Silverstone. Aston Martin. Green. You’d struggle to name a more iconic British trio in motorsport than that. For many, the returning sight of the legendary car manufacturer in its evocative colour scheme has sent a flutter through the heart, well if you’re not Andreas Weissenbacher that is…
“Aston Martin boss Lawrence Stroll understands that my heart is bleeding. If the Aston Martin were pink, title sponsor Cognizant would also have more fun because the recognition value would be much higher. From a business point of view, it was wrong. Historically the British racing green is certainly understandable for many, not for me. The Aston Martin does not stand out on TV.”
The CEO of the team’s former title sponsor BWT certainly has a point, and not one that is lost on the Aston Martin Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer who agrees that the colour needs to ‘pop’ a little bit more on television. Despite this, there are no plans to move away from the current colour scheme, or as Szafnauer succinctly puts it, “Ferrari is red. Aston Martin is green.”
What this exchange does show us is the influence of a good livery, and perhaps nowhere is this more powerful than in motorsport. The classic orange and blue Gulf Oil colours, the Rothmans Le Mans Porsche of the 1980’s, or Castrol’s memorable Toyota link-up in WRC all evoke memories and emotion. These are still designs that stick in people’s minds today and adorn merchandise and generate interest amongst an audience that wasn’t even born when the original sponsorship was devised!
You only need to take the first example above as a perfect case study. Just this year McLaren brought the iconic orange and blue colours back for a one-off at the Monaco GP resulting in an outpouring of love, support and huge interest in merchandise adorning the iconic colours. All this adoration and warmth towards what is, at the end of the day, a major global oil company, highlights the impact a great livery can have on brand affiliation on what is, in this case, a typically unsexy and dirty product.
This outcome doesn’t happen by accident though; it takes time. It requires patience, it requires contract longevity, it requires a well-considered sponsorship strategy, and it requires effective activation. If you invest in a title sponsorship over a number of years, it can have a lifespan well-beyond the end of the contract period, and as a result continue to offer a return on the initial financial outlay long after the partnership has ended.
This is where sponsorship really comes into its own, and when compared to traditional advertising, can be a much more powerful platform. Whereas advertising talks at you, sponsorships engage with you. Advertising lacks the emotional connection that sponsorships offer, and because of this, the lifespan of an advertising campaign tends to be a lot shorter.
As with any sports sponsorship, it allows you to tap into the memorable experiences and positive association that the sport conveys, and the impact this has on the fans that are watching. However, signing-off on a title sponsorship over a number of years doesn’t equal instant success, after all, there are as many unmemorable title sponsors as there are memorable. To get the best out of a partnership, you have to work hard to find the right property, define the required assets, and fully activate the sponsorship.
Of course, there is also an element of luck and subjectivity that can dictate the success of any relationship. Certain brands stick long in our memories because we associate them with happy times and experiences for us on an individual basis, or perhaps a brand happened to be a partner of a team when it won a trophy or achieved the peak of its success. However, if you’re not there in the first place as a sponsor then you’re not even giving yourself the chance to succeed!
In the case of Aston Martin, does Weissenbacher have a point? There is no denying that the original bright pink car caught the eye, and as a partner on the car, eyeballs is what you want. However, the Austrian would do well to remember that brand number one is Aston Martin itself, which eclipses the car design exposure wishes of any partners beneath it. As Szafnauer refers to, Ferrari has stayed loyal to its red colour scheme for its entire F1 history, and that has never scared any partners away. In fact, to be associated with Ferrari red is a badge of quality, history and pride. Over time, Aston Martin can achieve the same with its green colour design.
A tweaking of the current green livery? Yes, it perhaps needs more refinement. A return to the bright pink? Absolutely not! Aston Martin is just on the beginning of its new F1 journey, one that has the potential to elevate the status of the manufacturer as a whole. Core to this is the longevity and symbolic nature of its green livery, and the more ingrained this becomes in people’s minds, the greater the connection to Aston Martin, the stronger the association for partners, and the more likely it is to still hold value long after Aston Martin has left the sport. Pink may provide shock value, but green can add lifetime value!