It’s a sport with the glitz, glamour, and global stamp of the sport of tennis and equestrian — but at a speed of 200 miles per hour. Formula 1’s soaring popularity, particularly in the United States, is sending luxury brands racing to find skins in the game — dumping millions of dollars on a sport already rich in luxury.
And this weekend, it will culminate in Miami at the first ever Miami Grand Prix. The new Formula 1 race, where a special autodrome was built, brings even more attention to the city, which—with its blue waterways, historic advantages, and rocket-high house prices—is fast becoming a version of the United States itself. Monte Carlo. The race is considered a “defining moment,” in a new era of entertainment-driven Formula 1 — and fashion is eager to get involved.
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“The Miami F1 race has turned F1 into the Coachella of motorsport — it’s a giant marketing opportunity,” said Jonathan Schley, luxury retail consultancy and automotive editor at Highsnobiety.
Formula 1 is emerging as the most influential sport of the post-pandemic era, with the kind of luxury and high-stakes energy that fills the present, larger-than-life moment. Despite widespread inflation and economic inequality, the excitement around extraordinary cultural events like this week’s Met Gala and even, more broadly, the flamboyance of wealthy K-Pop shows that there is still a desire for unrestrained displays of prosperity.
There’s something aspirational and exciting in watching star drivers like Charles LeClerc, Lewis Hamilton, and Daniel Ricciardo traverse the globe in private jets — a vital element to Formula 1’s traveling circus — all to get around the track in pursuit of millions of dollars.
“The reality with racing is that in many ways it naturally attracts the instant gratification and high content culture that we have. You have the perfect recipe for drama—you have all these young people with egos making millions of dollars a year doing something dangerous,” said Schley.
Formula 1’s expansion in the US has just begun. U.S. racing viewership has soared — boosted by the Netflix series “Formula 1: Drive to Survive,” which premiered in 2019 and has since run for four seasons detailing behind-the-scenes relationships and conflicts deep within the F1 paddock. Cable network ESPN, which exclusively broadcasts Formula 1 in the US, saw a 54 percent year-over-year increase in F1 viewership in 2021 and the figure is even higher this year, averaging about 1.3 million viewers per race in the country. which remains the main goal. largest luxury market in the world.
“There’s high marks because it’s one of the hottest sports, if not the hottest sport right now on the planet really – it’s going through a renaissance,” said Tag Heuer’s head of marketing, George Ciz.
The brand sponsors the Red Bull Team, which includes last year’s world champion driver Max Verstappen, and releases an annual collection of watches in collaboration with the team that regularly sells out. This week in Miami, he’s hosting a series of events to woo high-end shoppers and VIPs. “It’s more than just a sport, it’s a cultural phenomenon. It’s really special—all the glitz and glam around it is what people get excited about. Everyone wants to be at the party and have access to the network,” he added.
Contrary to other popular sports in Europe, including football, which are attempting US expansion to questionable success, Schley adds that, “Formula 1 just proliferated overnight to a level I’ve never seen before. It seems to have such sticky power. ”
The fashion involved is endless — especially in this Miami race. LVMH Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy gifts new crown of Tiffany & Co. make a trophy podium race; IWC Schaffhausen hosted a golf tournament with Hamilton and Tom Brady; and Ferrari has opened a new boutique for its F1-inspired fashion line at Aventura Mall among more activations from brands including Berluti and Ray-Ban.
Even drivers get the chance with their own fashion brands such as efforts from LeClerc and Ricciardo, the latter of which also owns a wine label. Seven-time world champion Hamilton is the first in a generation to become a global household name and has capitalized on the moment — attending fashion shows, collaborating with brands like Tommy Hilfiger and attending last year’s Met Gala, where he famously bought tables and invited a series of emerging Black designers, thereby drawing attention to their talents.
According to the fashion companies consulted by WWD, F1 sponsors appear to be returning a dividend on investment. More than any other sport, F1 integrates its sponsor logo in a very visible way — displayed on the sides of the car and on the driver’s one-piece suit. Now, that’s leading to eyeballs on track — and months later on Netflix, in a country that has a seemingly insatiable appetite for luxury goods.
