“It’s a partnership, a long-standing relationship between two businesses, and not just cash out of one company,” said F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, who spoke at “The Business of Motorsports in Asia” conference.
“The Business of Motorsports in Asia” conference was held during the 2010 F1 SingTel Singapore Grand Prix weekend by Singapore Exchange (SGX) and Just Marketing International (JMI) and attended by 180 delegates from across the region.
“They used to say, “Go West, young man”, but now the world is moving East,” Ecclestone added.
It takes no genius to realise that the Asian motorsports industry is steadily gaining pace, particularly at the pinnacle of motor racing – Formula One. With more race venues in Asia as well as more Asian brands getting involved in the sport, F1 has become an attractive marketing and branding platform for the region. With India as the newest Asian member to join the F1 calendar, more than a quarter of F1 World Championship races are now taking place in Asia, offering unprecedented business opportunities for the region’s key companies.
Mr S Iswaran, Singapore’s Senior Minister of State for Trade & Industry and Education, said in his keynote speech at the conference, that F1 had resulted in huge benefits for the country. “The impact of F1 is far reaching and can be felt beyond the tourism landscape. It has galvanised companies and community groups to ride on its momentum and organise events around the F1 race to involve the community and businesses at large. F1 has offered unprecedented exposure for businesses and, in turn, generate opportunities for the region’s key companies.”
Petronas, SingTel, Kingfisher, AirAsia and LG are some examples of Asian companies who have engaged motorsports sponsorships as part of their branding. But it doesn’t take atrocious amounts of money to use motorsports as a marketing tool for business.
Said Zak Brown, founder and CEO of JMI, “There are various entry points – such as at the grassroots level – that don’t require coming in with hefty investments, which suggests that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can also use motorsports as a vehicle to grow their business.”
Indeed, there are some companies in Singapore which recognise the benefits of using motorsports as a marketing platform. Local automotive company HKS Garage R officially announced a partnership with Formula BMW Pacific 2010 championship leader Richard Bradley, the only Singaporean representative in the series, coinciding with the Singapore Grand Prix period.
“Sponsoring F1 is not something for everyone and there are many levels of motorsports that one can support. F1 drivers had to start somewhere once upon a time at the grassroots level as well. Garage R has a strong heritage in motorsports, dating back to almost two decades of experience (as a competitor, sponsor and spectator) and yes, motorsports does serve as a credible marketing platform when the right strategies are in place,” said Lawrence Lee, managing director of HKS Garage R.
“Singapore’s motorsports industry is still in its infancy but the arrival of F1 has brought great hope to the sport, which we hope will develop further especially when our permanent race track is eventually built,” Lee added.
Marcus Lim, general manager of local tyre distributor Binter & Co. Pte Ltd, was the man who brought Formula Drift to Asia when it was first held in Singapore in 2008. In tandem with his aim to promote local motorsports interest, Lim invested in his own drift racing outfit Team Goodyear SPARK Motorsports which fields Singapore’s leading drift talent Ivan Lim.
It is also very encouraging to see Malaysian F1 team Lotus Racing stepping up its game – it recently announced a partnership with Red Bull technology for next season. Lotus Racing is the closest Singapore has to an F1 team and in time to come there may well be more opportunities for our aspiring local drivers.
“My involvement in F1 began when AirAsia sponsored the Williams team. I’ve always believed in F1 and its enormous branding and publicity appeal. I then saw the beauty of F1 and with Malaysia’s growing assets in the sport over the last few years, I pursued the possibility of running a team and here I am now,” said Tony Fernandes, team principal of Lotus Racing.