Red Bull Challenges F1's Sponsorship Stallion
5th December, 2012
In the last couple of weeks, the Red Bull Racing and Sebastian Vettel vs. Ferrari and Fernando Alonso rivalry has dominated sporting headlines. In the end it was yet again the former who took both the Constructers’ and the Drivers’ World Championship titles in the thrilling Formula 1 season finale in Brazil. This nail-biting end to the season has prompted a closer look at the team’s and driver’s success off the track and their contention for the commercial crown.
The Constructers’ (Sponsorship) Championship:
Despite prize money being in the millions, sponsorship is by far the key source of revenue for both teams and their drivers which begs the question: who is leading the commercial championship?
According to Forbes’ latest list of the ‘Formula One’s Most Valuable Teams’ Ferrari’s total revenue is estimated to be around £240m with £190m being generated from sponsorship alone. Nearly £155m is generated via three major deals with Shell, Santander and title sponsorship partner Marlboro. These three deals are worth more than any other team’s total sponsorship revenue.
But what about Red Bull Racing? Out of all teams on the grid, they are surprisingly down in fourth in the overall revenue standings at £100m in 2011. 60% of this revenue comes from Red Bull’s success on the track earning them more prize money than any other team in the championship however the contribution from sponsors falls significantly shorter than Ferrari, coming to £38m positioning the team in the middle of the sponsorship field. The main reason for this is that the brand does not seek sponsors for most of their advertising space as this is generally used for self-promotion. As opposed to Ferrari (whose title sponsor is Marlboro at £100m) and other leading teams like McLaren Mercedes (Vodafone, £47m) and Mercedes AMG F1 (Petronas, £35m), Red Bull is sacrificing a significant amount of commercial opportunity in this area. However, this may all be about to change with the constructors’ champions securing their first title sponsorship deal with Nissan’s luxury arm, Infiniti.
When reviewing the revenue potential of both teams, Ferrari should still be out of reach in the short-term with regards to team value however with Red Bull being the fastest growing team in the paddock, the commercial gap is certainly narrowing.
The Drivers’ (Sponsorship) Championship:
Are Vettel and Alonso also competing for a sponsorship title? In his latest blog post, Mark Mylam asked whether sports men and women as brand ambassadors were really worth the money from a sponsor’s perspective as there is always a risk associated with their image deteriorating and affecting the image of the endorsed brand. An almost risk-free sportsman for instance could be Sebastian Vettel. The driver is unarguably one of the most charismatic Formula 1 drivers, as demonstrated at last year’s Autosport Awards and although his interview at the podium ceremony of Abu Dhabi included some strong words, nothing seems to be able to tarnish his image. This is why Sebastian Vettel, who manages his endorsement deals himself, enjoys lucrative sponsorship deals with Casio and Procter & Gamble’s Head & Shoulders worth around £2m in total, according to a study carried out by Sport + Markt.
Fernando Alonso, on the other hand, seems to have a completely different persona. One could perceive him as being rather introverted although he is not one to shy away from commercial opportunities with earnings upwards of £6m through his deals with Santander, Tag-Heuer and Puma in 2011. This positions Alonso at the top of the sponsorship leaderboard with Michael Schumacher way behind at £3.5m and Lewis Hamilton (£2.5m) ahead of both Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button, both at £2m. Marcel Cordes, Executive Director at Sport + Markt, points out that it is unlikely that Vettel will be able to close this gap as “he (Vettel) is already very strongly associated with the Red Bull brand”. Also, Sebastian Vettel is not interested in signing sponsorship deals just for the sake of securing a higher income. He’s already stated in the media: “It is not a goal for me to earn more money. For me, it is important that the brand is ideally suited to me”.
Compared to other sports stars like Roger Federer or Kobe Bryant, sponsorship earnings of Formula 1 drivers are minimal because in most cases, the teams control almost all of their driver’s sponsorship rights.
It is interesting to see that championship wins have by no means been reflective of either team’s or drivers’ respective commercial successes but will this continue into 2013? With the pressure mounting on Sebastian Vettel, could we see Ferrari’s sponsorship stallion overtake the Red Bull both on the track as well as off or will the power of the ‘Vettrick’ prove too much to contend with? Let us know your thoughts!