In Formula1, Sport Sponsorship, Sports Marketing

The new era of Formula 1 is heavily geared towards the United States of America. From the owners of the series Liberty Media to a brand-new calendar that’s now adding Miami and Las Vegas to the list, F1’s path to the future has a lot to do with how America sees sports in general and sports marketing in particular. More competitive, more fun, more spectacular and, most of all, more sponsorship – oriented.

The latter is something that’s been lacking on F1’s side for a while and it was about time to try and close that gap. And so far, the results are very encouraging. Over the last few months, we’ve seen some of the biggest names in American sports marketing join forces with Formula 1. We’ve got NASCAR star Chase Elliott as a global ambassador, we’ve got NFL wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. partnered up with Lewis Hamilton and we’ve even got Formula 1 working with WWE (yes, you read that correctly).

It’s all part of a much larger strategy to make F1 more attractive to sponsors, both in terms of the sport itself but also the way it’s marketed and presented to the world.

For now, it’s all going exceptionally well.

No Country for old men

Americans have never been too fond of Formula 1 racing, a sport that’s heavily embroidered in the European heritage and has a lot to do with how the Italians and French and British, and Germans see car racing. It’s not that car racing is not popular in the US, it’s just that it’s different. Again, it’s a cultural thing: Americans like their sports fast and adrenaline-filled and not over-complicated. They have racing, but it’s NASCAR and Indy and drag racing most of the time. Also, as it’s easy to imagine, Formula 1 sponsorship deals coming from the USA were not aplenty.

The USA has played a significant role in F1 before. In the 1950s and 1960s, many of the best drivers in the world were American – men like Phil Hill, Dan Gurney and Mario Andretti. There were even teams with strong American involvement, like BRM, which was partly owned by the Parnelli Jones racing team, and Cooper, which had Carroll Shelby as one of its backers.

The first race held on US soil was at Watkins Glen in 1961 and was won by Hill in a Ferrari. The race became an annual event and continued until 1980, when it moved to Detroit. However, despite the strong American presence in the early years of Formula 1, the sport never really caught on in the USA, part of the problem being that there were no American drivers or teams to support.

Welcome to a new era of 4-wheel racing

Formula 1 took a calculated risk but, as the meme goes, the boys are pretty good at math. After a couple of years of extreme makeover – which meant dealing with new logos and new graphics and a lot of marketing stunts that nobody could really wrap their heads around- the transformation was complete. A new set of rules allowing for tighter racing, new cars that can battle within inches of each other, a new calendar, and a new race format among other things brought a new product on track for 2022. It’s a new beginning, and fans are loving it.

The product is so good, in fact, that it’s managed to lure some of the biggest names in sponsorship over to the sport. Previously, F1 in the US was pretty much a Bernie Ecclestone production – he owned the Circus, the tracks, and the TV rights. But now, with new investment from Liberty Media and other US-based companies, the sport is growing rapidly in popularity.

And it’s not just the big names that are interested. Even small businesses are getting in on the action, with one local coffee shop in Austin, Texas, recently signing a deal to be an official sponsor of the US Grand Prix.

There’s no doubt about it, Formula 1 is on the rise in the US. And with some of the biggest names in sponsorship now on board, it’s only going to get bigger and better.

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New F1 races in the US, new audiences

As expected, the addition of the Miami race to the 2022 calendar boosted the US interest in Formula 1. The Magic City is the perfect scenario for the new course of the pinnacle of racing: fun, vibrant, colorful and full of VIPs, just like Stefano Domenicali and the F1 management want their series to be.

It was a spectacular success, with more than 250,000 spectators attending the weekend around the Hard Rock Stadium (source: Sports Illustrated) and Millions watching from home. Sponsorship activations with NBA stars, Hollywood celebrities and more fluorished, with teams and drivers battling on Instagram and Twitter for even more likes, shares and global brand awareness.

Even Liberty Media’s CEO, Chase Carey, was surprised by the massive turnout and said that “it’s a great day for Formula 1 in America” (source: CNN).

The great news is that this is just the beginning. The United States Grand Prix will continue to be held at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas (already a classic race with 6 consecutive editions), but will now be alternated with the Miami race, making it a bi-annual event.

A Grand Prix in Las Vegas will be added in 2023, with a night race in the exciting street circuit layout including the famous Strip. The race will start at 8 pm local time (2 am GMT).

With these three main races, plus the support races and the Formula 1 Paddock Club, Formula 1 is consolidating its presence in the United States, a strategic market for the growth of the sport.

It is estimated that the US audience for F1 has grown by 20% since the introduction of the Miami Grand Prix (source: Business Standard), and this number is only going to rise in the coming years as the sport becomes more popular in America.

The “Drive to Survive” Effect

Netflix blockbuster “Drive to Survive” played a massive role in the US growth of Formula 1 and paved the way for a speedy introduction of the sport among non-F1-fans. 47% of the viewers of the series were not F1 fans before watching the show, while 85% showed a higher level of engagement after watching.

For 16 days “Drive to Survive” sat in the Netflix top 10 worldwide, taking viewers behind the scenes of the life of an F1 team and showing the occasional feuds between this team chief executive and this driver. It’s a sensational show, masterfully produced and smartly crafted to intrigue both avid Formula One lovers and the casual watcher.

