Formula One puts the grid girl practice to tire-screeching halt

Singtel Grid Girl

FormulaOne (F1) has revealed that it will end its practice of using walk-on grid girls in its races. The move will take effect during the 2018 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season, and also apply to F1’s other motorsports series taking place during Grands Prix weekends.

Confirming the move in a press statement, Sean Bratches, managing director, commercial operations at F1 explained that the organisation did not believe the practice is “appropriate or relevant” to old and new F1 fans across the world. He added that while the practice of employing grid girls has been a staple of Formula 1 Grands Prix for decades,

The move also follows a review of areas the organisation felt need updating to be more in tune with its vision for the sport. The statement added that F1 considers the time spent by teams and drivers on the grid before a race as one of celebration. This allows guests and various performers to add to the “glamour and spectacle” of the Grand Prix, enabling promoters and partners to showcase their countries and products. The new F1 season begins on 25 March 2018 with the 2018 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

While lauded by woman sports groups such as Women’s Sports Trust, the move received mixed reactions from netizens, majority criticising F1 for putting the grid girls out of a job. The organisation was also criticised for bowing to societal pressure.

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Closer to home, the use of grid girls in the Grand Prix was a common occurrence back when Singtel was a title sponsor for the F1 race. The selection process was one garnering media attention, going as far as producing an entire pageant-style competition in 2009 to name top 21 girls who will lead the pack on race day.

According to a 2009 press statement from Singtel, the active sporty girls aged between 18 and 26 were also selected to Singtel Grid Girls on Tour programme running that year on Mediacorp’s Channel 5. This was on top of grid girl duties. After Singapore Airlines took over the title sponsor role, grid girl duties fell on existing SIA cabin crew for representation at the F1.

Most recently, Singapore GP and Singapore Tourism Board (STB) revealed they will continue to host the FIA Formula 1 World Championship for four more years from 2018 to 2021. In Malaysia however, F1 did not get its contract renewed, a move confirmed by Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz. This was primarily due to high costs of hosting the race without justifiable returns to the country, as well as a drop in ticket sales and TV viewing figures, according to several local media reports.

The move also follows recent steps F1 has taken to refresh its brand image. In November 2017, F1 revealed a new logo as the first step in its rebranding along with a new mission statement. While the management at F1 was positive about the new logo, fans however, did not share the same sentiment. Months later, F1 was met with trademark trouble after its latest logo was said to contain striking similarities to one used by 3M for its Futuro product line of compression tights.

Source: marketing-interactive.com; 1 Feb 2018

Twitter introduces sponsored Moments to help connect publishers with brands

Twitter introduced an In-Stream Sponsorship featured sponsored by Moments for advertisers and publishers to engage their audience with relevant content.

Advertisers can sponsor Moments from premium content partners. Sponsored Moments include interstitial Tweets from the brand as well as a branded cover.

According to Twitter: “The goal with sponsored Moments, as with all In-Stream Sponsorships, is tight alignment between advertiser messaging and partner content.

“By working with premium publishers as part of an In-Stream Sponsorship, brands know exactly which partner they are working with, and can develop deep brand integrations within that partner’s content.”

Twitter tested its new feature with Bank of America’s sponsored Moment from Bloomberg at Davos.

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Meredith Verdone, chief marketing officer, Bank of America said: “We know that decision-makers and influencers are turning to Twitter to keep up with what’s happening at Davos. Sponsored Moments gives us a great new way to seamlessly join that conversation as it is happening. Working with Bloomberg and Twitter helps us bring high-quality, relevant content to an engaged global audience. We’re excited to debut Moments as a key part of our #WEF programming.”

Meena Thiruvengadam, global head of audience development, Bloomberg Media said: “Twitter Moments offers a unique way to curate our content around key storylines and events in a way readers can best understand the most important stories unfolding around them.”

