Brand Prix


No passing through my dirty air please
I was watching a programme on the good old beeb last night on advertising and branding and part of it focused on Red Bull. Nearly all of the other major brands you see with have worked for decades to build up their brand and to make you feel at home with them. Red Bull on the other hand are a new brand and have stamped themselves on our consciousness in a completely different way. Most other brands sponsor sports events, teams or TV programmes - Red Bull actually buy them and invent them. They've created a personality for its product by owning and running teams and sports associated with high energy, daring and excitement from the Red Bull Air Race to, obviously, Red Bull Racing F1. It became obvious through interviews with marketers and looking at what they'd done that the attitude was tradition be damned the most important thing is to associate their product with the most exciting and well known sports and people in order to make sure their product is seen as 'cool' by as many people as they can.

This brings me to F1's other major brand at the moment. Lewis Hamilton. Even before he raced I think his management and the sponsers saw him as a perfect brand to reach a demographic they weren't reaching through F1 before. Anyone remember that advert where he and Fernando were racing each other to the lift etc? That was filmed before he'd even turned a wheel - how many rookies can say that? Lets also remember the following season we didn't get adverts with Kovi in did we? The fact that Lewis has turned out to be as good a driver as he is has only made the marketing men do more backflips and I'm sorry to say Alonso, Vettel and Button fans but Lewis is still the biggest and well known name in F1 largely due to the controversey that surrounds him (a cynical man may suggest this is a marketing strategy in itself) and F1 and especially Bernie know that Lewis is the great hope for F1 to finally crack the American market. With his Pussycat Doll GF and his 'bad-boy' image he is already well known in America so much so he's going to lend his voice to a character in the upcoming Cars 2 movie. Bernie knows the U.S like a show with characters and F1 suddenly has it - Lewis is cast as the hero rebel beating the establishment whilst Fernando is cast as the cold calculated win at all costs bad guy - Thats the English and Spanish speaking world covered. Add to that the young hot headed German(Vettel), The James Bond style playboy (Button) and the old master testing his skills against the new generation(Schumi) and its a suprise its not a Hollywood movie already.

Whats my point? well lets look at the aims of the 2 main 'brands' in F1. Red Bull's is to be at the top of the sport and to be associated with winning and the most exciting drivers in F1. Lewis wants to be known as the greatest F1 driver and to do that needs to win titles, races and get medias attention. My point is how can these 2 major brands resist each other for much longer? Lewis has to do something before his stock goes down as this looks like the third season in a row without a title and now he has Simon Fuller on board(ultimate media whore) this will just not be good enough - add to the fact he worships at the church of Senna who's attitude was always to be in the best car no matter the cost and its only a matter of time before noises are going to be made by Lewis about a move to Red Bull. Now despite the noises Christian Horner has made about not wanting Lewis and the love they have for their boy Vettel there is no way that Red Bull as a brand could turn down a link up with Lewis Hamilton it would be the ultimate money spinner and more importantly achieve exactly the aim both 'brands' want.

Before I never would have said it but after thinking about it I'm pretty sure we'll see Lewis in a Red Bull in 2012 - I'm certain we'll see him in one by 2013. Is this a good thing? well seeing him go up against Vettel on level terms will be exciting as I have no idea who will come out on top - whether this branding and marketing is good for F1 the sport I guess only time will tell
Going to Red Bull will always be a risk, firstly another fierce competitor, secondly going to a new territory he's been brought up by McLaren, and thirdly my main point which should have been first, is that Red Bull is a unknown, will they always be competitive? McLaren on the other hand are always competitive in every season.

To answer the fun side of your article, no I don't think Hamilton and Red Bull are made for each other, nor do I think Hamilton is the bad boy in F1 as he tries to make himself out to be.
I don't think he's the bad boy he makes out he is either but its seems its an image that they're tyring to create for him - I can def see Simon Fuller's hand in that.

Like you I don't think Red Bull would be the best move for Lewis and I used to think it would never happen but if you just look at if from the marketing and money side of things it seems like a foregone conclusion that there heading for each other. I don't think Red Bull would care if he was succesful or not as long as they had his face and name on their products - and I think Lewis's new management wouldn't care about the safety of Mclaren or any loyalty when they seen the number of zero's they could get on their cheque for negociating the contract fee. Lewis himself seems increasing frustrated with Mclaren not being good enough and wants to be in a car that wins and I can see them approaching it from that angle.

As for Mclaren being competitve every year we have the departure of Merc engines coming up and I'm yet to see a team(apart from maybe Brawn) who hasn't had a couple of down years after a long-term engine deal comes to an end.
More pressure on McLaren to up their game. Not that they're at all relaxed right now. Interesting debate but I think there will need to be an earthquake to split Hamilton from McLaren. It's not impossible, just improbable. For now at least.
I think that earthquake may come in the form of Vettel being double world champion. I think Lewis expected to be a multi-world champion by this stage in his career and the fact that Mr Vettel can come into F1 later than him and score back to back titles may be a blow to his ego.
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