F1’s commercial boss on transforming the ‘under-managed’ business

Sean Bratches admits there have been times that he hasn’t known whether to “laugh or cry” as he tries to get under the skin of the brand for the first time.

Formula One commercial boss Sean Bratches admits he underestimated the scale of the job when he joined, saying he didn’t realise before he joined that F1 was essentially a “one-man operation” and the company was mainly made up of attorneys and accountants, with no marketing or commercial operation and little understanding of what the fans wanted.

Speaking at Advertising Week Europe yesterday (20 March), Bratches said he has faced a huge job to set up a commercial operation and move its revenues away from being mostly focused on TV rights and race-hosting fees to creating a better experience for fans and sponsors. Yet that opportunity is one of the primary reasons why Liberty Media bought F1 for £8bn just over a year ago.

“Liberty Media acquired F1 for three primary reasons. Firstly, this is a fantastic brand, a global brand, with a pretty good balance sheet. Secondly, in the world we live in with tech continuing to disintermediate the consumer experience the thesis is that live sports is going to be [one of] the last bastion of platforms, brands, genres that can aggregate large audiences at a given point in time.

“And thirdly they felt it was an under-managed business. The 21st century leadership opportunity to grow the business is pretty significant.”

Bratches was one of the first people to join the business after the Liberty Media deal. He previously spent 27 years working at ESPN, latterly as executive vice-president of sales and marketing.

He said his first job was working on the basics – understanding who F1 is as a brand and how it is perceived by the fans. And so even before the deal closed he detailed how he went on a “covert mission” to Wieden+Kennedy in London to undertake F1’s first global brand study.

That research involved speaking to fans across four continents. For example, F1 identified 10 avid fans on each continent and spoke to them for seven hours about their thoughts of the brand, as well as talking to casual fans and panels.

From that, he explained, came a “trove of data” that has helped F1 better understand the fans and what the sport means to them that turned the sport on its head.

“[On the old] F1 website there was a pithy statement about what F1 is that ended with ‘Pursuit: speed’. What we found out is that what attracts people to F1 is not the speed, it’s the racing.

“They wanted that picked up on TV so we created a sporting and tech group headed by F1 legend Ross Brawn who is charged with working with the circuits where we race to create overtaking capabilities. And broadcast partners are really central to this from a strategic standpoint.”

Becoming a media and entertainment brand

F1 now sees its broadcast partners in a different light and is keen to work with them not just on revenue but on marketing and raising awareness of the brand. In future, Bratches said he expects 30% of races in a particular country to be free-to-air with the rest on pay TV to “create a marketing and revenue platform”.

F1 is also, for the first time, launching its own over-the-top service, F1 TV. That offers the sport the opportunity to “reimagine its product” with more cameras around the circuit, particularly where overtaking is happening, to put the focus on the racing.

And Bratches, who was speaking to Oystercatchers CEO Suki Thompson, is keen to make F1 “a little less predictive”. Since the 2015 season, only three teams have won a Grand Prix, while in the Premier League the bottom three teams have either beaten or drawn with the top six teams 29% of the time.

“As a Swansea fan you know you are probably not going to win the Premier League but if you go and play Manchester City or Arsenal you know you have a chance to win because it happens. That doesn’t happen today in F1. We want to make it a bit less predictive,” he explains.

There will also be more events for fans to get involved in beyond the races. There will be new fan zones and F1 is introducing fan festivals in four host cities – Berlin, Marseille, Miami and Shanghai – that will take place in the week of the Grand Prix but run from Wednesday right through to Sunday.

“We want to really engage fans through food courts, static car shows, Pirelli show tyres, sponsor activations, merchandise sales. And three of the four will have live show car runs with F1 cars ripping up and down the streets of the city.

“In the broadest sense we are trying to reposition F1 from a motorsport company to a media and entertainment brand.”

That includes looking at sponsorship opportunities. F1 had just five under previous owner Bernie Ecclestone, and Bratches compared that to a Premier League football team like Manchester United, which has 96.

“When you juxtapose us with other similarly situated sports entities or leagues, we are way under-punching our weight class.”

Bratches admitted that half the time since he joined he hasn’t known whether to “laugh or cry”. For example, he found it astounding F1 had never run a global marketing campaign.

