Red Bull’s blues

The other day, under the title “Livery real estate” I wrote in my JSBM weekly newsletter about how Formula 1 teams have not been using their liveries very successfully and that this may now begin to change.

“There is much talk in F1 circles at the moment about McLaren switching to a new papaya orange livery in 2017, harking back to the 1960s when the team ran in that colour, prior to the arrival of sponsorship which dictated that McLarens ran in the red and white of Marlboro.

“The Philip Morris sponsorship of McLaren ran from 1974 until 1996 before the tobacco company finally gave up and shifted its money to Ferrari. As a result McLaren lost not only its money but also its brand image. Up to that point McLarens were red and white.

Ron Dennis and his marketing men needed a new image and settled on the idea of a silvery concept fading to black, but providing “windows” for sponsors. Thus the McLaren brand edged towards silver (for Mercedes-Benz) and then headed to black, so as not to be confused with Mercedes…

This meant that McLaren no longer had an instantly-recognisable livery. Ferrari has stayed red to a lesser or greater extent while Williams has been blue and white for most of its existence, with an odd glitch in 1998 and 1999 when the team went red with Winfield sponsorship. In recent times, trends in livery design have been fiddly with designers apparently forgetting the value of primary colours: in F1 terms, Ferrari is red, Lotus was always black, Renault was yellow and Ligier blue. This means that today green, blue, orange and even purple are all available. Those who remember the iconic Jordan 191 or the 1994 Simtek know that the use of primary colours can be very effective.”

71xokLUkwxL._SL1500_.jpgThere are now suggestions coming out of Italy that Scuderia Toro Rosso is going to switch from the dark blue that it has used to a new lighter colour, which will help to sell  Red Bull’s sugar-free product, as opposed to its usual drink.  This has existed since 2003  and has all the same ingredients of Red Bull except sugar, which is replaced by sweeteners. It is still only a small part of the overall Red Bull sales which amounted to $43 billion in 2015. The company has a 30 percent share of the global energy drink market and as such is obviously likely to be a target for sugar-free campaigns and such things as taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages, based on the links between sugar and heart disease. This debate seems to be ramping up and so drinks companies are responding by trying to build more sales of sugar-free products.

A switch to a lighter blue for one of the F1 teams thus makes perfect sense.

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49 thoughts on “Red Bull’s blues

  1. I, for one, am thrilled my favorite team is returning to their classic orange and I’ve wanted them to do it for a very long time. My first time seeing it in person was not in F1 but rather at the 1971 Indianapolis 500 month of practices and the race when Peter Revson put the orange works McLaren on pole and Mark Donohue qualified second in a blue customer McLaren for Penske and then won it in ’72. My love of McLaren was born.

    1. I am not thinking about the reality of the paintwork. Lotus was also yellow at some points, but the brand of Lotus in recent years is black, based on the JPS days. This is why the cars were black in the Lopez era. Older folk may think otherwise, but older folk do not perhaps accept brand decisions based on what others think

  2. Lotus was always black? They started green, then went red, white and gold, then black & gold and finished yellow (or blue, white and green). Some might say it was Chapman who started the brand confusion by painting his cars in sponsors’ colours.

      1. Joe, they were green with yellow, as far as I can recall, but, Lotus were the first team to show real outside sponsorship with the Gold Leaf Team Lotus colours which, if my long term memory is correct, first appeared in the Tasman Series in 1968. They had to blank out the sailor on the middle of the insignia. Of course, that’s in 1968, and, my memory may have suffered a little due to various strokes. 🙂

        1. They were black and gold from 1971 until 1979 and then again from 1981 until 1986. A total of 14 years.

          They were green in 1958 and 1959.

          Green and yellow from 1960 until 1967

          Red and gold from 1968 until 1971

          Yellow for 1987 to 1991

          And at other times they were a mix-and-match set of colours.

          1. Joe I hate to be pedantic but Lotus were black from 1972 to 1978 and then Martini Green in 1979 and 1980. Yes and my big brother’s memory is correct the GLTL colours first appeared in the Tasman Series in 1968. I recall at the Surfers Paradise (when they had a track not streets) round that the cars were note allowed to race in a support race until the sailor logo was blanked out.

          2. This is erroneous. in 1991 the team ran a white and green livery.

            The team were also Green and Yellow in 1992 (thereby adding yet another year to the count for this being the primary colour scheme).

            1. wasn’t 91-92 influenced by castrol? isn’t Mclaren now using castrol? is this the answer to their 17 livery? the old orange herring trick!

              1. I may be wrong however I believe Castrol came on board half way into the 92 season (well after the livery had been unveiled). The 1993 car’s livery was significantly influenced by the Castrol sponsorship however I believe that wasn’t the case with 92 (and certainly not 1991).

      2. When I think McLaren, I think Red and White and looks like a big cancer stick packet. I understand the colour of the last 20 years and how the “partners” fitted into it, but it didn’t look like the McLaren that “established” the brand. You could almost say Red & White was the entrepreneurial phase and silver the advance of corporatism.