Source: thedrum.com; 27 Jan 2018

F1’s commercial boss on building a brand beyond racing

F1 wants to offer sponsors more flexibility and widen its appeal through a focus on eSports and a review of the role of so-called ‘grid girls’.

When Liberty Media completed the $8bn deal to acquire Formula One at the start of 2017, one of the first things it did was recruit Murray Barnett as the sport’s first head of global sponsorship and commercial partnerships.

Under the previous ownership, F1 lacked any kind of marketing department and derived most of its revenue from TV rights and race hosting fees, with owner Bernie Ecclestone cutting sponsorship deals personally. This was an outdated model that wasn’t at all joined up with the sport’s teams or drivers, and prevented F1 from ever hitting the commercial heights of other sports like football despite its global appeal.

Each F1 race can have up to 300,000 fans attending, with 80 million people watching live at home. The sport estimates it has 150 million global fans.

Liberty knew that under Ecclestone’s 40-year reign as F1’s commercial supremo, the sport didn’t make the most of its sponsorship opportunities. And Barnett, an experienced marketer poached in March from his role as chief commercial officer at World Rugby, has been tasked with leading the evolution.

When asked by Marketing Week what the biggest changes have been so far, Barnett confidently replies: “As a brand we have become more fan centric and we’re now doing everything through the prism of a fan, or a potential fan.

“Recently there was a young fan seen on TV crying in the stands because his hero Kimi Raikkonen had crashed and been eliminated. We brought him down to hang out with Kimi and go into the pits. This kind of emotive viral marketing activity would never have happened before and it made headlines globally.”

He adds: “I don’t want to talk too much about Ecclestone’s time, but our view now is to try to approach sponsors with a ‘yes, why not?’ attitude as opposed to a ‘no, I don’t understand the question’ kind of attitude. If they want to host a fashion show during a Grand Prix, we’ll make it happen, rather than shut the idea down.

“Nowadays, you have to work a lot harder to prove sponsor value. In the old days, it was just about throwing a few hospitality tickets around or putting some signage on a car. Now brands want authentic integration into the sport and that takes more time and effort to build and deliver.”

A more joined-up approach

The sport recently launched its first eSports league

For the first time, F1 now has account executives looking after each of its individual sponsors. They also have access to a portal with up-to-date information on F1 fans so they can target the audience more effectively.

Barnett cites Heineken as an example of a sponsor that has benefited from these changes, with the beer brand standing out for its experiential activity including hosting popular pool parties during the Monza Grand Prix.

“The way I look at it is someone should be able to attend a Grand Prix and for nine hours not see one bit of racing and still leave entertained,” adds Murray. “This is what I am telling brands.”

The sport faces a unique challenge in that it has to build the profile of the umbrella brand as well the profile of the 20 tracks used in its races and the 10 teams. However, Barnett says things are becoming far more joined-up: “We see ourselves as one of 31 shareholders in F1. There’s 10 teams, 20 tracks and us over at HQ.

“When we go to see commercial partners, we say to them if we are not right for you centrally, let us give you an intro to the teams or the drivers to build a relationship with them. If one of us grows, the whole sport benefits.”

Appealing to women
But who are the fans that sponsors are keen to reach via F1? According to GlobalWebIndex, which analysed the brand engagement levels of 51,280 global F1 fans, the sport can claim to have a cross-generational appeal, with consistently high scores across different age groups.

Of the total F1 audience, 83% shop online each month, with 50% saying they tend to buy with the brands they see advertised during races. F1 fans spend an average of two hours a day on social media, with the study claiming 38% of internet users are F1 fans and one in eight of its millennial fans choosing to watch races online.

But while the opportunities to market to this group are obvious, there are still areas where F1 is lacking. One of the biggest is the sport’s gender divide, with the same study showing men are 50% more likely to watch F1 than women.

This is not helped by the sport’s outdated use of promotional models who act as ‘grid girls’. The practice effectively reduces women to eye candy and is at odds with the progress seen in other sports such as football.