Its first, created by Wieden+Kennedy and launched last week, focuses on engineered insanity, which Bratches described as “two polarised concepts working in harmony in this sport like no other”. It builds on F1’s new philosophy of putting fans first and features F1 supporters, with social films supporting the main ad telling their story of F1 and what it means to them.

Creating a 21st century leadership team

F1 now has a commercial division with 10 distinct areas of focus, including strategy, digital events, hospitality, marketing, sponsorship, media rights and communications. And while Bratches said the group is “staffed from the head”, it needs to start “filling out the body”.

“We had a unique opportunity to bring in the leadership teams of this commercial division and it is a fantastic edit of talent. The unique thing in this role is that no culture existed prior to me arriving so I have been able to create my own culture, which is somewhat unique particularly for a 67-year-old company,” he explained.

That culture, he added, is about cultivating leaders that “make other people better”, sharing rather than taking credit, a code of ethical and moral behaviour and “communicating, communicating, communicating”. The offices reflect this, with F1’s London HQ designed to replicate a garage and sponsors including Pirelli and Heineken “provisioning” the team with features including a bar.

“I try to roll a grenade in every room I walk into to get things going. When I got here a year ago there was nothing in the pipe and I am really proud in terms of what we have accomplished. I think we’ll turn the sport on its head but there continues to be a lot to do,” he explained.

Source: marketingweek.com; 21 Mar 2018

Following Google, Adobe ups its voice game

As advertisers look to voice as an integral touchpoint, Adobe has introduced a tool for voice analytics integrated into a marketer’s customer data sets.

A week after Google announced deeper integrations and additional languages to Assistant, Adobe has announced an update that promises to personalise voice interactions.

Enhancements in the Adobe Experience Cloud will let advertisers and agencies plan scenarios in responses to queries directed at Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

“Imagine searching for a flight on an Amazon Echo device and finding the right one at the best price,” writes Kevin Lindsay, director of product marketing at Adobe, in a post. “The travel brand you are engaging with has already connected the dots on the back end, and you can book instantly — followed by a travel confirmation sent directly to your smartphone.”

The enhancement comes from Adobe Sensei, an AI and machine learning framework that will allow advertisers and agencies to leverage machine learning and predictive algorithms to personalise experiences.

“Voice assistants that were previously seen as a somewhat futuristic idea are here today and moving very fast into our lives,” said V.R. Srivatsan, managing director, Adobe Southeast Asia.

With the increasingly attractive price points and growing ecosystem of apps created for voice devices, Srivatsan predicts it won’t be long before voice becomes as ubiquitous as mobile in the Asia Pacific region.

Adobe’s latest Digital intelligence Briefing reported 13,000 APAC respondents across marketing, creative, and IT roles placed the highest importance in creating personalised and relevant experiences in terms of improving overall customer experience.

Source: campaignasia.com; 6 Mar 2018

Google Assistant: More chatty in more languages

The Google Assistant is going global, with more languages and deeper integration opportunities for advertisers and agencies.

Google has announced more languages and deeper integrations for its virtual personal assistant.

By the end of 2018, Google Assistant will be able to understand over 30 languages, including Danish, Dutch, Hindi, Indonesian, Norwegian, Swedish, and Thai. The virtual PA will also support multilingual families, that speak, for instance, English and Urdu in the same household.

The second update pertains to routines and location-based reminders. Users will be able to customize a series of events that are part of their daily routines, such as “pick up the kids” or “collect laundry”, when a particular command is spoken such as “OK Google, I’m home.” Depending on where a user is, reminders will be issued based on location.

Advertisers and agencies have the opportunity to invest in voice-based search optimisation in order to send contextual voice-ads that line up with a routine or help achieve a goal.

The third update will allow advertisers and agencies to build out deeper integrations within Google Assistant, with Alphabet working with manufacturers of non-Android phones. This, Alphabet hopes, will make the Google Assistant more friendly on such devices.

Manufacturers can create integrations for device-specific commands, creating room to work with first-come-first-serve advertisers and agencies that want custom integrations. This opens room for a business such as Nestlé to sponsor the good morning messages and breakfast recommendation a device user hears every day, for example.

Source: campaignasia.com; 5 Mar 2018

Twitter unveils new APAC sports streaming deals

From football to table tennis, deals encompass new partnerships and extensions of existing ones.

Twitter today announced nine new Asia-Pacific sports video content collaborations, bolstering the existing deals the platform has in the region.