        And Lotus I think the 72, usually with Ronnie’s helmet in the frame and 78/79, still with Ronnie. The latter colours were as we saw less and less of them as they slipped down to oblivion (Except the Senna years but its not iconic)

        They were once green and yellow, but that was in the era before what this post highlights.

  3. I have just discovered Red Bull TV.

    It looks as though they seem able to broadcast great WRC content for free, this has been sadly lacking for a great number of years. This year’s cars look stunning and the competition is as good as it ever was.

    Once the current 15-year old file-sharers become 35-year old file-sharers, I suspect free Internet coverage will also become the future for the small audience still watching F1. I am certain that they will not be inclined to pay Liberty for the privilege.

    But I still do not feel slightly inclined to try Red Bull’s product again – even without added sugar. I am stuck in a Coca-Cola world and am able to pay for good entertainment.

    1. You are right about WRC, I just got back from Rally Sweden and as a sporting spectacle it leaves F1 trailing in its dust in every way.
      Sky did me a favour in putting F1 largely behind a pay wall as I can fit in three WRC rounds a year for a fraction of the cost I used to shell out on a couple of F1 races.

  4. This is a long time coming. I thought the team should have been named Red Bull Sugar Free Racing (or another product) instead of STR.

  5. The Lopez era Lotus only went for black because at the time of it’s transformation from Renault the ‘other’ Team Lotus had already been (and continued to run) with green with a yellow stripe. I’d say the Yellow Camel Lotus was also iconic. Teams (even those in name only) with Long histories tend to have multiple ‘classic’ liveries. Even Ferrari, despite always being shades of red, has had various eras of iconic liveries.

      1. With respect Joe, sorry if it messes your story, but no.
        I was working there between 2006 and 2013, and was party to a conversation with our design director Jonathan Woods in January 2011 about the design brief and the iterations of evolving the launch spec black and gold. As I recall he said it only took 3 drawings before he had the design done and it flowed really easily. At the time there was a definite need to distance the Genii owned Lotus Renault GP from the 1 Malaysia Racing Team Lotus, and I’m sure you recall, a lot of fuss about the whole deal with Tony Fernandez, Proton, Danny Bahar and the courts.
        Funnily enough, after Lotus Renault GP announced their black and gold car, 1MR TL announced that they too were planning to go black and gold, but then had to revert to their existing green and yellow so as to not copy LRGP. Though the black and gold only lasted I think 4 races before it was switched to black and beige, in order to have more contrast and look better on TV. Only the wheel rims remained metallic gold for the next 4 years.
        By the way, the black wasn’t even black. it was a metallic black with a gold flake effect through it, which I’m sure you will have noted when you were up close to the cars. Again, for TV/Photography effect.

        1. With respect, I don’t doubt all of the above. The point I was making was that the choice of black/gold was rooted in history. Yes, green/yellow might also be rooted in Lotus history, but historically black/gold lasted twice as long as green/yellow and made a bigger impact. Sad that it was destroyed by the people who ran it.

          1. If Lotus’ primary colour was black for 13 years, and previously had a primary colour of green for 9 years – the disparity does not strike me as all that great (and not twice as long). One must ask when Lotus Racing under Tony Fernandez returned to the fold (prior to the involvement of Group Lotus with the Renault team), why did they choose a primary colour of green if attempting to hark back to the original Team Lotus?

            Its not coincidence that Classic Team Lotus’s website and merchandise is adorned predominantly in green and yellow – because this is the colour most racing fans associate historically with the team.

            To this very point, McLaren are looking at a papaya orange livery despite their cars running in red and white for a longer duration. Why? Because the racing enthusiast most emphatically associates the orange livery as their ‘true’ heritage, as opposed to the sponsor-influenced red and white.

            I do agree that a light blue livery would be particularly eye catching. The March/Leyton House cars are rather iconic because of their colour schemes.

            A darker hue however would clash with Sauber who have already nabbed royal blue as a primary colour (which made their cars stand out last season).

          2. OK, I understand what you’re saying, they chose black and gold because it had a historical significance to the brand, and that’s definitely something LRGP was trying to milk at the time. (And agree on the tragedy).
            But then would you not say that in reality the livery belongs to the sponsor, not the manufacturer?
            Green/Yellow = Lotus livery
            but
            Red/White/Gold = Gold Leaf livery
            Black/Gold= JPS livery – NOT a lotus Livery? It was also used on BMW’s, Porsches and many other cars in period.

            The Marlboro red chevrons on white may have been most famous (and longest lasting) on a McLaren, but they were also on a few Alfa Romeo’s in F1, let alone the all the cars in all the other categories, so it’s a Marlboro livery, not a McLaren livery. Even though within the F1 bubble, it’s most closely associated with McLaren.

            The Martini livery is such, whether it’s on a Williams, a Brabham or a Lancia, no?