This is big business — more so than other racing leagues like IndyCar and NASCAR are in a different position. Puma’s senior manager for integrated marketing in motorsport, Bastian Radloff said that “F1 is at the core of our business. With all of these partners, we have secured a licensing agreement that gives us the opportunity to design and produce a motorsport lifestyle collection that incorporates a partner’s logo which is a valuable asset. great to interact with the F1 community to inspire those people to express their passion for motorsport.”
At its core, F1 is a stylish sport with a vintage quality, like the 70s-style onesie racing outfits of drivers reminiscent of the previous golden era of F1 and their penultimate drivers like Niki Lauda, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher. Luckily for brands, this suit is the primary platform for displaying their logo.
Tommy Hilfiger, who was an early F1 sponsor (he signed with Lotus in 1991) and continues to be present, now through the Mercedes-AMG Petronas team (including Hamilton and newcomer George Russell), sees this as a huge advantage and says it offers a “cool factor.” .”
“There is a limited number of sponsors allowed for each team and a limited number for each car. I know a lot of luxury fashion companies are trying to get in, very different and very expensive now. Our costs go up every year,” said the designer mogul, who spent COVID-19 in lockdown with Mercedes team head and CEO Toto Wolff.
“We’ve done a study and what we found is that the audience is growing every year, that’s really very rewarding. We are a global brand and every part of the world hosting a race is where we have a lot of business — Singapore, Melbourne — all these cities are improving [in sales] every time there is a race,” added Hilfiger.
Ciz adds to the Tag Heuer experience: “When you live in a world full of messages and we’re bombarded all day long, it’s hard to get through. Here we have a tremendous opportunity. When is Max [Verstappen] winning the last race of last season generated a lot of interest in us and we were able to communicate around it. ”
This fashion element also attracted women to Formula 1 in the US, perhaps more so than in any other market.
Communications consultant Sophie Roche Conti says that, “the sport has this simplicity but also worldly heat with its drivers. I think it’s a no-brainer and fits perfectly in the times we live in that are more divisive than ever — very few sports unite traditional sports fans and the fashion world around something that people can enjoy. I think F1 has become the new tennis — that’s how I see it. We haven’t reached the pinnacle of F1 growth at all.”
Parade founder and CEO Cami Téllez, a recent Formula 1 fan, even hopes to wear a vintage F1 John Galliano-themed gown to the Miami Race.
His appreciation for the F1 drivers rests on, “Hamilton, the undisputed F1 star despite a difficult season, who has positioned himself as a fashion icon — sits in the front row at Valentino, but often wears clashing prints, Off Whites, bold fuchsias, Prada nylons, tie-dye, and Heron Preston. I’m interested to see how his follow-up projects around the improvement of black designers and fluency in street style aesthetics impact on track style,” he said.
“It’s not just about the mechanics of the car, I love the male ego connection but there is camaraderie in the team,” said New York-based stylist and designer Emily Dawn Long, who has also recently taken an interest in Formula 1.
This all adds to the intrigue of Formula 1’s American position, with European luxury and jet-sets. In March, well before the Miami circuit’s debut, Formula 1 announced it would add another race based in the United States to its schedule. A new street circuit race is being designed for Las Vegas, to be held in November 2023. This will bring the US F1 race trail to three — adding to the long-running United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.
Conti, who has been advising clients about F1 sponsorships, said he would recommend one for, “any brand with a sports component. This is an extraordinary opportunity and has the sensitivity and grace to target a rich audience.”
“I think the pandemic is creating opportunities for a lot of sports to be reset and what’s interesting is when sports innovate. F1 did that from a strong position, they did all the right things to improve,” said Ciz.
But for now, all eyes are on Miami, where Formula 1 culture and sports fandom has the potential to shift into new territory. As Téllez puts it: “Sporting events are the moment where the sociocultural temperature becomes code in fashion — will it be as formal as the southern-inspired Kentucky Derby, or will it have more of a Patagonian vest and jeans flavor? who has plagued the Super Bowl over the past few years? It all depends on how American royalty crystallizes on the racetrack — Jeff Bezos? Meghan Markle? Karlie Klos? We will know more soon.”
Launch Gallery: Fast Cars and Big Money: Fashion’s New Formula 1 Obsession
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