What’s not going on…

This is the quiet time for the F1 media. Cars are being built and most of the drives are now settled. Only the scraps are left. Years ago Philip Morris was smart enough to realise that it was a good time of year to give the F1 media something to write about and instigated the Wrooom skiing event at Madonna di Campiglio. As a result they have a monopoly of news for about a week.

There will be new car launches soon enough, although most of these are going to be “garage jobs”, rather than the laser beam, dry ice and dancing girl events of old. Time is precious these days. At the same time Formula 1 has never really gone in for investing in promotion. The sport cannot be bothered to put money into shining its image. It looks in the mirror and likes what it sees – and does not think it can learn much from anyone else. It learns from mistakes. This is fine if you are a Masochist, but sometimes it is better to think – and plan – ahead. It is also good to study others are see what they do well, and what they do badly.

This week in Charlotte, North Carolina, a couple of hundred motorsport writers will be having a busy time. What they do will echo around the world in the days ahead. Thirty years ago the idea began with a bus going from one NASCAR workshop to another and the reporters having a chat with the teams they visited. These days the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour is a flat-out, four-day, burst of news which is the biggest pre-season media event in any professional sport, anywhere in the world. It gives the fans all the latest about their favourite teams and the teams have responded sensibly and now try to tie in their announcements with the Tour and so as the media are shuttled about for no fewer than 20 visits, the world will hear all about what is happening at Hendrick Motorsports, Roush-Fenway Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, Richard Childress Racing and all the rest of them, including the NASCAR Hall of Fame. There are not many journalists who do every NASCAR race in a season, as the schedule is brutal, but such an event provides the opportunity to cram a lot into a small space of time.

I am sure that F1 folk can think of a million good reasons why this is a bad idea, but I am not so sure. In the coming days Pirelli is flying a bunch of F1 journos out to Abu Dhabi for some press conferences, interviews and some cars to play with (as an incentive I guess). I cannot help but think that a little more centralised promotion would not be such a bad idea. But, as we have long known, the owners of the Formula One group don’t really care about promotion. They are in it for the money.

I guess that the sport gets what it deserves and the owners get the reputation they reserve.

24 thoughts on “What’s not going on…

  1. Agreed, F1 should be on full show … Sadly there are a few people (one called Adam), that think F1 should be hidden away, as long as there’s a bit of extra cash in it for himself.

  2. as a little boy, sure I liked whiz bangs and, ooh, lasers were so cool*, but what fascinated me was the contrast between these wonderful high tech cars, and the smart-scruffy lot who were in the pits. Catching a glimpse of that was a real thing for me. Little boys don’t like washing, and love shiny cars. Or I think most do, and I was a nice little boy, one time, so it is (has to be?) continually told in my defense by my mom 😉

    Oh, the smartening up went hand in hand with Bernie making it more palatable for television. But how much of that was because television was much more buttoned down then? I think it was out of necessity, because F1 was languishing and had to draw attention or wither away. In that context, it makes sense. But now F1 really can grab headlines – *if* it has something interesting to say – I believe there are so many other things possible which will go to the bottom line. The line between “austerity is in” and putting on a good show needs calibration.

    My initial thought on dress sense was that now some mechanics turn out smarter than many white collar execs I see pottering about the City, is that really such an issue?

    If you have a huge sponsor deal, by all means do as Ron does, space suits or whatever. But then that is for who is winning the deals. So any correlation between overly smart and big sponsor money has a obvious selection bias.

    The NASCAR boys seem to pull off the smart-scruffy-all business intersection very well. Maybe some of our lot should be on their media tour, for fashion tips as well.

    HuRT are the best placed to position themselves as the scrappy team who can do. If they can do. I think however, at least historically, arrogance has caused them as many problems as engineering. But yeah, stick it to Branson! :-)**

    The thing I dislike about car launches, is the overall disorganization. Some go full on, some now do a online event, some just say “didja want chips with that, darling?”. If the idea is to smarten up, get them all in line and all smart. How did this escape the Bernie touch?

    *not so cool now, when powerful pocket “pointers” are street gang weapons.

    ** Out Bransoning Branson, which i think is a sitting duck of a target, would have them all over the media and marketing press, and be invaluable in gaining sponsors.

  3. One wonders if an experienced and well connected F1 journalist could ring round his various media buddies to get a coach tour organised around the F1 teams.

    Obviously flights might be required to Italy, Spain and Switzerland to complete the tour, or it could be done in two legs – tour of England, followed by flights to Valencia, then on to Zurich and a coach trip (or trains?) down to Bologna for Maranello (just to the north) and Faenza (just to the south).