Speaking at Sportel Asia in Singapore, Aneesh Madani, Twitter APAC head of sports, revealed the partnerships, which include highlights, clips and other content from the following broadcasters:

– Astro Malaysia
– Fox Sports Asia
– Eleven Sports
– International Table Tennis Foundation
– BallBall
– Asian Tour
– TV One
– NetTV
– SportsFix TV

The deal with Astro Malaysia includes content from the FIFA World Cup, taking place in Russia in June. “Alongside our broadcast all 64 matches of the World Cup, Twitter will help amplify the most exciting moments from Astro’s coverage, and immerse fans in the ‘world game’,” said CK Lee, Astro VP of sports content.

The package covers content from a range sports including football, racing, tennis, golf and martial arts.

Each partner will also use Twitter’s in-stream sponsorship platform to allow advertisers to reach target audiences and publishers to monetise their video content.

Madani said: “Digital video consumption in Asia Pacific is growing rapidly. Introducing these new in-stream video sponsorship deals for sports to advertisers in Asia Pacific will strengthen the success of our partners in the region, and give fans an easy way to keep up with the sports they care about most.”

Twitter already has APAC video content deals with One Championship, the NBA and WNBA.

Source: campaignasia.com; 15 Mar 2018

6 ways Xi Jinping’s power grab will impact foreign brands

Xi’s personal Chinese Dream is expected to dominate every aspect of Chinese development, and will have a profound impact on the business environment of foreign companies working in the country.

Recently China announced a proposed constitutional amendment to end presidential term limits in China. Despite widespread discontent expressed online, the Communist Party now claims that the amendment is the will of the people.

If there were any doubt before, this statement make it all but certain that the amendment will pass before the conclusion of the “Two Sessions”, the annual meetings of the national legislature and the top political advisory body in Beijing.

The move, which received praise from U.S. President Donald Trump, is a significant shift toward a more autocratic regime. It also represents a formidable consolidation of power by Xi, who has just completed his first five-year term as President. In the past five years, Xi has developed a more nativist, nationalist ideology that aims to increase China’s strength in the world and the party’s lock on political power.

Xi’s personal Chinese Dream is expected to dominate every aspect of Chinese development, and will have a profound impact on the business environment of foreign companies working in the country. In a time of considerable uncertainty, here are Jing Daily‘s six predictions for how Xi’s power grab will impact the luxury industry in China.

1. More surveillance and censorship

Surveillance and censorship are widespread in China, and that will only increase. More and more foreign brands have been penalized for “misbehaviours” in their communications in China and abroad.

Cases from Victoria’s Secret, Estée Lauder, and Harper’s Bazaar illustrate the risks of working with celebrities (both international and domestic), referencing foreign subcultures (such as hip-hop and anime), and having a global digital presence, where comments in other countries and other languages are increasingly scrutinized.

Furthermore, the Chinese government is likely to demand access to all website data, online customer information, personal communications, and more.

Attempts to circumnavigate surveillance and censorship will slowly be snuffed out. Since October 2017, domestic VPN providers have been required to register with government agencies in order to provide their services legally in the country. Foreign VPNs are likely next. (See “What if China closes the VPN window in its ‘great firewall’?”)

2. More emphasis on Chinese heritage

The ongoing clampdown on foreign cultural influence will give rise to more foreign brands referencing or co-opting traditional Chinese culture in their communications. As a matter of fact, a great number of brands are already doing so. RTG Consulting Group found that adopting traditional Chinese cultural elements is one of the politically safest and most effective ways to engage with a diverse Chinese.

Selected aspects of traditional Chinese culture have been nurtured by the state in recent years, helping them to resonate more with the younger Chinese generation, especially Generation-Z.

3. More competition from home-grown brands

With the Chinese government calling for domestic innovation and design to meet the growing needs of consumers, the spring of the domestic Chinese fashion brands is coming. However, with the ideological restrictions placed upon Chinese fashion designers, fashions may begin to diverge away from global trends.

Nevertheless, we believe it will be more and more easy for domestic fashion brands to achieve commercial success inside China in the current social and political context. The success will belong to brands who comply with contemporary nationalist values, such as sportswear brand Li Ning, whose triumphant debut at New York Fashion Week captured the attention of Chinese millennials and was praised widely on the country’s major social media sites.