F1’s sponsorship boss says it needs to become more ‘progressive’ towards women

Barnett insists F1 is reviewing the use of grid girls, but he won’t commit to axing them altogether despite mounting pressure to do just that.
“We’re 100% committed to looking into grid girls and making them a more relevant part of the competition rather than just holding a board and standing next to a car,” he says.

“We want to make them fully integrated into the programme and change the perception of what their involvement in the sport is. We haven’t quite cracked what this will look like, but we’ve recognised we need to become more progressive there.”

He cites F1’s Dare to be Different programme, which encourages women to get involved in a career in car engineering as a positive milestone. He says there’s also a fierce debate internally about whether to host a women’s only F1 competition.

He explains: “There is a fierce debate about whether we should have a separate female F1 competition or to keep it fully integrated and let women drivers take part in a mixed gender competition like some have done in the past.

“We have a lot of women in senior management positions at F1, so we’re not as bad as you think, but there’s definitely a lot of room to grow.”

Rebranding and placing faith in eSports
In August, F1 launched its first eSports programme in partnership with developer Codemasters, which creates the official F1 video games. And Barnett has high hopes for this eSports league.

“I’d say, in five or 10 years’ time, the professional gamers will be able to compete against the real-life drivers in real time – one with a controller and one in a car,” he says. “My eldest son is 10-years-old and for all the will in the world he won’t sit for three hours watching a Grand Prix live. However, he loves gaming so eSports means we can connect to this young generation in a more engaging way.”

Barnett is working closely with ad agency Wieden+Kennedy and experiential agency CSM Sport & Entertainment to rebrand F1 ahead of the new season. In November, it unveiled a new logo that it said was inspired by both Coca-Cola and Starbucks’ bids to create signage that stands out more in the digital era. It was a bold move considering the previous brand logo had been the same for 23 years.

This rebranding will be followed by a new graphic package for F1’s television production, a new web platform, a live and a non-live over-the-top TV platform and ‘new social capabilities.’ And one area Barnett says F1’s storytelling will change is in how it treats social purpose and the sport’s impact on the environment.

He explains: “We’re looking at things like carbon off-setting for F1 as an organisation, but it’s also one of the best kept secrets that F1 is actually an incredibly lean engine. We have 50% engine recovery, 1.6 litre hybrid engines, 1,000 break horsepower – people tell me this is astonishing.

“I don’t want to talk negatively about Formula E, but the power of their batteries has to come from somewhere. F1 as a sport can be sustainable and good for the environment so we need to tell that story more often.”

Ultimately, Barnett wants F1 to get to the stage where the logo “triggers an emotion that means different things to different people like Nike’s ‘Just Do It’.”

He concludes: “There’s so many opportunities if you want to sponsor football but if you want to go into motorsport, there’s only one place to be and that’s F1. We want to put the spectacle into spectacular and make this less of a corporate brand that’s more about having fun.

“It is going to take a long time for brands to change their perception of what F1 is [because of the old commercial model] and actually give us consideration, I know that. But we need to have patience and recognise that if we keep offering compelling experiences for brands then others will start to take notice soon rather than later.”

Source: marketingweek.com; 9 Jan 2018

A checklist for hiring celebrities in China

Zero tolerance: Five things China’s government and/or public won’t accept in celebrity endorsers.

In recent years, foreign luxury brands in China have heavily relied on celebrities to enhance brand recognition and gain customer loyalty. Though this strategy can bring about repercussions when brands work with someone who does not fit their image, partnering with celebrities can at least bring a substantial amount of traffic and attention on social media. Marketers can then leverage this attention to promote products and tell brand stories.

Making celebrities the public face of brands, nonetheless, has become an increasingly difficult task nowadays, which requires marketers to understand the political, cultural and social reality of China and vet potential brand ambassadors.

