Lewis Hamilton’s loss in Brazil is certainly notthe end of the road for the rookie racing sensation. According the brand Forensics expert, Jonathan Gabay,providing that he turns fate, if anything the near-win makes his futurebranding prospects a dead-cert. “ Itadds to the excitement and anticipation. Although Hamilton came seventh, he still produced the final’s fastestlap. Everyone loves a contenderwith heart, guts and verve; especially one who goes through the tough times toeventually confound the critics. The defeat in Brazil could turn out to be more of a pit-stopon Hamilton’s journey to becoming the country’s first billon- pound sportsbrand celebrity. CurrentlyHamilton features in advertising from Santander-Abbey, Vodafone and TagHeurer. As part of the McLarenteam, he also has a brand deal with Diageo.
Driving the chariot of gold
The long-term prospects for Hamilton owe much to thecontinuing ‘backstory’ behind the headlines keeping even non-sports fans avidlyglued to the TV. The plot: A nice kidfrom nowhere who, despite all the odds, and thanks to a doting father andbelief from a manager, persisted to follow his dreams to make it to the worldchampionship final in his first ever professionalyear. And, despite defeat in front of the world’s media still has his heart andset on crossing that elusive final finishing line.
Immediately after the race Lewis’s father said, “Ifsomeone told me a year ago that we would come this far I would never have believedit. This is not a sad day. Things are sent to try you… We will eventuallywin. If not next year the yearafter….One thing I can tell you is that the name of Lewis Hamilton is here to stay.”
The developing story is poignant enough to meltthe heartstrings of even the most hardened brand directors with an eye for thehuman touch for their product or services. Add to this dramas such as tyres failing just before the bigfinale, political embroilment with fellow drivers and you have the makings of aclassic tale of eventual triumph in the face of adversity. The only other sporting stories comingeven close are Ali, Woods, Beckham, Pele and Rocky himself.
The price of fame
This year, Hamilton’s deal with McLaren,delivers a salary of a minimum of £400,000. Once, and if he eventually lifts upthe World Championship cup, pundits have estimated that retaining Hamilton inthe team will cost McLaren as much as £150 million in salary alone for afive-year deal, making him the highest-paid driver ever. Even without winning his first WorldChampionship, brands will remain eager to align themselves with a young talent- earning Hamilton serious sponsorship rewards that many estimate could beeventually worth £1bn. (CurrentlyFerrari’s World Champion Kimi Raikkonen is the highest-paid driver on the gridat £25m- with new branding deals set to broaden his smile even further). Retired seven-time F1 world championMichael Schumacher, made around £500 million, earning about £17 million a year.
Bigbrands race for the big names
DiageoWhisky brand, Johnnie Walker has extended its sponsorship deal with Formula1team Vodafone McLaren Mercedes until 2012. Vodafone remains McLaren’s maincommercial partner, keeping team naming rights.
The Europeansports sponsorship industry is worth £6.7 billion a year. Recently‘International Market Reports’ suggest that the value of brands in sports hasgrown by 37% since 2000. Thebiggest sponsorship deals come from football, attracting £1.bn. However, McLaren’s team is onlyslightly short off the mark with receipts of £1.5bn.
Deals such as those with Santander- Abbeyreflect the point that the biggest investors in sports sponsorship – witharound 13% of value of all deals – are the financial sector. The UK financial sector has 22% shareahead of alcohol and IT brands. (Legislation means that alcoholic brands will soon abandon footballsponsorship as advertising of children’s replica shirts with beer, wine andspirits brands has been given the ‘red-card’).
Despite thehuge sums involved, sponsorship of a racing car is relatively cost effective.Sponsors buy on audience and per 1,000 viewers. For £25m, F1 delivers a top-end global audience of 150million, 17 times a year. Only the football world cup and the Olympics offermore to sponsors, and they’re not bi-weekly events.
The race continues…