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Insight: New frontier as Heineken pushing for 'continuous content' around Formula 1

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Insight: New frontier as Heineken pushing for 'continuous content' around Formula 1
Sep 24, 2016, 12:25 PM

Back at the Canadian Grand Prix in June, Formula 1 unveiled global beer brand Heineken as a major new sponsor that promised to shake up the sport

Back at the Canadian Grand Prix in June, Formula 1 unveiled global beer brand Heineken as a major new sponsor that promised to shake up the sport’s digital video content and overhaul the championship’s approach to digital media content along the lines of its methods of promoting the UEFA Champions League.

Now the senior executive in charge of their F1 involvement has said that he sees F1 moving towards a different kind of communication with fans, with continuous content and opportunities to engage with the sport. Although their deal was done with Bernie Ecclestone before Liberty Media bought into the series, the approach seems to chime with Liberty's strategy for digital content around the world's premier automotive series.

One senses that early 2017 will be an inflection point, on a number of levels.

This month Heineken began to show how it will play its part, as it released its first two campaigns (that you can see below), which feature Sir Jackie Stewart and David Coulthard.

It’s branding has featured prominently at the Canadian and Italian races – where it was the title sponsor of those events and it will also be at the upcoming Mexican Grand Prix – and it organised a high profile charity football event that pitted F1 drivers Fernando Alonso, Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo, Sergio Perez and Jolyon Palmer against a team of all-star footballers on the pit straight in Monza.

Heineken F1

In an interview with the official F1 website earlier this week, Heineken’s senior global brand director, Gianluca Di Tondo, explained that his company hopes to bridge the gaps between the F1 teams, corporate hospitality areas and everyday fans by providing “continuous content” to show that the sport is more than just a race.

“We have two pillars to our F1 commitment,” he said. ‘Our point of view that F1 is bigger than the race – it is a three-day event – and we need the people out there to know what is happening, and that is why we take it to the streets.

“There is a big gap between the paddock, the Paddock Club and the rest. We think that our role as a beer - and as a sponsor of F1 - is to create bridges between these worlds.

Heineken F1

“We will leverage a lot of social media and I think that our main platform to get to these 60 percent of people is what we call ‘always-on’ platforms. We want continuous content on Formula 1 and also to be sneaking a bit behind the scenes and bringing more people into the world of Formula 1.”

Heineken’s first two F1 campaigns

The two films that Heineken has produced so far depict its brand ambassadors Stewart and Coulthard introducing the messages “when you drive, never drink” and “more than a race”.

The first film features extensive archive footage of Stewart from the 1970s and reinforces the company’s responsible drinking message. It hits on the notes of status symbols and humour that have been used in previous Heineken campaigns for the Champions League and James Bond.

The second features Coulthard describing the nature of F1 to a “newcomer” at a bar with more CGI, action and even a cameo from Bernie Ecclestone. It shows Heineken’s attempts to reach new fans while also speaking to existing supporters.

Di Tondo explained that the company had chosen the two Scottish drivers as it felt they embodied the initial messages it is trying to get across to F1 fans.

He said: “We wanted to start with someone who is very credible in both worlds. There is no one more so than Jackie in terms of credibility and responsibility if you talk about ‘When you drive, never drink’.

“David is the embodiment of ‘More than a race’. He was a successful driver and is now a very successful commentator and businessman. He lives in Monaco and he navigates the nightlife. That was all very interesting for us.

“Our policy is that we don’t want to associate ourselves with active drivers or players. This is why all our programs are when you retire from active sport, as we think it is better to be connected to an alcoholic drink when you are retired - to get the separation.”

F1’s sale to Liberty Media

Heineken F1

Since Heineken came on-board as an F1 sponsor, Liberty Media has begun the process of purchasing the sport, which has further raised the prospect of a revolution in the championship’s digital coverage.

Di Tondo believes that this move is good for F1 and expressed his hope that the sale could open up markets and attract more interest in the sport from America – something F1 has traditionally struggled to do.

He said: “The fact that a media company is joining F1 is very good news. Never forget, we are talking about show business - the entertainment business at its best.

“Anybody who is knowledgeable in the entertainment business is going to be very welcomed because they will probably move away from the corporate set-up of the private suite to be more embracing of the audience out there.

Heineken F1

“And maybe it could also open up the American market, going to places like Las Vegas. That would be fantastic.”

“2016 is a warm-up, the learning phase”

As ever in F1, Heineken is using the global nature of the championship to bring its products to potential new customers. It’s a tried and tested approach, but the beer company is bringing something different to the table and it’s using its “more than a race” slogan to introduce the many facets of the sport to a wider audience.

Gianluca Di Tondo Heineken F1

From the two campaigns released so far we can see that it is employing a balance of the traditional and modern appeal of F1, while focusing on the glamour and status of the sport and trying to associate those elements with its own products. But Di Tondo insists that the 2016 season is just the beginning for Heineken’s attempts to shake up the digital side of the sport.

“Our stance right now is that 2016 is a warm-up, the learning phase,” he said. “And we are already collecting some good ideas on where we want to go.”

So, for this weekend’s debate, we’re asking JAonF1 readers what they think of the first three months of Heineken’s F1 sponsorship and the first two films the company has produced, as well as what this means for the future of F1.

Leave your thoughts on the topic in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.
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