4. More limits on conspicuous consumption

The anti-corruption campaign that President Xi initiated back in 2013 will continue to affect the consumption behaviours of an estimated 112 million government personnel, including officials, civil servants and the so-called ‘in-staff’ personnel who enjoy the same wages, social welfare and healthcare standards, a group that constitutes the core of China’s rising middle class. This will have a profound impact on certain industries, including the travel and tourism sector, as officials must seek permission to travel abroad, and the luxury goods sector, as officials are discouraged from flaunting their wealth.

5. More ambiguity for Chinese brands abroad

Aside from rejuvenating national pride, Xi also has a grand vision of China’s role on the international stage. In recent years, a slew of Chinese companies have ventured abroad, enjoying significant freedom to operate globally, unless of course they fall foul of the regime. Wanda Group, HNA, and Anbang Insurance Group are three prime examples whose falls have had great repercussions for their foreign partners. Foreign brands will have to carefully evaluate the risks and rewards of working with big Chinese companies like Alibaba, Tencent, Huawei, and Fosun.

6. Less interest in foreign intellectual property rights

In the proposal to get rid of the presidential term limit, the Party also suggests abandoning “rule of law” to fully embrace “rule by law”. This has profound legal implications for foreign brands that have long suffered from IP infringement in China. The change is likely to make it harder for brands to protect themselves from Chinese copycats.

Source: Jing Daily/campaignasia.com; 9 Mar 2018

F1 unveils first global marketing campaign

With the new Formula One season starting next weekend, the racing brand is hoping to shift brand perceptions and build a new identity centred around its fans.

As it gears up for the 2018 Grand Prix season opener on 25 March, Formula One has launched its first ever global marketing campaign with the aim of challenging the sport’s perceptions by showing “what F1 really feels like” through the eyes of its fans.

The multi-platform campaign, created by Wieden+Kennedy London, kicks off in Melbourne on 16 March with new imagery and a new tagline: ‘Engineered Insanity’.

With a big outdoor push – including in-airport and in-city posters and hand-painted murals – the campaign will roll out across key Grand Prix destinations in China, France, Germany and the USA as the season unfolds.

It will also run on a number of digital and social platforms, with Formula One releasing a 60-second film featuring six superfans across its own social channels today. It hopes the film will “shine a spotlight on the innovation, endurance and elemental nature of the sport” by putting fans at the “visceral heart of the action” – i.e. what it’s like to be behind the wheel.

“If we think about the audience we want to reach, and getting to a new audience, it’s about creating content that’s going to resonate and engage with them on their level,” Formula One’s marketing director, Ellie Norman, tells Marketing Week.

“So there will be lots of animated gifs, short video formats that we’ll be pushing out to give people a feel for the campaign, and then they can hopefully discover the longer format on our pages and social channels or website.”

In the short-term, Formula One will be tracking engagement, video views, reach and re-sharing. Longer term, Norman says that will be measured against its core brand statements: increase interest, better knowledge and deeper engagement with F1 as a sport.


It fits in with Formula One’s long-term strategy to shift brand perception and build a new identity centred around its fans.

Speaking to Marketing Week at Mobile World Congress last month, Norman said: “Previously, we definitely had a logo but we didn’t have an identity. What we did have was a series of perceptions that we are working hard to change.

“For us this is a real step-change from the sport as it was in the past, which fans definitely felt wasn’t there to serve them. Every decision we are making is about how it serves the fan, so if it doesn’t serve the fan, it doesn’t serve Formula One.”

Last month Formula One announced its biggest investment in digital to date with the launch of F1 TV, an over-the-top live subscription service that will allow fans to watch ad-free live streams of each race, while on-board cameras will show live content from the driver’s point of view.

Over the next year, Formula One also plans on creating further fan-centred activations at the races, at fan festivals and across its social platforms.

Source: marketingweek.com; 16 Mar 2018

Google introduces AdSense Auto Ads

Google is bringing more AI into its ad business with the introduction of a new ad unit for AdSense. The new release aims to use the power of machine learning to try and optimise ad placement.

The new Auto Ads uses machine learning to “read” webpages and work out what the most appropriate places to put ads might be, and how many ads should be run. Publishers can activate the feature by adding a single line of code to their pages.

The service first appeared in a quiet, limited beta in in the second quarter of 2017. Google claims that publishers taking part in the beta saw an average revenue lift of 10%, and revenue increases ranging from 5% to 15%.

