Insight / When F1 sponsorship goes wrong

When F1 sponsorship goes wrong

Who saw the British Grand Prix on Sunday?

Brilliant race and incredibly satisfying to see Brit Lewis Hamilton glide easily and uneventfully into 1st place. Amazing tussles between Alonso and Vettel and the usual phenomenal support from the British crowd.

And then came the trophy presentation. Lewis Hamilton in first position is presented with…wait for it… is it the original and traditional BRDC gold cup? Is it a gorgeously designed contemporary piece with the impact of the brilliant 2012 Olympic flame sculpture by the very talented Thomas Heatherwick? Is it representative of the decades of British motor racing history and car design? Does it crown the euphoria a driver must be feeling when finishing first? After all it was the 50th British Grand Prix.

No. And not even close. The presentation was a flimsy, cheap interpretation of the Santander logo (see above). Is that what sponsorship is all about?

I have no idea of the actual investment Santander make into the lucrative F1 world, but all the money they have so far invested has been hugely undermined by being greedy and not taking control of their brand or understanding brand values – in my opinion. Are we not all completely and utterly aware of their sponsorship anyway? Yes. It is everywhere. And like Red Bull and all of the other sponsors involved, the F1 brands have wormed their way into our psyche (if you are an F1 fan) and we love them more because they are involved in a world we enjoy.

Until sponsorship goes wrong.

When a sponsor gets greedy and wants more limelight than the event or person they support, it all goes wrong. They want to nudge the winning driver to the edge of the podium so their brand can shout “look at me”. But rather than inviting adoring gazes from the masses by creating a trophy that represents the values, history, innovation, adrenaline and loyalty found in F1, they make it all about them! Wrong, wrong, wrong. I know there were previous Santander “logo” trophies in silver or chrome, some which had the colours of the relevant host country’s flag glinting on the edges – at least they looked solid, if uninspiring. Sunday was the step too far. Even Lewis commented as the measley award fell apart in his hands. He wanted a proper trophy (like the Monaco one on our thumbnail pic) and we wanted the world to see the winner of the British Grand Prix raise a stunning award above his head.

Santander, you have dropped hugely in my estimations. My opinion won’t affect your business alas but there are millions of F1 fans out there who probably feel the same. You have equated your brand with something that looks cheap, unstable and uninspiring in one of the most expensive and glamorous environments out there. Lots of people are interested in improved and new ways of banking. If I was a bank right now, I would be wanting my brand to look innovative, I would want to see that it is personal, considered whilst retaining some comforting solidity. I would rather put my money with Mercedes or Red Bull right now, if they did banks.

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