Archive for March, 2010

Calling Planet Anderson…

Mark Webber has likened the state of Formula 1’s new teams to a cartoon. But when intelligence reached my ears that not only are the two principals of USF1 no longer on speaking terms, but that one of them has been living in the Hilton Charlotte for over two months while trying to pacify an increasingly irate band of creditors, I was put more in mind of I’m Alan Partridge.

So while Peter Windsor subsists on room service while trying to clear up the mess that is USF1, Ken Anderson has been spouting cant to the press.

“The way the chips fell in January, that put us behind,” he told AUTOSPORT. “We were on schedule right up until mid-January, and that was when some issues arose with sponsors that kind of locked us up.”

Chips? Fell? What twaddle is this? Here’s how an F1 start-up works, Ken: sponsors and partners set certain key technical milestones, with deadlines, and when those are met – on deadline – hey presto! More money arrives.

And when I say “key technical milestones” I mean “actual bits of an F1 car, not just pictures of what they may look like”. It’s as simple as that.

Here’s another tip on how to get ahead in F1: if you’ve got a benevolent millionaire entrepreneur on board, share him with Bernie. Even just an introduction would do. A little more goodwill may have radiated from Princes Gate as a result.

The only hope left is to keep the entry notionally alive so that it can be sold to pay off the creditors, including some very angry Argentines; and the sorry legacy of this tawdry scenario is that the much-needed American F1 team and US Grand Prix now seem further away than ever. Still, the local Starbucks has done well out of it.

Enter the Cable Guy

Lotus Racing announced a partnership with CNN today. As ever, that weasel word ‘partner’ leads one to ponder how much (if any) money is involved, and what benefits eventuate for either party.

Launched by media mogul Ted Turner in 1980, the Cable News Network leapt to international prominence during the first Gulf War by dint of being in the right place at the right time: it had a clutch of reporters in Iraq when hostilities broke out. The 24-hour news cycle we take for granted today truly came of age as Bernard Shaw (no relation to the author of Pygmalion) reported live on the bombing of Baghdad.

The competition between these rolling news networks is fierce, and, as you might expect, coverage is costly, especially since the big guns now operate locally tailored programming on a global basis – usually aimed at a business audience. Increasingly these networks – even BBC World – are turning to commercial sponsorship of their news broadcasts. The Lotus release aligns its ‘partnership’ with CNN’s ‘Partner Solutions Group’ (I feel a submission to Private Eye coming on) under the leadership of Rani Raad, the senior vice president International Advertising Sales, who had this to say:

The combination of two such iconic and aspirational global brands fits perfectly with CNN International’s worldwide reach and brand positioning. This unique partnership with Lotus Racing takes CNN International into a new era of marketing and promotions and puts us in front of a worldwide audience of millions.

Raad is credited with engineering a number of high-profile programme sponsorships for CNN International. Most recently he has been involved in a deal for the Earth’s Frontiers environmental series to be sponsored by Masdar, a renewable energies company wholly owned by Mubadala, the sovereign wealth fund of Abu Dhabi (which, coincidentally, has a stake in Ferrari as well as being one of the driving forces behind the Abu Dhabi GP). CNN is also launching a broadcast facility in the emirate.

Some readers may be uncomfortable with corporate sponsorship of news broadcasting, but this is the direction we’re heading in as conventional ad revenues decline. There are governments and sovereign wealth funds out there with pots of money that they wish to spend on promoting their countries as business destinations. The Lotus connection will engender a lot of attention in the kind of emerging markets CNN is aiming for.

Where there’s a Will…

What with the increasingly hateful costs of intercontinental air travel, any journalist hoping to cover Formula 1 ‘from the ground’ has to wear many hats. So it’s very pleasing to learn that Will Buxton is fresh from the milliner, so to speak, and will be taking over from Peter Windsor as SPEED TV’s pitlane reporter.
Will is an entertaining broadcaster – check out his GP2 work on YouTube – as well as a tenacious reporter. He broke in to F1 the hard way, slumming it around Europe in a camper van before spending a couple of years as a press officer for GP2. He’s also no slouch at Karaoke. Viewers in the US are in for a treat.