Gavin Hadley
Apr 19, 2024

Formula 1 Shanghai: A watershed event for brand sponsors

With Shanghai native Zhou Guanyu in the race, this could be the kickoff to even more fierce positioning among Chinese brands.

Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren, Charles Leclerc of Monaco and Ferrari, Esteban Ocon of France and Alpine F1, Zhou Guanyu of China and Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber, Fernando Alonso of Spain and Aston Martin F1 Team and Nico Hulkenberg of Germany and Haas F1 attend the Drivers Press Conference during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of China at Shanghai International Circuit on April 18, 2024 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images )
Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren, Charles Leclerc of Monaco and Ferrari, Esteban Ocon of France and Alpine F1, Zhou Guanyu of China and Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber, Fernando Alonso of Spain and Aston Martin F1 Team and Nico Hulkenberg of Germany and Haas F1 attend the Drivers Press Conference during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of China at Shanghai International Circuit on April 18, 2024 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images )

The Formula 1 curtain is finally ready to pull back on Shanghai this weekend after five years closed. Diehard fans have remained patient, fair-weather fans have found excitement elsewhere, and brands have spent their marketing dollars on other sports or in other industries. Yet, this could well prove to be a watershed moment for the brands currently sponsoring F1, as the sports, fashion, and entertainment juggernaut continues to accelerate in popularity globally across multiple cross-industry verticals.

This weekend’s Shanghai Grand Prix is the talk of the town. From local hero Zhou Guanyu’s Shanghai debut to the first F1 race in five years, there’s been palpable excitement all across China ever since F1 announced this race would be finally returning to the calendar. Mix in a sprint race, the perfect spring weather, and tickets being sold out in just minutes—everything points to an exciting weekend for all those involved, particularly those brands who are looking to capture and engage the expected hundreds of millions of local fans at the track over the weekend, tuning in live online and on TV, as well as engaging on social.

Getty Images

Shanghai’s big moment

Shanghai has hosted only a few global sporting events in recent years, placing extra importance and emphasis on the much-anticipated 2024 Shanghai Grand Prix. Pre-pandemic, Shanghai was seen as one of the world’s top sporting cities, hosting multiple global sporting events each year, including the F1, soccer, golf, Rolex Shanghai Masters tennis, the Masters snooker, and many more.

The Shanghai F1 race was always a key fixture on China’s sporting calendar, meaning five years without a race has left a noticeable hole. Fans have questioned whether the city has the appetite to host the race anymore, and brands have been caught off guard as to where to invest their money regularly earmarked for this always-anticipated April weekend. This race presents a strong opportunity for Shanghai to showcase its prowess and capabilities as a top international sports city again, with the ability to put on world-class sporting events in front of the eyes of the world.

China has had fewer touchpoints with F1 than other countries. Netflix’s ‘Drive to Survive’ isn’t available to steam in the country, and more races are happening in time zones that are challenging for Chinese fans to tune in live. Yet, these fans remain hungry for live sporting events, which have been slowly ramping back up in the past year.

In terms of the race itself, this year's Shanghai Grand Prix will feature the sprint race, a new experience for Chinese fans. It also presents the perfect opportunity to firmly put China back on the F1 map, both from a race excitement standpoint and a local talent one.

Not only does it present a great opportunity for Shanghai the city, but it’s also an ideal time for the brands associated with F1 to have their time in the Shanghai sun.

Jumping on the brandwagon

It’s no surprise that Formula 1 has become such a hot spot for brands in recent years, as the organisation has transitioned from predominantly a niche, high-octane sports property to one that perfectly balances sport, fashion, entertainment, and lifestyle. It's the ability to cut across all these verticals that makes Formula 1 so appealing to a myriad of brands. And in China, a country at the forefront of sports, fashion and entertainment, a plethora of global and local brands are keen to be seen and heard, such as the Chinese multinational technology company, Lenovo.

Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Visa Cash App RB on his track walk during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of China at Shanghai International Circuit on April 18, 2024 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)


As one of Formula 1’s official partners, Lenovo has decided to go one step further for this year’s Shanghai Grand Prix by taking on the race-naming rights, officially called the Formula 1 Lenovo Chinese Grand Prix 2024. Everywhere you read about this weekend’s Shanghai Grand Prix, Lenovo’s name and logo will be there. It will be a watershed moment for the well-known brand, as well as all the others activating and engaging new and existing consumers throughout qualifying and the race.

Then there’s the weekend’s hottest ticket, a ticket brands have been clamouring over ever since he won his seat on the F1 grid: Shanghai native Zhou Guanyu.

All eyes on Zhou

The racing fever generated by Zhou Guanyu has spread across Shanghai, with brands such as Lululemon, HSBC, SenseTime (AI company that has sponsored Alfa Romeo since 2023) and Zeekr (automobile brand) launching a series of commercial offline activities around the star. If Zhou has a strong race, it will likely mean further interest from more brands following the Grand Prix and beyond for the Chinese driver.

Zhou is a key reason why tickets sold out so quickly for this race as the majority of fans and media will be there to see him in action. Ever since Zhou got his seat on the F1 grid, there has been huge anticipation for this moment—his first home race in front of his home crowd.

Zhou Guanyu of China and Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber walks in the paddock ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of China at Shanghai International Circuit on April 18, 2024 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Kym Illman/Getty Images)


A documentary from SMG about Zhou called 'The First One' is set to hit China’s cinema screens this weekend to coincide with the race. Without Zhou, this race carries less significance for both local fans and brands.

Chinese F1 driver Zhou Guanyu (R) attends the world premiere of film 'The First One' on April 16, 2024 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Zhang Hengwei/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images)


While there can only be one winner on the track, the advertising competition off the track and in and around the event will be just as fierce. Brands tied to Zhou will undoubtedly relish seeing their logos featured prominently, and this moment for all sponsor brands will hopefully reignite connections with the large number of Chinese fans and consumers interacting with the Grand Prix.


Gavin Hadley is vice president at 160over90, Endeavor’s global cultural marketing agency.

Source:
Campaign Asia

Related Articles

Just Published

4 hours ago

Revealed: Uncommon is majority shareholder in ...

Uncommon, now majority owned by Havas, backed former creative director Josh Tenser to launch Calling with Rani Patel.

4 hours ago

Healthcare and offshore betting ads emerge as most ...

With 85% of objectionable ads coming from digital media, the report also found that online safety continues to be a concern.

4 hours ago

Why Tessa Ohlendorf left agency life for artificial ...

The former managing director of MediaMonks started Fabric Folks to help agencies adapt to the new AI era.

4 hours ago

Why the creator economy could take over the ...

There is a distinct possibility the creator economy may be out to eat agencies’ lunch.