After reportedly considered dropping the event (see "Last lap for Singapore F1 Grand Prix?") a year ago, Singapore has decided to extend the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix for another four years. The move should be a model for how other cities could embrace the sport, according to Zak Brown, executive director of McLaren.
In the 10 years the race has existed, Brown said it has made itself “one of the jewels in the crown” of the sport, and is “an amazing showcase for brands both local and global”.
“It would have been massively disappointing to see the Singapore Grand Prix go away,” Brown said, not least because it has been a success not only for the carmakers and sponsors involved, but for Singapore as a brand too.
“While these are always intense negotiations, I think Formula One has done as much for Singapore as Singapore has for Formula One,” he added. Brown was speaking at a pre-race event held by The Marketing Society in Singapore.
Rumours were swirling that Singapore was poised to drop the race, as Malaysia did last year. Brown said the renewal was vital for growing the sport in Asia, which remains relatively untapped for Formula One.
“It’s a shame Malaysia went away, we certainly need more races in Asia not less,” he said. “But I believe those are coming. A lot of the partners we’re involved with, Asia is critically important to them, and it’s good we have such a good footprint here.”
For McLaren specifically, growing the sport has meant taking the brand into new spheres, one of which has been e-gaming. John Allert, McLaren CMO, said it has brought a new dimension to the brand’s fan engagement, which is top-of-mind in their communications strategy.
For a lucky few winners of McLaren’s e-gaming programme, they can actually become part of the team as a simulator driver, Allert explained.
“Even just the dream of doing that is a fantastic pay-off for people who love the brand and want to be part of it,” he said. “For a brand that’s always been as prestigious and exclusive as McLaren is, it’s never been easier than it is now with digital technology to allow people the access or proximity to the brand they’ve always wanted.”
Similarly, when choosing brand partners or sponsors, Brown said the key factor is finding companies that connect with McLaren’s values and brand identity.
“We want like-minded brands, whether they are consumer or B2B companies. Brands who we think we can help build their business and they ours,” he said.
“There are a lot of brands that wouldn’t make sense on the side of a McLaren, so we wouldn’t speak with them.”