Feature | The high-pitched VROOOOOM gears up to attract brands!

The gears are being raced and the adrenaline is rushing as India is anticipating the arrival of Formula One. Many motorsport experts are claiming that the International sporting madness will help India's motor racing fraternity is banking on domestic interest and a potential fan base.

As the country is gearing up to get the Buddh International Circuit into shape, officials are getting excited and they're confident that the inaugural Indian F1 Grand Prix will change the face of motorsport in a country known to be a one sport nation.

Recently Motorsports management company, Machdar Motorsports, announced their maiden motor sporting venture, i1 Super Series. The i1 Super Series will symbolize the pinnacle of motor sports in India, and make everything about the sport BIGGER than ever before.

With cricket icon Tendulkar as its brand ambassador, the i1 Super Series, based on the popular city based franchisee format, has 9 teams representing 9 different cities from our country. Each team will race with two cars, thus forming an 18-car grid. The team has to have one Indian and one International driver per car. The race will tour across 7 cities in Asia viz-New Delhi, Chennai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur and Pattaya.

So as major motor sport events create a buzz in the country, is there good opportunity for brands to be associated with these events?

Harish Bijoor, Brand-expert & CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc., says, "I do believe motor-sporting events are good occasions to brand. It is however important to maintain integrity of product with integrity of event. A motorsport event is an excellent location to brand everything from engine oil to motor-car to motor-cycle. And maybe even sunscreen lotion. But not a potato chip for the moment. The auto sector in India, which already has 662 variants on the roads of India, can use these events to good advantage. The nodal event of them all will be the NOIDA F1 circuit."

On similar line, Indranil Das Blah, Chief Operating Officer, KWAN Entertainment & Marketing Solutions Pvt. Ltd., says that there is a huge opportunity for brands to associate for brands to associate with motorsports events, especially the F1, as the eyes of the world will be on India for the F1.

He quickly adds, "However, brands will need to ensure adequate media spends in order not to get lost in the clutter of brands associating with the F1. Everyone will want to jump on the visibility the F1 provides and that may result in very expensive prices and a loss in direction of communication. As long as brands are aware of what exactly their take-away is from the event and are willing to spend, they should benefit from the race."

Blah adds that, while there is talk about other motorsports events happening in India such as the i1 Super Series, India is still a few years away from seeing them creating a nation-wide buzz. Moreover he explains that the catalyst for the growth of motorsport in India depends largely on the success of the F1 race in Delhi this October.

As a word of caution for successful brand integrations, Bijoor says, "There are opportunities, but these will largely be Guerrilla opportunities. Not paid sponsorship, but nifty ways to get advantage out of the opportunity without really being the official sponsor."

As the sporting action speeds past with a noisy buzz, the sport might also give birth to famous names, so we asked Blah if the celebrity management industry will see new faces emerging. He promptly adds, "Not in the immediate future. And this is entirely dependent on performance by Indian racers in the global arena. As of now, we have three names in international racing ' Narain Karthikeyan, Karun Chandok and Armaan Ebrahim. None of them are setting the race tracks on fire and hence, it is extremely unlikely that brands will spend on them as brand ambassadors when compared to other options they may have such as Bollywood and cricket stars. However, all it takes is one lucky break and one break-through performance to get brands believing in them again, especially with Karun and Armaan who are young and have huge potential and an upside, which brands always look for."

And as we close this topic for the day though the growth seems steady for the motor sport industry, it surely seems like the growth will have to travel a long path. As Blah puts it- "Motorsports in India is going the same way that football has gone in India. Like in the EPL, there is a lot of interest in the international players and performances of various clubs, but compare that to Indian football or Indian talent in motorsports, and there is very little support for either in India." | By Prabha Hegde [prabha(at)adgully.com]

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