In recent months, the Chinese government has rolled out a series of measures to regulate celebrity and entertainment circles. The most recent prominent example of this is Katy Perry, who was scheduled to perform at the Shanghai Victoria Secret Fashion Show this year. However, her visa was denied because of her 2015 performance in Taipei, where she donned a dress with sunflowers on it and waved a Taiwanese flag. The sunflower was the symbol of the 2014 Sunflower Student Movement, which protested a bill that aimed to liberalize trade between China and Taiwan. However, many protesters feared further economic integration with China would encroach on Taiwan’s political independence.

The above example speaks to the necessity for luxury brands to fully understand the lifestyles, personal behaviours and relationships, as well as political attitudes of the celebrities who they want to hire. Celebrities’ massive online popularity will make their career-ending scandals go viral much more easily than others, which could bring irreversible damage to the brands that they represent.

Though there are no perfect precautionary measures that can be taken to totally avoid celebrity scandals from occurring, there are many lessons that luxury brands can learn about what the Chinese government and the public dislike based on some previous cases. The following are several issues that the Chinese government and online citizens show zero tolerance for:

1. Drugs

Drugs are totally forbidden in China. This includes marijuana, which has been legalized in many nations around the world. In 2015, the Chinese government passed a regulation that stipulates that celebrities who are involved in drug-related scandals cannot appear in TV shows, advertisements, films, etc. and brands that work with them have to drop their contracts.

The Taiwanese actor Kai Ko, who used to be the brand ambassador of the French premium cosmetics brand L’Oreal, is a prominent example of a brand ambassador running into trouble for drug use. Ko gained fame for his role in the film “You Are the Apple of My Eye.” In 2014, he was detained by Beijing police for drug use and L’Oreal issued a public statement to apologize to the public for working with Ko.

2. Political stance

It is equally important to check the political stance of celebrities before hiring them. In China, the public cannot promote Taiwanese and Tibetan independence. It is also unacceptable to criticize the country’s political system and leaders or publicly show affinity for Japan.

Lancome’s previous brand ambassador, Denise Ho from Hong Kong, was removed from her position after voicing her support for the “Occupy Central” movement, which sparked backlash on China’s social media sites last year.

3. Extramarital affairs

The Chinese online community also has zero tolerance for celebrities’ extramarital affairs. Extramarital scandals cause substantially more uproar on the Chinese internet and the unfaithful party is often harshly criticized for his or her unethical behaviour. In recent years, the Chinese populace has at times voluntarily boycotted celebrities who are involved in this type of scandal.

Montblanc‘s previous Chinese brand ambassador Lin Dan, a professional badminton player who has won two Olympic gold medals, is a prime example. He was replaced by other celebrities immediately after his extramarital affairs were exposed to the public in 2016.

4. Charity fraud

For Chinese celebrities, it is a highly valuable practice for them to participate in philanthropic activities. The government and the public like to see them give their time or money for a cause.

The Hollywood star Zhang Ziyi, who was also the brand ambassador of Giorgio Armani, came under fire for charity fraud. Zhang reportedly lied about donating money to aid people who suffered in the Wenchuan Earthquake in 2008. Zhang quickly received harsh rebuke from both the Chinese government and the public. The state-owned People’s Daily wrote an open letter to Zhang, that said that her behaviours “challenged human being’s moral limitation.” The brand immediately dropped Zhang.

5. Unethical business practices

Nowadays, many Chinese celebrities have their own businesses along with their careers as actors or singers. Therefore, luxury brands have to ensure that they are aware of the kind of businesses that their celebrity partners have been running. For example, Emporio Armani’s Chinese brand ambassador Hu Ge owns a Japanese restaurant in Shanghai. Dior’s brand ambassador Angelababy is also the founder of two venture capital firms.

Last week, the brand ambassador of the high-end watch brand Jaeger-LeCoultre, Zhao Wei, was involved in a financial fraud case. Chinese authorities discovered her and her husband’s unethical activities in the country’s capital markets.

Source: Jing Daily/campaignasia.com; 20 Nov 2017