            So aside from a few outliers such as Stewart GP, chrome McLaren, white Honda, etc, Manufacturer liveries essentially ceased when sponsor liveries took over.

            Sorry for being pedantic about it!

            1. Very valid and well made points. The red and white chevrons adorned the Penske cars in the US for two decades too and only changed away from this, earlier this decade.

  6. My issue is with the F1 team’s abject failure to create decent schemes when there is no commercial pressure to so. They are actually *more* free to create something memorable, yet this is left to fan art that makes what the teams eventually use look tame and lame by comparison.

    The 2016 cars either looked dull (McLaren, Force India, Red Bull), OK, but could be better (Mercedes, Williams, Ferrari) or downright amateur (Sauber, Haas)

  7. None of the teams appear to understand (or have taken time to investigate the role of the rods and cones in the eye). I am NOT an optometrist but did take the time to understand this subject ten long years ago as it was relevant to my need to understand how brands can expect to ‘pop out’ from the myriad messages on the field of cars. Click testing technology is basic, therefore simple to deliver, and holds answers where others fear (or don’t know) to look

  8. If Liberty are successful in raising viewing/audience levels then it will become a little more worthwhile being a sponsor. Team colours will become more important as brand identifiers again. (For me Orange was a mobile phone company)
    But while the current “Bernie originated” methods remain in force, the CRH gets his money completely regardless of the audience levels, thus there is no incentive to expand the audience. We have heard that Liberty intend to try and increase the number of events and thus turnover, but we also know that this will undoubtedly cause substantial team costs as all teams will need to double up many personnel.
    Liberty are used to the US based series and even though NASCAR may have many more races, they are all in the same country. Joe has previously mentioned how very few Americans have ever been out of their own country and have little appreciation of the almost constant travel and bodily time zone disruption that occurs in F1 . True, other sports tour but not with this amount of equipment or this amount of pressure or this frequency.

  9. Ever since Red Bull bought Minardi and rebranded it, I’ve always thought they should run in sugar-free livery. It seemed sensible and logical to me.

    I really hope they go for it, as I think it would look great.

  10. I remember someone from (Enstone) Lotus saying how difficult it was to persuade potential sponsors to adapt their logos to an overriding colour scheme, in their case yellow on black. For many years, teams had title sponsors whose corporate colours provided the new liveries that replaced the essentially nationalistic team colours previously most often favoured. The best of both types were eye-catching, memorable and some even iconic.

    Today, the title sponsor in F1 is almost extinct and even Mercedes do not run in genuine Petronas colours, the livery gradually evolving from almost amateurish logo applications over Mercedes silver to a more integrated design. I wonder if the problem is partly that F1 sponsorship is not as attractive as it used to be, resulting in mishmash liveries to satisfy multiple interests.

  11. When I saw the heading, I thought you might have been writing about the RB football team in Leipzig, Germany. It’s really upset the Bundesliga.

  12. I must say I find the bright yellow nose of the Red Bull brilliant. You can instantly identify the car at a distance and are (at least I am) drawn to that bright yellow flash. It’s a well thought out feature in an otherwise dull field. The Renault dull yellow is a total failure IMHO.

    1. It wasn’t just the yellow it was the imagery that went with the colour scheme. The Snake fangs on the Bitten and Hisses version or the wings and stinger on the Buzzin Hornet.

  13. That metallic light blue will look fantastic on a racing car. I guess it will stand out in similar fashion to the Players Ltee Indycar livery or the Sanyo Group A Rovers of the 80’s. Trying to think what else used to run with a predominantly light or bright blue scheme. Osella?

      1. No i remember those Miami blue cars. Different colour to the light blue being discussed here i think.
        How could I have forgotten the Benettons from mid 90’s to 2006!!!! Doh!

    1. Ligier were bright-ish for a while in the earlier years. Evolved from Gitanes’ early 1980s sky blue shade to a bleu de France through time.

  14. Bring back the amazing jet-black-with-white-sponsors Arrows “Zepter” from 1998. That car might not have been much cop but it looked great.

  15. Notwithstanding my other comments my favourites would have to be;

    Blue Tyrells
    Multicolour Benettons. I liked the flashes on the B186 but for me the B187/188/189 series was the most instantly recognisable logo on the grid. It blended into the Untied Colors campaign with a rather nice aftershave from memory.

  16. The livery efforts of F1 have been nothing short of pathetic during the last ten odd years. It always blows my mind. Having worked in the corporate world, I know how over sensitive the design teams to potentially offending a client (in this case sponsor) and thus design by committee yields awful designs with complicated sponsor webs. However, for teams with essentially no meaningful sponsorship like Sauber, Manor, etc., their inability to produce an eye catching livery has been stunning. A gorgeous livery can by itself help to attract sponsors, fans and generate merchandising profits.

  17. Surely in the interests of cooling, the rear section at least should be matt black to dissipate heat?

    Favourite colour of all time – Caterham green……..

    1. I’m sure you are joking, but I suspect radiation effects are not a big factor with 200 mph air blowing past…………

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