Emirates Airline sponsoring Real Madrid.

So it got me thinking, admittedly after a four-hour binge session glued to the Netflix series ‘Drive to Survive’. Incredible technology is now deployed to ensure the TV viewer is as immersed as possible in each race. What opportunities do sponsors have to create an immediate link between brand and event, to move from presence to engagement.

It’s not what you say, but what you do

One new innovation is an in-helmet camera which really does make you feel like a frightened passenger hurtling towards a corner at 270km/h. Why don’t Leica (or whoever provided the lenses) stick a logo at the bottom of the screen while this is in view? They couldn’t possibility be accused of creating visual pollution, there are already about ten other logos in view! And the radio transmissions between team and driver? Surely there’s a b2b or b2c brand that facilitates these transmissions?

As far back as 2011, I remember when du (UAE telco) were over the moon that they could buy a spot on Sebastian Vettel’s car to place their logo. Did they leverage it? Of course not. It was just a vanity purchase, to be preened about in the Majlis. But the brand bond between a telco operator and driver/pits connectivity should have been seen as gold.

There’s also some material technology that plays an active role in protecting the driver’s neck and spine. What an opportunity to create meaningful dialogue between a medtech brand and the relevant businesses and consumers.

Clutter vs. Clarity

Have a look at Red Bull’s F1 car for this season, or any of the other competitors. There are about 30 different brand name sprinkled all over the bodywork. How many of these brand have an instantly recognisable alignment with the performance values of the sport? Counting the Red Bull logo, just four.

Considering that all the technological advances exist to boost viewership, surely brands can make it obvious why they contribute to that sport. How to move their investment in sponsorship from presence to engagement.

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