An Unlikely Alliance? Sauber F1 announce brand partnership with Chelsea FC. 1st May, 2012

Swiss Formula 1 team Sauber announced  yesterday 30/4/2012 a collaboration with Chelsea FC, which was hinted at with elusive messages ‘Out of the Blue’ and ‘True Blue’ that began to appear on the Sauber engine covers during the Bahrain and Chinese Grand Prix. In many ways such an innovative relationship between both sports has been long overdue.

It’s all about timing

Sauber, being a racing team, clearly know the importance of good timing. This agreement has been in the pipeline for at very least a fortnight now, before Chelsea bravely overcame Champions League favourites Barcelona last week. To further infuriate fans of both football and F1 in Barcelona, Sauber will be featuring the Chelsea FC logo (the same week of the Champions league final) for the first time at the Spanish Grand Prix which heralds the beginning of the European Leg of the Formula 1 season. Sauber’s logo will also feature at Chelsea FC on interview walls and advertisement boards at Stamford Bridge.

Some observers may argue that such a partnership endorsing two different teams in very different sports serves no real function, especially when coverage of both sports tend to overlap. West London football club Queens Park Rangers also has an affiliation to F1 in the form of club ownership. Malaysian entrepreneur and owner of Caterham F1 Tony Fernandes purchased his majority shares in the football club from Bernie Eccelstone’s  who in turn purchased his shares from former managing director of Renault F1 Flavio Briatore; however no direct aesthetic associations between the sports exist in such a form until now. So what are the reasons behind such a move?  Sauber CEO Monisha Kaltenborn maintains that “the Sauber F1 Team and Chelsea FC are dealing with many of the same sporting and commercial topics and we want to strengthen each other in these areas. We are looking forward to exploiting these opportunities.”  In addition Chelsea mark their twentieth year in the premiership, as Sauber have made a promising start to this Formula One season, also their twentieth consecutive year as an F1team.

The Incentives

There are clear benefits to be found in striking a deal between these two European sporting institutions and by sharing notes on two of the world’s most lucrative sports. Firstly the science behind sports success is becoming increasingly sophisticated, where the importance of synergy between the backroom staff and the sportsmen in both sports is increasingly noticeable be it in the shape of a pitch-side physio, or a pit-stop mechanic. Secondly, from a commercial standpoint, the coming together of both these sports brands opens great marketing, merchandising and sponsorship opportunities. Both Chelsea and Sauber teams boast an international presence and know the importance of broadening a loyal support base. F1 much like football draws great support and sponsorship from the Middle East and Asia; Chelsea will therefore be looking to further engage with this market.

So in essence the fact that the Grand Prix will not return east until Japan in the middle of September means that the timing of this deal is a move to strengthen the global following of both sports and to increase general dissemination of both sporting brands as the European leg of the F1 season is about to get underway.