In Motorsports, Sport Sponsorship

What’s Formula E racing?

Formula E is the pinnacle of electric racing and performs under the FIA banner. The series, in which electric single-seaters race in closed street circuits- has just obtained the status of “World Championship” even though Grand Prix weekends have been held across all continents since the early days. 

Notwithstanding its relatively young age -with the first race seeing green light in 2014- Formula E has already enjoyed major technical upgrades. Gen-2 cars are faster, visually mouth-watering and -above all- can last the whole race without the need to swap cars for battery charge. 

The 2021 season sees 12 teams and 24 drivers at the start, with the world’s top manufacturers lining up for the title. From Audi to Mercedes and from Nissan to Jaguar, Formula E has gathered the Gotha of the automotive industry thanks to its vision for the future.

Portuguese hero Antonio Felix da Costa on Techeetah is the current World Champion.

Are Formula E cars all the same?

Formula E has always had an eye for cost reduction: they know very well -and Formula 1 stands as a landmark for this- that money matter a lot when it comes to building competitive racing. Give someone £1000 to develop a soapbox car and his project will most likely be faster than the lad who’s been given £25 for the same job.

In order to reduce costs, some parts -such as the chassis, the batteries and the aero kit- are spec and therefore the same for all the Teams. On the other end, powertrains, gearboxes, suspensions and other components are non-spec, with every builder bringing their own package to the races.

Will Formula E replace Formula 1?

This is a very good question, and one that is up for debate in the world motorsport and sports marketing industry. 

There can be little doubt that at the moment Formula 1 is still the pinnacle of 4-wheel racing and of motorsport in general. This may be due to F1’s glamorous past and to the fact that, thanks to a massive National TV coverage back in the day, the sport has gathered a terrific audience worldwide. Ask someone to name a “fast car” and 9 people out of 10 will eventually think of a Formula 1 single seater.

Two main driving forces will play a role in the F1-FE bout: on-grid competitiveness and a sustainable future for the car industry. 

On the first issue, it’s been a while since the queen of racing hasn’t produced an entertaining fight for the title. Since the beginning of the hybrid era in 2014, Mercedes have won every single Championship, making it the longest dominance in the sport. Lewis Hamilton has struggled to find a worthy opponent, except maybe for then-teammate Nico Rosberg back in 2016. Now, while Hamilton is an extraordinary talent without a shadow of a doubt and deserves every ounce of his success, the sport is suffering from a lack of competitiveness. Even hardcore racing fans can get tired after the umpteenth silver arrows one-two. 

Differences aren’t so pronounced in Formula E, also thanks to a highly different cost structure. The electric formula has managed to produce some close, very exciting racing throughout its seven seasons and always fills the post race highlight reel with more than one wow moment.

Also, there’s the question of looking forward for the car industry. There can be little doubt that, with the future of mobility being electric, it makes a lot more sense for a manufacturer to join a sport that is….erm, electric and a ton less expensive. For this very reason car makers are lining up to join Formula E while few brands joined F1 in the past years, with Aston Martin being more an exception to the rule than else. 

So, will Formula E replace Formula 1? Not now, maybe, but in the future we could see the two sports gently ferrying one towards the other to create the Megazord of motorsports: fast, exciting, modern and sustainable.

Who sponsors Formula E?

A good question, indeed, and one that could be answered through a long and opulent lecture about the inherent, peculiar features of Motorsport versus non-engine-propelled sports. We will spare you the pain, for once. 

Suffice to say that given the value system of motorsport, companies from all industries are more than willing to join the major series of racing. Talk about speed, efficiency, passion, innovation, teamwork, cutting-edge technology and of course everyone wants to chip in, from energy drinks to computer manufacturers, from insurance companies to oils and lubricants. 

Also, the Formula E lot have another card up their sleeve, and that card is of course sustainability, both environmental and economic. That’s a wave most companies are -and rightly so- willing to ride these days and one that will represent a major pillar in most companies’ communication strategy.

So there you go, the perfect mix. It shouldn’t therefore surprise to see so many incredible companies backing up Formula E, from ABB to Tag Heur, from DHL to Heineken, from Enel to Moet & Chandon.

Can you sponsor Formula E?

Well, of course you can sponsor Formula E. And there are a lot of reasons why you and your company should too. 

I know this may sound biased, but in order to understand what sponsorship opportunities are there in Formula E -and generally speaking what sport sponsorship opportunities are out there for you and your brand- you should get in touch with an independent sports marketing agency or sport sponsorship agency such as RTR Sports. 

The first question you will ask, of course, is “how much does it cost?”. But the first question you will be asked is “what’s your goal with this?”. You see, as with all partnerships in global sports, there is no such thing as sponsorship packages: everything is tailor made. Deals in Formula E are highly flexible and have competitive entry levels so everything really comes down to the marketing rights you want and the benefits you need in the contract.

Also, for every penny you spend in sponsorship, you should also consider to invest some in sponsorship activation. While the sponsorship activation business is pretty much the same in all motorsport, it must be noted that -for example- activation opportunities in Formula E are slightly different from, say, those in Formula 1, because of the structure of the sport, the nature of the circuits and generally how the championship is shaped and broadcasted.

What is Formula E fan boost?

Formula E’s fan boost is a very clever piece of sports management. In the days before the race and leading up to 15 minutes into the race itself, fans can vote for their favorite driver through the FIA Formula E app or website. 

Rather than just a per se poll or contest, those drivers receiving most votes get an effective advantage on the track. For a limited amount of seconds, their cars will have extra power, allowing them to make that critical overtake and to keep a ramping opponent at bay. 

Drivers can choose when to use the fan boost during a race and that can be visually appreciated throughout a purple LED light on the halo.

Can you buy a Formula E car

Strangely enough, yes, you can. At least, on paper. 

A 2018 Bloomberg feature originally raised some eyebrows when they claimed you could indeed purchase a Formula E challenger. If you had a spare quarter of a Million in your pocket – the article said- you might as well get yourself a FE car to take for a friendly spin around your local track.

Well, the guys at Bloomberg weren’t wrong. Now, it’s not like you could walk into your regular auto shop and pick a model and color. Rather, if you knew someone who knew someone, you could ideally get your hands on one of the 40 cars that Formula E used for the first two seasons of racing. 

It’s nothing new for hard-core racing fanatics and Formula 1 enthusiasts know very well that several teams have programs for extremely wealthy clients who want to feel the thrill of owning a Formula 1 ride. Ferrari for example have one, where you could own the car that brought Michael Schumacher several titles or the challenger that almost brought Eddie Irvine one. Shame though. 

Sure enough, these cars are not road legal and need a team of mechanics and engineers just to fire them up. But this is nothing money can’t eventually buy.

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Emanuele Venturoli
Emanuele Venturoli
A graduate in Public, Social and Political Communication from the University of Bologna, he has always been passionate about marketing, design and sport.
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