Honda website
Honda website

DECEMBER 13, 2001

Sponsorship rethink required says experts

MOTOR SPORT needs to rethink its marketing messages if it wants to stay in pole position as a sponsorship vehicle according to a panel of leading marketers from both sides of the Atlantic.

Speaking on the first morning of the Motor SportBusiness conference in Monte Carlo, Jim Bowie director of marketing at Skip Barber Inc., the official CART Racing School, told delegates: "The system is flawed - sponsors want to sell goods and products, but teams want to win races."

Sponsors, he said, would prefer McLaren's mission statement to say that the F1 team wanted to be the best advocate of its sponsors and not just the number one racing team.

"At the Indy Motor Speedway, I spoke to a potential sponsor who had asked the team owner why he was asking for so much money, " added Bowie "The team owner said, 'Well, here's my budget', which is ludicrous. Don't even pick up the phone to a sponsor unless you have a value proposition."

But the failure of some sponsorships to provide returns is not just the responsibility of the teams. Judith McMahon, director of racing with Jaguar

Racing said that although the "whole approach to looking after sponsors has changed" in F1, the client's marketing divisions were not always integrating the sponsorship to maximize its impact.

"I've had experience where the final decision (to sponsor) was made between the team principal and the chief executive of the company. Only then would I negotiate with the marketing team.

"You get the deal done but have to pick up the pieces. The best way is to build the sponsorship in every layer of the company, but sometimes they start planning in September and the season starts in March. By then the marketing budget is already spent."

Even without today's difficult sponsorship environment, Jim Bowie concluded that F1 faces a tough battle to replace tobacco sponsorship.

"I don't think you can replace tobacco advertising, where there's 10 major players on the planet and consumers spend $5 a day. The tech sector doesn't have that!"