Tag Archives: Mark Webber

Fairness to American F1 fans: 2011 British GP on FOX


The Cahier Archive


The British GP was the third of four races this season broadcast on Fox television in the US, the first of which was a marathon Canadian Grand Prix, and at over four hours, the longest ever.  During that race, I was able to follow from a number of different people tweeting during the red flags that FOX did not break programming from the race, showing the entire four hours.  This was definitely an improvement from earlier years when FOX would publish an F1 race in their schedule, and then abandon fans with local baseball game coverage instead.

Following an amazing race yesterday, Formula 1 fans in the US were happy to see the start of what should have been a compelling set of interviews from race winner Alonso as well as from the 2nd and 3rd place finishers Vettel and Webber.

While fans heard from the winner, it was Webber and Vettel many would have liked to hear a few words from, but FOX ended the broadcast before we could ever hear from them.

With Alonso’s win clocking in at just under 1.5 hours, it seems natural that there would have been plenty of time in the shadow of the four hour Canadian Grand Prix to show the two Red Bull teammates interviews, of particular interest to Formula 1 fans after hearing their team principal’s radio call to Webber in the closing laps to maintain his gap to second place finisher Vettel.

Unlike yesterday’s Red Bull team orders broadcast over the world for race fans to hear, television contracts are not matters of public record.  Certainly in this weekend’s race, whatever event FOX was obligated to show as part of their F1 broadcast on Sunday clearly hadn’t ended in American Formula 1 fans’ minds until all three podium finishers had been shown to give their account of the race events during those interviews.

Events like this are not uncommon, and in 2005, UK broadcaster ITV was called out by race viewers on an advertising break during the climactic moments of the San Marino Grand Prix, documented here on page 6 of the Office of Communications (OFCOM)website.

OFCOM’s rules for recognition of natural breaks during sport broadcasts include the following:

  1. Breaks may be taken during intermissions of the particular sport being televised ­ eg, half time, between races, between innings, etc.
  2. In live coverage of long continuous events breaks may be taken at points where the focus of coverage shifts from one point to another of the event ­ eg, after a resume of the current placings in a race and before refocusing on a particular section of the race. Breaks may also be taken adjacent to cut-away discussion or background film insert sequences.
  3. Where edited recorded sport programmes are shown, break points should be selected to avoid creating the impression that some part of the event ­ eg, a round in a boxing match ­ has been omitted to accommodate advertising.

Sounds basic enough – and yesterday’s race had been shown in full for the most part – but as Formula 1 fans in the US, what do we feel is a fair broadcast, and when do we feel the event is over?  Is it after the checkered flag drops and the winner crosses the finish line, or is it after the driver interviews?

In a sport dominated by technology, isn’t it still still about the human drama that makes Formula 1 so compelling?


Filed under American F1 Events, American F1 Fans, F1 and business, F1 and Social Media, F1 broadcasters, F1 broadcasting in America, F1 in America

Red Bull, Ferrari, Branding and Race Strategy

The whole world condemned Ferrari after what they did in Hockenheim but we have turned out as idiots because we did not act in this way. We never even thought about it as long as both our drivers remain in the hunt for the championship.” – Dietrich Mateschitz

In racing, determination and the will never to give in have enabled us to get one of our drivers into the lead in the Formula 1 championship. We must continue with this commitment, both in the markets and on the track to bring an exceptional 2010 to a fitting conclusion.” – Luca di Montezemolo


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As you probably know, Red Bull and Ferrari are battling this weekend on the track with the aim of winning the World Driver’s Championship, the trophy most fans associate with the “F1 Championship”.  Red Bull has already taken the Constructor’s Title, and with one race to go, the current points totals between Red Bull’s next closest driver (Mark Webber, 238) and leader Fernando Alonso (246), has brought up a story from earlier this summer: Ferrari’s orders to their driver Felipe Massa to surrender his lead to his team mate during the German Grand Prix.

Considered to be fixing the outcome of a sporting event by some, and ruthless strategy by others, Ferrari has best positioned itself with a single driver (at the expense of the other) to take the title with Fernando Alonso, while Red Bull has not favored either driver in the same way this year.

