The marketing significance of the Indian Formula 1 Grand Prix

MUMBAI: With India hosting a F1 race for the first time over the weekend in Delhi advertisers and sports marketing experts expect the event to give F1 and motorsports a big fillip.

GroupM ESP managing partner Hiren Pandit expects television viewership on Star Sports to more than double. “The race will have a direct impact on the sport’s popularity. Already you are seeing hotel rates going berserk.”

He adds that people who only knew of F1 from the fringes will now take a more active interest. They will start watching the event more. He points to the increase in chatter happening on social networks.

“Opinions will form on the various teams. Depending on the drama that happens in Delhi there will be a positive spillover effect on the other races that take place after that. The good news is the sheer amount of coverage that publications like The Times of India are giving. That is creating a tremendous amplification effect.”

The only drawback according to Pandit is that in terms of watching the event live if one does not have right tickets it can be difficult to make out what is happening. At the same time F1 does have a unique in-stadia atmosphere with elements of glamour.

In terms of brands being associated with the event he said that this is a chance for a company like Airtel to stand up and announce its arrival on the global stage. He notes that F1 teams will increasingly do promotional initiatives in the country.

Already Red Bull did a race in Delhi while Vodafone McLaren brought Lewis Hamilton to Bangalore.

Offering a media buyer’s perspective Madison Media Group CEO Punitha Arumugam noted that for brands like Airtel, F1 offers the chance to do segmental targeting. “FI is about narrowcasting compared to cricket which is about broadcasting to the masses.”

From a psychographics perspective, Arumugam notes that it is viewers who initiate changes in consumption patterns and who influence the market who will be targeted by advertisers.

“Interest levels for the sport will grow. F1 is at the cutting edge of adventure sport. At the same time though I don’t think that the sport will become mass,” she adds.

Total Sports Asia MD India Suvrangsu Mukherjea notes that this event will do for the classes what the IPL did for the masses. “It will give the SEC A+ segment a different experience. This viewer has gone off cricket. He/she wants to see something new. The race will change the way Indians appreciate the sport. The event will give the upper middle class a new platform to look forward to.”

Asked about the TG for this event he says that it will initially start with the Metros. However a few years down the line the classes and masses will converge in terms of viewing the event.

“The aspirational class will start to watch this event. These are people who aspire to a better lifestyle. Sport at the end of the day is about a lifestyle.”

Different tie-ups are happening. Sahara bought a stake in Vijay Mallya’s Force India team for $100 million. The team is now called Sahara Force India. It roped in former cricketer Saurav Ganguly for a ‘Raise The Flag’ campaign. On the merchandise front, it launched limited edition Sahara Force India commemorative Kingfisher Premium and Kingfisher Strong cans to celebrate the sport.

Vodafone has been associated with the McLaren Mercedes team since 2007. The mobile phone operator has been drawing up initiatives to bring the race and the team closer to its subscribers.

The company recently announced the winners of the two initiatives that it ran in the run-up to the Indian GP. These were ‘Vodafone Race to Fame’ and ‘Vodafone Drive into the Big League’. The ‘Race to fame‘ scheme offered participants a chance to spend this weekend with the Vodafone Mclaren Mercedes team, with access to the Paddock club, Pit lane and Team garage.

The other initiative ‘Drive into the big league‘ offered a chance for an enterprise to have its logo on the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes cars during the race weekend at the Indian Grand Prix. ABC Consultants won this.

Amul is sponsoring the Sauber F1 team from Switzerland and is using the platform to forge a youth connect.

Machdar Motorsports is organising a league around motorsports later this year. The company’s CEO Darshan M says that the inaugural F1 GP in India is going to have a very positive impact on the sport in the long run. “The interest has been immense and for the first time there seems to be more buzz around the race than even cricket in India. We have seen a lot of support from the big corporate houses and their association with the sport is great to see.

“This will aid motorsports in India to grow as a category and will indirectly also provide a platform for F1 Super Series in building its credibility as it promises to usher in a new era of Indian Motorsport. Even in terms of economic impact it is huge on the city. The amount of tourists who will come for the race will add to the hospitality industry, the F&B consumption and the local handicraft market will also receive a boost,” adds Darshan.

Meanwhile Jaypee Sports, which is organising the F1 Grand Prix, is pulling out all the stops to ensure that the glamour quotient which F1 is famous for will be ever present. Among other things it has roped in American pop icon Lady Gaga to perform at the after party. This will be her first visit to India. Furthermore, on all the days 28-30 October 2011, the races will be followed by routines by DJ Roger Sanchez, German DJ producer Tom Navy as well as producer and musician Edward Maya.

These parties are being organised by JPSI in association with LAP, the restrobar founded by Arjun Rampal and restaurateur AD Singh, set in the Jaypee Green Golf and Spa Resort.

Off the circuit though, like the IPL, this event is also generating some amount of controversy. The Jaypee Group has been directed to deposit 25 per cent of ticket sale receipts in a separate account by the Supreme Court.

A bench of justices DK Jain and AR Dave in an interim order directed that the amount would be subject to the final outcome of a plea challenging tax exemptions accorded to the organisers of the F1 race by the UP Government.

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