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From grid to forecourt: F1 makers feel brand boost

Long associated with glitz, bravado and lavish spending, Formula One has also delivered a boost to revenues and dictated consumer tastes, according to the cars' manufacturers.

F1's global television audience stood at 450 million in 2013 and with each eye trained on the immaculately designed cars screeching around each chicane, carmakers have told CNBC that it's delivering a real benefit to the sales of its consumer divisions.

"Formula 1 is a perfect marketing platform for an automobile manufacturer to show its competitiveness and technological power in a highly competitive environment," a spokesperson for Daimler told CNBC.

Daimler is the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, whose engines power four of the teams in this year's competition. The company also enters its own team with its own unique branding and generates an advertising equivalent of $1 billion, according to the company.

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"Our Formula 1 activities are a brand-shaper for Mercedes-Benz and promote in a high degree the dynamic, sporty identity of the brand and is an excellent way to fascinate people around the world for our brand," the spokesperson added.

Formula One Singapore Grand Prix on September 22, 2013.
Allan Lee | AFP | Getty Images
Formula One Singapore Grand Prix on September 22, 2013.

'Central to the brand'

The famous prancing horse of Ferrari is another manufacturer that will be forever associated with Formula 1 and, despite having no clear statistics showing the boost in sales, the company told CNBC that its connection with motor racing is "central to the brand."

Instead of opting for the usual road car badge on the bonnet of a new Ferrari, "a lot of customers" will choose the Scuderia Ferrari badge, which is the motif for the racing team division of Ferrari, a spokesperson for the company told CNBC.

Customers are attracted to Ferrari because of that connection with Formula 1, the spokesperson added, and customers are keen to know that similar technology is used in its road cars and a Formula 1 driver has been involved in the design and testing of that technology. Seven-times world champion, Michael Schumacher, was involved in the development and testing of the company's 430 Scuderia model which was launched in 2007.

However, while carmakers could detail the advantages of aligning themselves with Formula 1, the boost in actual passenger car sales was harder to define.

Ferrari said it was hard to say whether consumers rushed out to buy a car after a race win for the team, as every model was made to order and took between 9 and 12 months for delivery.

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Daimler, meanwhile, believes that many different factors would influence a buying decision thus making it impossible to measure to what extent a victory in the Formula 1 would influence a buyer's decision.

Infiniti, a luxury vehicle brand that has a marketing tie-in with the Red Bull Racing team added that Formula 1 is just one part of as advertising campaigns on TV, radio and print also take place over race weekends and would add to sales.

Tire sales surge

Taking over from Bridgestone in 2011, Italian-based tiremaker Pirelli is the official supplier for another three years and it's not hard to see why. Sales data collated in March from U.K. tire supplier Blackcircles.com shows that Pirelli tyre sales have soared by as much as 300 percent during the last three years.

During the the 2013 season, the company witnessed a surge of activity from customers looking to buy Pirelli tires following Formula 1 races, Blackcircles.com said, with an average sales rise of 162 percent after a race weekend. In some cases - like the Bahrain and Singapore grand prixs - the sales fillip rose to as much as 300 percent following the race.

"General awareness is certainly a factor," a spokesperson for Blackcircles.com told CNBC via email. The company said that the sales rise would occur despite Pirelli coming under criticism during a race with some drivers openly questioning the quality of the tires.

Blackcircles.com said that it is fair to assume that Pirelli's involvement with the sport over the next three years would continue to influence motorists and boost the sale of their road tires. A spokesperson for Pirelli couldn't comment in the third-party report but confirmed that it does benefit from its participation in Formula One.

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