The Heineken deal. Why F1 is going green

Formula One is in dire need of a beer.

Having been dragged through a rut in recent years by its ruthless and often rudderless management, most involved probably feel a refreshing beverage is the very least they require.

The shockingly poor way in which Grand Prix racing both handles and promotes itself at times beggars belief, and has led to widespread apathy. Miserable participants are unfortunately par for the course in most categories of serious competition – a decent sense of humour doesn’t buy lap-time – but disgruntled punters should not be.

Cracking the formula for winning back popularity in F1 seemed laughably impossible for the world’s greatest minds. Until a certain Dutch brewery got in contact.

Formula One is a shy, square teenager who’s trying to fit in with the cool group, and has finally discovered the wonders of alcohol. Specifically, Heineken.

Don’t you think it’s baffling to consider Formula One unpopular, or in need of getting its brand out there. Who, living in the developed world, doesn’t honestly have the first clue about what Grand Prix racing is. F1 is an enormously successful money spinner for those invested in its management and operates in an echelon far above any other form of motorsport.

Bernie thought so too. As did pretty much everybody involved, to be honest. I hate to agree with that smug bloke propped up at the local boozer, but the truth is, F1 just isn’t what it used to be. This, despite the best efforts of CVC and the vested interests of the teams, isn’t all self-inflicted.

The times have changed. People aren’t as impressed with the glitz and the glamour of the Grand Prix circus. Not when you have Instagram, Twitter and EasyJet. The relatively mediocre lap times don’t help, but they aren’t exactly lacking grunt, these cars, nor absurd sophistication.

No, the world has moved on from Sunday afternoon sit-downs with the family. No one watches the racing for the sake of it anymore. Formula One is living in the past.

Heineken, with its spectacularly effective promotional department, wishes to change all that. It isn’t as burdened with baggage as motor racing folk, and it has smelt the unsightly levels of cash it can garner from F1’s success a mile away. Good on them.

Don’t let this mistake you for some sort of one way street. A revolution never comes cheap, and Heineken will be dedicating 10% of its global media budget, as well as a touted $250 million cheque for the privilege.

So how will this Dutch brewery transform F1’s audience from the millions, to the billions, as is its aim?

Social media will serve as the erstwhile untapped backbone. As Gianluca Di Tondo, Heineken’s Global Head of Brand, explains: “If we like it or not, that is the future. Like all the big brands, they are moving from traditional media and broadcasting to digital, because that is where the people are moving as well.

“For F1, it will be how we can help the fan and the casual viewer understand that F1 is bigger than just the race. F1 is not just two hours of the race, it is the 72 hours that turns cities in to playgrounds. It is such a rich world and there is so much more to discover beyond the border of F1.”

Other methods, such as the predictable Formula One-themed bottles, and related advertising, will be complemented by exciting and innovative ideas such as Virtual Reality, which underlines how devastatingly lucrative this deal is for both parties.

Grand Prix racing relying on a beer manufacturer for longevity and relevance? Madness, but there’s definitely method in it…

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