    Job done?

  4. Formula One promotes itself at no cost to itself, think crashgate, spygate, etc., and as for the masochists…

  5. “But, as we have long known, the owners of the Formula One group don’t really care about promotion. They are in it for the money.”

    Spot on! If only they could figure out that the two go hand in hand….

  6. Joe, you don’t seem one for much fanfare, accepting more of the nuts and bolts approach, but do you miss the whole the laser beam, dry ice and dancing girl events of old?

    Do you think things may change much after the owners of the F1 group change? i.e. take a page out of the marketing book of NASCAR?

  7. Years ago, when tobacco ruled NASCAR in the form of RJ Reynolds, they sponsored a preseason “fanfest” in Winston-Salem NC, their HQ city. On the Saturday, teams/cars/drivers filled the basketball arena. Fans came from across the country for the ten hours of the festival. I talked with one couple who drove (yes,drove) from Oregon. A pain in the January rush to prep for the new season, but every top team was there from the three touring series of NASCAR. That was for the fans, separated from the media tour. Yes Formula 1 could learn a thing or three from the “hicks in the sticks” !

  8. NASCAR does seem to get the promotion right. The drivers are readily available before and after the race. They take care to highlight their sponsors in each interview. When you consider that NASCAR has three brands of racing a week, the practice, qualifying and races are all shown live on television. For the Sprint Cup there is usually a two hour pre race programme on Speed before the hour long pre race broadcast on the network that is showing the race. During those three hours of build up all of the drivers are available at the circuit to do interviews.

    F1 drivers on the other hand to their best to hide before the start of the race. Often the media’s only comments from a driver can be the teams official press release. How can the sponsors get value from that iftheir drivers are not visible during a race weekend?

    NASCAR knows it needs sponsorship to survive so welcomes sponsors and includes the media in how it runs the show.

    F1 tolerates sponsors and the media but keeps them at arms length

    Which one works best?

  9. Love it or hate it, the “speed weeks” before the Daytona 500 generate tremendous media and fan attention here in the States during the last, and typically quietest weeks (minus the Rolex 24), before the racing calendar begins over here. F1 could take a few notes from Indy, however, as the weeks before and the buildup to the 500 are very exciting.

  10. I like the way it works now – cars getting pushed out of garages at 8am in deserted Spanish pitlanes save for the hardy, 90 laps in a day, weird unexplained car parts, running till just before the sun sets, it sorts the men from the boys, or even sorts the proper journalists from the bloggers..

  11. Of course, it is probably not a coincidence that this is the two-week period before the NFL Super Bowl. Football takes precedence in the media in the US; the NASCAR folks are smart enough to know how to get back in the news during a dead period. Given that there isn’t a race until late February, my hunch is that the media tour is designed to grab the spotlight before football rams up for the big game.

  12. You have to look at where the money is coming from. And its not from the fans. I’m sure F1 has a decent budget to court new venue hosts, certain oligarchs and divine rulers of sand rich nations. They don’t need lasers, dry ice and promotion girls (they don’t look good in burqas).

  13. What propelled NASCAR out of its deep-south regional base, to where it is now, was good marketing, pure and simple. Its directors deliberately targeted, and won over, the new fan base it has today. It wasn’t just by showing up and racing.
    Is F1 going to just show up and race at Austin and New Jersey, and expect things to be different than before? Whitmarsh said F1 must “take America by storm.” Fine; who will spend the money for banging the drum and tooting the horn, to make that happen? If no one, … am I alone in feeling uncomfortable about the longevity of the aformentioned two races?

  14. Hi Joe,

    Just a personal opinion here, I think you’re being a little unfair, based on thinking that they’d be best to do it in the way that you think is best.

    As you mention, this is a very slow time, and increased reporting x infinity won’t change anything. Fans/viewers/sponsors etc. all realise that the action isn’t on now.

    So any amount of intelligent, centralised journalist-favouring or buzz will be meaningless now, surely.

    Also as you say, F1 is what it is. And no matter what journalists write about, the season starts in March and there will be the huge global viewing figures and buzz again.

    Not criticising you, but I think you are being a bit mirror-gazing also in thinking that journalists are a bit more important than they really are in the world of sport.

    Also that there is literally zero obligation for the owners of F1 to do anything other than they want to do. There is zero need (aside opinions) for them to please anyone else. Maybe some believe it would be “nice” if they do so, but the entire world does not work on being nice.

    Criticising anyone of ‘being in it for the money’ is most humans, not that there is anything intrinsically ‘wrong’ with that. Imo.

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