Red Bull continues to take heat from critics for not declaring a similar team favorite driver and instead choosing to let Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel race each other for the championship, but there’s been one point of view that I’ve noticed is missing from the headlines:  Winning world championships certainly makes for team headlines and happy fans, but as part of each brands’ overall decision to race in Formula 1, how important is winning the World Driver’s Title to the Red Bull and Ferrari brands?

At this level of racing, brands justify their expenditures and partnerships with teams on the grid by leveraging Formula 1 as a marketing platform.  Participation in the sport creates global exposure for those brands, and with 520 million global F1 race viewers last year (down from 600 million in 2008), it certainly helps to reach viewers (the vast majority on television) by having cars and drivers featuring your brand lead the race, and ultimately, win.

While fans may be focused on Ferrari’s team orders and the gap between Webber, Vettel and Alonso, it’s clear that letting both drivers from the same team fight on behalf of Red Bull for the championship has helped to inflate their coverage on screen.  The numbers according to marketing research firm Margaux Matrix show Red Bull’s on screen exposure in the first 15 races this season to be 4 hours and 27 minutes, as compared with Ferrari’s, at 52 minutes.

Had Fernando and Felipe been allowed to compete more as Red Bull’s drivers have, surely those viewing numbers would be higher for Ferrari – assuming both are given equal support from the team to lead and win the race.  More television coverage creates more value for the brand, so why the team orders at Ferrari?

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Looking at the two brands and how they might receive the most benefit from their exposure in the sport, I would argue that some of how Ferrari and Red Bull approach their competition strategies on the track ultimately comes down to how different branding strategies leverage the Formula 1 platform.

To my mind, Red Bull’s spirit of competition embodies participation, individuality, and good fun.   From their open-call Flugtag events to American gold medal winning Olympic snowboarder Shaun White’s easygoing attitude and famous videos, Red Bull activates across a variety of sports and activities to create a broad appeal – and leverages the quality of each experience they create or participate in to build on their brand.  F1 has certainly had a look at its lighter side with Red Bull in the paddock, and helped broaden the sport’s appeal in return.  Ultimately, at $3.00 apiece, a can of Red Bull isn’t about exclusivity, it’s about experience and an ease of enjoyment, and the brand is built upon reaching all with a sense of excitement and experience around the product.

Counter to this ‘all comers welcome’ approach, Ferrari’s brand isn’t for everyone – it’s for the few.  At $100,000+, a Ferrari isn’t for every driveway, so they have fueled their brand’s reputation on not just racing, but winning.  As a manufacturer of exotic sports cars, the benefits of participating in F1 seems apparent, and Ferrari’s focus on and unique place in the history of the sport as participants and as its winningest team gives them a strong connection to Formula 1  – something they sell with every car they build.

Ferrari’s ‘other’ business has little to do with building cars, but building demand for their brand.  The roughly $1.5 billion in revenue Ferrari has with their licensing and retail business contributes significantly to their bottom line.  So strong is the desire they’ve created to buy into or be part of the Ferrari brand, that for a price, parties pay a premium to label their products with Ferrari’s logo.  Aside from the countless Ferrari toys, hats and shirts at every race and Ferrari retail store, there are manufacturers of skis, stereo speakers, wine, and just about anything other than cars who enroll in a branding program with Ferrari to label their products with the Cavallino.

At Red Bull, part of building and maintaining their brand requires reaching the greatest audience and sharing the experiences that come with their participation in F1.  The sport’s global reach naturally makes it a focus for their branding efforts, and Red Bull’s plans to increase their production worldwide by 10% this year has been at least in part due to the ability of the team to keep their two F1 drivers at or near the top step of the podium – and in front of the largest television audience on earth.

The degree to which any F1 team benefits from participating in the sport depends on a number of variables, however Ferrari’s mandate is clear:  Building and maintaining their brand as well as their licensing and retail business is based on maintaining their exclusivity.  Being the singular team and driver on the top step of the podium on Sunday equates precisely to that aim, and requires the results to go with it.  Team orders to that end are as much a part of Ferrari’s core strategy as a brand as is their reason to participate in the sport, since every F1 season is an opportunity to validate their brand – by winning.


SportsPro: Ferrari, the magic brand

AutoWeek: Red Bull gets most exposure of all teams in 2010

Global License: Top 100 Licensors

Autosport: Ferrari did use illegal team orders

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