5 thoughts on the future of motorsport sponsorship and investment

The second International Motorsport Summit, organised by the newly rebranded sports marketing research giant Repucom, took place at Germany's Nurburging on Thursday. Here are a few quick thoughts on what was discussed and what it might mean for the future of the sport.

The second International Motorsport Summit, organised by the newly rebranded sports marketing research giant Repucom, took place at Germany's Nurburging on Thursday. It was a day of high-level networking, healthy debate and insight amongst stakeholders from across the motorsport world, including representatives from Formula One and Nascar teams, and focused on overall themeof 'Return on Investment in Motorsport'. Here are a few of my quick thoughts on what was discussed and what it might mean for the future of the sport.


1) Despite what you might hear elsewhere, Formula One teams are getting increasingly creative about how to activate sponsorship agreements, at least partly as a result of the well-documented difficulties of access to the sport's exclusive inner sanctum. If you can't activate in the paddock, however, you can certainly activate on the way there, as the Sauber team, represented at the summit by marketing director Alex Sauber, outlined. In collaboration with team partners Thomann and Planzer, the team is now offering fans the chance to be a passenger in one of the trucks carrying the cars on a journey to a Grand Prix. At the other end of the scale, VVIP sponsor guests and clients can travel to races aboard a Sauber-branded Pilatus private jet.


2) It's not a motorsport-specific issue, but sponsorship case studies are, in general, falling foul of 'it's not just a sticker on the car' syndrome (delete car and replace with the piece of sponsorship inventory of your choice, depending on the sport). After years of hearing the phrase, people working in the industry – the people who tend to frequent these industry events – understand that it's (supposed to be, at least) far more complex and integrated than that, so surely more genuine insight would be gleaned if presentations began with that as a given?


3) Even in a new media world, history still sells in motorsport. Shell now actively uses its longstanding relationship – 500 races plus – with Ferrari as the fuel for its marketing campaigns, and the advantages of having a heritage are reflected in McLaren's 50th anniversary marketing efforts this year. Technical clothing brand Alpinestars is also putting its half-century this year at the front and centre of its messaging. Go outside Formula One, however, and the use of heritage as a marketing asset – and motorsport, in all its forms, has plenty of history – thins out considerably.


4) Are the traditional motorsport rights holders' days numbered? Probably not, but it is worth noting the success several companies with an interest in motorsport have had in moving into a promoter role – effectively cutting out the middle manand taking control of the content. Through its dedicated events division, Eurosport Group has successfully developed both the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) and the newly renamed European Rally Championship (formerly the Intercontinental Rally Championship). Red Bull, of course, is now the co-promoter of the World Rally Championship (WRC), while 2013 will be the ninth year of the Formula Renault 3.5 Series, organised and run, on the quiet, by the French manufacturer.


5) There is integration and then there is integration. McLaren's strategic relationship with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), with whom it signed a long-term deal in 2011, might mark the next step in Formula One team sponsorship. As part of the deal, GSK asked McLaren to examine how it could help the pharmaceutical giant compete more effectively in its sector. Through McLaren's admirable Applied Technologies division, which offers solutions rooted in engineering, modelling and predictive intelligence gleaned from its racing activities, McLaren has examined and suggested improvements to GSK's teamwork, approach, attitude and operational procedures.


SportsPro was an official partner of the 2013 Repucom International Motorsport Summit.

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