Benefits

AdSense is already a fairly automated service, but so far it has been up to web publishers where they want ads to be placed. Google has then selected the ads based on analysis of the page that matches the content to relevant ads.

The service is incredibly important to Google’s parent Alphabet, accounting for a whopping $27 billion of its $32 billion ad revenue in Q4 2017.

Auto Ads takes the responsibility for ad placement away from web publishers. Google claims that the service will only show ads when they are likely to perform well and provide a good user experience. The use of AI to work out where to place ads based on how they are likely to perform is an interesting development.

AI will also estimate how many ads should be on your page to increase revenue. Whether this leads to web publishers logging on to site to find it filled with ads. This post seems to indicate to that some beta testers were not exactly elated at the number of ads that appeared on their sites. It will be interesting to see if the AI can balance revenue with user experience.

Source: marketingtechnews.net; 22 Feb 2018

Microsoft launches Custom Vision and Bing Entity Search

A series of AI offerings from Microsoft target advertisers beginning digital transformations

Microsoft launches Custom Vision and Bing Entity Search

With Amazon, Google, and IBM as competitors in cloud computing, big data, and artificial intelligence (AI), Microsoft is moving to triple down on what it sees as its strengths.

The company has announced advances in several tools that fall under a ‘Cognitive Services’ rubric, including Custom Vision Service, the Face API, and Bing Entity Search.

In a company blog post, Joseph Sirosh, corporate VP of AI at Microsoft, said that Cognitive Services are defined as “a collection of cloud-hosted APIs that let developers easily add AI capabilities for vision, speech, language, knowledge and search into applications, across devices and platforms such as iOS, Android and Windows.”

The purpose of the announcement is to extend reach, offering these tools to data scientists, developers, and advertisers interested to delve into AI with an existing Microsoft ecosystem. Businesses interested in introducing intuitive digital business models need not engage in myriad testing phases in order to find the best fit AI, and can instead rely on Cognitive Services, according to the company.

Custom Vision Service, which has moved from free preview to paid preview, allows advertisers to train a classifier with their own data, while exporting their own models in order to embed them into active applications, testing them in real time regardless of device operating systems.

A functionality that is well known to anyone using Facebook or Snapchat or an Android or iOS device, the Face API helps identify specific people, allowing developers working with advertisers with legacy systems around Microsoft to create groups of facial datasets in the millions.

Microsoft says that unlike existing variations, the Face API is scalable and not limited to a handful of faces.

Also available now is the Bing Entity Search API, which allows advertisers to embed search results from Bing into any application, going so far as retrieving results within an image or a site. Utilizing latent semantic indexing, the API can offer advertisers context on people, places, things, and local businesses, including TV shows, games, books, and movies.

“A social media app could augment users’ photos with information about the locations of each photo,” said Sirosh. “A news app could provide entity snapshots for entities in the article.”

Advertisers can include location information in photos that appear in social media stories as well.

Source; campaignasia.com; 5 Mar 2018

Reliance Big TV offer: 500 channels free for 5 yrs, HD ones for 1 year

The effectively free offer on Reliance Big TV DTH is valid starting today, March 1, 2018

Anil Ambani-owned direct-to-home service provider Reliance Big TV is now offering free access to up to 500 channels at a zero effective cost, along with one year of free subscription to premium channels.

To avail of the Reliance Big TV set-top box at effectively zero cost, you need to book the DTH from the company’s official portal by paying a booking amount of Rs 499. Another sum of Rs 1,500 needs to be paid once the DTH is delivered, for installation and other services.

However, the total sum of Rs 2,000 is refundable after successful completion of three years in the form of recharge.

According to terms and conditions of the offer, you need to do a monthly recharge of Rs 300 from second year onwards for two consecutive years. At the end of three years, the company would refund a sum of Rs 2,000 in the form of recharge.

The offer comes bundled with free access to up to 500 free-to-air channels for five years and one year of free subscription to paid channels.

“Today, Reliance Big TV is going to mark the beginning of a new dawn in the way Indians have been accessing entertainment on their TV sets. Starting from today, entertainment comes effectively free of cost, with the latest offer by Reliance Big TV. Now every Indian household can enjoy home entertainment & students can have free of cost access to education content with HD HEVC set Top box,” said Vijender Singh, Director, Reliance Big TV in a statement.

Source: business-standard.com; 1 Mar 2018