F1 in pole position for storytelling

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

At yesterday’s MediaCom seminar featuring McLaren F1 CEO Zak Brown and double world champion Fernando Alonso, MediaCom worldwide chairman and CEO Stephen Allan asked Brown why brands get involved in motor sport these days: “It used to be purely about exposure and it was a very efficient media buy,” he said. “But these days it’s much more about storytelling. For example, our relationship with Dell is based on the fact that the sport is driven by technology, and we use a lot of their equipment, so there’s an element of co-development in the relationship, plus of course they get to tell the story of how their products contribute to our success, which will feature in their next global campaign. Also we work with consumer brands because they benefit from the sport’s fans, and also some B2B brands because Formula 1 attracts a lot of business executives.”

Alonso runs several businesses alongside his role as a McLaren driver, including a karting school and the clothing brand Kimoa: “When I started in F1 I was 18 and totally focused on my driving, but I started to realise that I could use my personal brand in other business interests, so I launched Kimoa with a couple of friends, and I also opened a karting track and a school in Spain. The school has 120 pupils aged 8-16 and now we are opening circuits and schools in China, where our aim is to construct around 40 circuits over there. I also sponsor an e-sports team which has seven drivers.”

The question of audiences came up again when Allan asked Brown if he was worried that F1 has lost around 40 million viewers over the last two years. “You have to take into account the fact that viewing habits are shifting and a lot of people prefer to watch on their phone or a tablet device,” Brown said. “Plus the move from free-to-air to Pay TV has had an impact, so of course the advertising rate card has had to be adjusted accordingly, but the sport remains hugely popular and I’m very optimistic about its future.”


Harriet Palmer