Much has been written about Red Bull Racing, and even as this article is published, the internet advertising spider calculators will be totting up the number of references made here to ‘Red Bull’ and reporting back to fantasy island Mateschitz.
It’s the way of the modern world. Marketing companies score the reach of marketing – both on the internet and tradition – and this results in the kind of reports pro0duced for Infiniti in 2013.
Nigel Geach, SVP Global Motorsport at Repucom claims that the luxury car maker, which entered F1 in 2011, “is now the number one most exposed team partner in the sport, measured by calculating the amount of on-screen branding of the official qualifying and race broadcasts”.
This value does not include internet credits and a whole host of promotional activity away from the F1 race weekends.
With global sales in 20-14 up 13.5% at just over 186,000 units, Infiniti may argue it’s spend in remaining Red Bull Racing’s title partner has been an investment well made. Yet when you look behind the numbers, all that is said to glitter may not be gold.
Over 60% of Infiniti sales are made in the USA, which on the whole has a tiny Formula One TV audience. So not too many F1 TV eyeballs are contributing to Infiniti’s success in the US of A.
Marketing and particularly branding is an art form – not a science, and whilst behind the scenes there is an impressive array of algorithms, data and statistic, in the end cold hard sales on the board is what counts. The growth of the Infiniti brand in Europe, where the vast majority of F1 TV eyeballs reside, is not stellar and certainly isn’t of concern to existing premium automotive manufacturers in that space.
The unknown is how much Infiniti have spent being the title sponsor of Red Bull Racing over the past 4 years. McLaren reportedly charged Vodafone just under $70m a year. So at a similar rate, Infiniti will have spent $350m by the end of the 2015 season, and maybe the Japanese luxury car brand is considering that by the end of their current contract, enough is enough.
Red Bull’s own investment in acquiring the Jaguar team, building and developing it into the force it is has been in recent years for certain dwarfs the money spent by Infiniti
Yet what all the above proves is that Red Bull came into Formula One for one reason and one reason alone. Marketing and branding. Being at the forefront of Formula One and winning is key to the decision of whether these astronomic levels of spending should be maintained.
Helmet Marko made this patently clear this weekend in Australia when he said: “We will evaluate the situation again, as every year, and look into costs and revenues [of F1 participation]. If we are totally dissatisfied we could contemplate an F1 exit”.
When asked whether Red Bull could really quit F1, he replied, “Yes, the danger is there that Mr Mateschitz loses his passion for F1.”
Christian Horner is demanding the FIA change the rules to allow their engine manufacturer to catch up. “I think it is healthy to have a situation where the FIA, within the rules, have an equalisation mechanism. I think perhaps they need to look at it”.
The Red Bull team principal realises that this season is already looking a write off for his team and is coming to terms with the fact that it could be some years before Red Bull Racing have a competitive engine.
However, F1 history is littered with examples of team’s in this very predicament and Red Bull are quickly realising their engine partner was a huge part of their success – as they co-developed aerodynamics together to blow hot air up their communal chassis’ ass.
Whilst Ferrari appear to have made significant strides forward with their car and engine this year, they are still in a division below Mercedes. Their team principal had this to say following Hormer and Marko’s outbursts.
“Our job is to attack Mercedes on track”, observed Arrivabene, “not to change the rules”.
Of course Ferrari have complained over the years about the direction that Formula One is taking. For the best part of a decade, aerodynamics had dominated the sport like never before and prior to his departure, Luca de Montzemolo looked forward to the new Formula engine era we have now.
“Formula 1 also has to be a clean sport without any of the monkey business we have had to put up with in recent years. From next season, we will have a completely different F1, finally less dependent on aerodynamics. I build cars not planes.”
So Mateschitz could lose his passion for F1? Passion for Formula One is demonstrated by more than just winning as Ferrari’s longevity has proven. Ferrari are for many the greatest of all team’s within the sport, however, the red team have won just two F1 titles in the past ten years.
Formula One is a vital part of Ferrari’s marketing and branding, but were Ferrari merely in F1 to sell road cars then it is questionable whether Maranello’s spend over the last decade has been worthwhile.
Red Bull are considering quitting F1 because the marketing spend to support their racing team is no longer justifiable when they can’t win.
This highlights the fundamental difference between a team owned by a fizzy drinks marketing company and Ferrari. McLaren and Williams.
For the latter, Formula One is part of their genetic make-up and their long history in the sort prevents them from throwing their toys out of the pram when the tide is going against them.
Of course, Mateschitz lackeys are in actuality blowing more hot air – this time from their mouths. Red Bull will not quit and shut down their factories. Mateschitz is looking to offload the teams.
However, there does not appear to be a long list of takers to buy a Formula One team. Adam Cooper is propounding the theory that Renault could buy Toro Rosso and Audi acquire the team in Milton Keynes.
The reality is that Renault have a much closer affinity with their ex-works team based in Enstone than the one in Italy. Further, there are political issues for Audi entering F1 so long as Ecclestone is in charge. Add to that the state of Honda’s current woes, and the VW group will be thinking thrice about entering Formula One – any time soon.
So Mr. Mateshitz may have to find a way to maintain his ‘passion’ for Formula One – as Red Bull are likely to be stuck in the sport for much longer than he hopes.
So unfortunately, the reality is that F1 fans will have to listen for another season where the sounds of wailing and the gnashing of teeth are regularly broadcast from Milton Keynes.