Many years ago, when I was on my Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travelling Fellowship to North America, I was in Montreal at the same time as the F1 Grand Prix. This was by accident and the meetings and conference I was at precluded me going to the race. But, the noise of the engines from miles away is an abiding memory.
The other week, by accident again, I was in Singapore at the same time as the Singapore Airlines F1 Grand Prix – the night race around the streets of downtown Singapore, and where the night is lighter than a Scottish summer. This time I decided to attend – it’s easier at night and at a street circuit. Teaching in Singapore in the week before also allowed me to look at the sports related retailing and merchandising, linked both to personal interest and the sports marketing courses I developed after being on sabbatical at Florida State University.
A number of things struck me about the run-up and the event itself in retailing terms:
- There was surprisingly little store related display about the Grand Prix. I had expected stronger tie-in and visual merchandising but it was very limited;
- Specialist merchandise units for the Grand Prix were also limited around town with a few pop-up stores and some merchandise at World of Sports (an associate sponsor). The range was pretty limited in most areas and the stock was restricted as well. Certainly there was nothing to compare with Irn-Bru pop-up and merchandise tie-in with the Commonwealth games this year;
- There was a good piece in the Straits Times ahead of the race about the main sponsor switch from SingTel to Singapore Airlines and how this played better to an international audience. I suspect the brand leverage next year will be greater as they seek to exploit the package;
- On the night of the race itself the main retailing village was in my view surprisingly un-commercialised when compared to other major events I have been at. The sponsors were not overpoweringly visible (compared with say Italian rugby internationals, or the Ryder Cup). There were more merchandise spots and team related merchandise in particular being sold, and perhaps this multi-team focus explains the issue around sponsor visibility. It all showed the multiple layers of sports sponsorship in modern events.
So, lots of material for a teaching case note for our sports marketing/retailing modules and some good issues for discussion, and that’s before getting on to the £12.50 programme! As for the race itself, I enjoyed it as a spectacle and being Singapore it was pretty well organised. I probably didn’t enjoy it enough to go again, but will continue to watch on TV, for which the spectacle is really designed.
I will leave the economists to decide if such events are really money generators or ‘simply’ impression formers. The claim is that 250K people attended the three days (the race itself saw c85K). How many of these bought things is unclear, but they ate, drank and slept (and the government adds a hotel tax for the race it seems) and many others will have come for the parties and the surrounding events. But the image generated for Singapore is iconic (Singapore+F1=Night Race); and that’s the legacy rather than the economic activity of the three days or so.
But still, maybe the retailers missed a few tricks to liven up their offers around the race, and it is this lack of tie-in that is an abiding memory. Oh, and the fact that I spent S$2 on earplugs that really weren’t needed with these modern F1 engines.