But “Drive to Survive” is more than just great entertainment. The series has had a profound effect on the way Formula One is marketed and perceived in the US, and it’s playing a big role in attracting new sponsors to the sport.

The series has helped Formula One become one of the most talked-about sports in the US, and it’s attracting a new wave of sponsors to the sport.

First there was Heineken, which announced a major sponsorship deal with Formula One in 2017. Then AT&T came on board as the official communications partner of the sport. And now Budweiser, one of America’s most iconic brands, has become a major sponsor of Formula One.

The Budweiser deal is particularly significant, as it’s the first time that the brand has been associated with Formula One. It’s also a sign that Formula One is starting to appeal to a wider range of sponsors, beyond just those in the automotive industry.

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Formula 1 sponsorship and everything after

If Formula 1 is relatively new to the American audience, sports sponsorship is not. On the contrary, sports marketing has its home in the United States and both marketers and the public are well far-sighted in that respect.

There’s little doubt that an expansion of Formula One to the US market can bring a new spark and an extra pep to the industry -and that new, more exciting activations and programs and use of naming rights will follow in the upcoming months and years. Miami, again, was a massive example of that, with teams and sponsors and promoters creating a marketing bonanza that the circus had never seen in its years in the middle east or south America.

The same can be said of Austin, Texas. Circuit of The Americas (COTA), the purpose-built F1 facility that held its first grand prix in 2012, has been a revelation for the sport. Not only is it arguably one of the best race tracks on the current calendar – a sweeping, undulating masterpiece designed by German architect and racetrack guru Hermann Tilke – but the whole event has a fantastic festival atmosphere. Fans can camp on site and enjoy live music from the likes of Snoop Dogg, The Killers and Muse, as well as all the usual F1 funfair attractions.

COTA also hosts an annual MotoGP round, further cementing its status as a must-visit venue for any self-respecting petrolhead.

With the US now hosting two rounds of the Formula One World Championship – and with more rumoured to be on the way – it’s time to take a look at some of the most important F1 sponsorship deals in America.

What US companies sponsor F1 teams?

Nowadays, while more and more investors come into play, logically lured by the popularity and relevance of the series, American Formula One sponsors are growing by the day. Long-standing sponsors like Coca Cola, Crowd Strike, Monster Energy, and Dell Technologies stand strong as new players sign massive deals, as is the case with the Oracle x Red Bull Racing title sponsorship.

The following US companies have partnered with F1 teams: CrowdStrike (Aston Martin), Dell Technologies (McLaren), Monster Energy (Mercedes), Oracle (Red Bull Racing), P&G Gillette (Ferrari), Coca Cola (McLaren).

Other US companies that have been linked with F1 in the past include: AT&T (Williams), Bridgestone (Ferrari, McLaren, Red Bull Racing, Williams), FedEx (Ferrari), UPS Direct (Williams).

Why is America so important for F1 sponsors?

America is a massive consumer market. According to the International Business Guide, the American consumer market is a whopping 29 percent of the world market. It’s a number no business worldwide can ignore.

The current expansion of the Formula 1 Championship to the United States might prove vital for those brands, especially non-US brands, that are currently sponsoring the pinnacle of 4-wheel racing.

Brands like K Way (an Alpine F1 Team sponsor from South Africa), Tag Heuer (swiss watch makers partnering the Red Bull racing team), Petronas (title sponsor for the Mercedes AMG F1 Team), Ray Ban (sunglasses, Scuderia Ferrari) and many other partners have a huge market in the United States of America.

As F1 becomes more popular in the States, those companies will grow with the sport.

CrowdStrike is a prime example of this fact. The cyber-security company announced in 2019 that it was expanding its partnership with Red Bull Racing to include branding on Max Verstappen’s car as well as on the team’s overalls and pit equipment. The company also has a presence at the Circuit of The Americas, the only North American venue on the F1 calendar.

Other companies are following suit. Pirelli, F1’s tire supplier, recently announced their title sponsorship of the Miami Grand Prix in 2022.

It’s clear that America is becoming an increasingly important market for Formula 1 sponsors. With the sport growing in popularity in the States, we can expect to see even more big-name brands getting involved in the coming years.

How to sponsor F1

Since the early days in 1995 RTR Sports marketing has been providing consultancy to brands and companies wishing to use Formula One (and MotoGP, World Superbike and Formula E sponsorship) to better engage with their customers and clients with a strategic partnership.

With an extensive knowledge of the grid and the main actors, we can provide you with the right solution at the right moment. As an independent sports marketing agency, we have ongoing relationships with all the teams, from Aston Martin to Alpine, from Ferrari to Alpha Tauri and everything in between and can build the most relevant package for your brand and your goals.

When you contact RTR, we will first get to know your brand, what you do and what your goals are. We then develop a strategic approach and put together a proposal with various options for you to consider.

We are here to make sure that you not only find the right team or driver to support but also that your investment

Get in touch with RTR Sports Marketing today via email at info@rtrsports.com or by clicking here.

Emanuele Venturoli
Emanuele Venturoli
Communication Manager for RTR Sports Marketing. A degree in Communication at the University of Bologna and a passion for sport brought me where I'm today.
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