Sponsors form F100, storm the F1 castle

There are a lot of acronyms in F1. Not as many as there are in the American military but still, there’s a lot. With FOTA, FOM, FIA, FOA, FISA, FOCA and all the others, it’s a wonder anyone remembers what each group is. There is one common element among all of them and that’s F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone.

If you are creating a new F1 dictionary, then at a new one to your list: F100. Yes, they could have went with Formula One Sponsors Association or FOSA but wisely chose to get creative and stick with F100. What is F100 you ask? It’s a group of the top 100 individuals and sponsors in F1 representing approximately $720 million in sponsorship who are gathering today to air their views on the F1 series.

It is an invitation-only event and you’ll be happy to know that Peter Windsor is in attendance, as stated via his Twitter account, and many other individuals who represent the commercial support of F1. Speakers at the inaugural event, which takes place at The Waldorf Hilton Hotel in London, include Richard Bracewell, Shell’s general manager of global sponsorship and Chris Burton, vice president of global sponsorships at SAP.

What are they attempting to do? That’s a great question and here is the answer: F100 provides F1’s top sponsors with the opportunity to shape the future of the sport and thus maximize their investment. The speakers will make presentations to F100’s members which will be followed by a panel discussion with audience participation, chaired by former F1 commentator James Allen. The themes of the event include how to secure sponsorship in the current economic climate, the most effective activation strategies, and the best ways for companies to overcome sponsorship hurdles.

Someone, not named, will be taking copious notes and those minutes will then be given to Bernard Ecclestone for his perusal. This, presumably, will be F100’s concerns moving forward and perhaps recommendations, suggestions and maybe the odd demand going forward.

Let’s face it, FISA/FOCA brought about a revolution in F1. FOTA certainly played a major role in swaying the FIA and FOM/CVC in their decisions last year under the leadership of Ferrari’s Luca di Montezemolo and has continued to flex its muscle with McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh at the helm this year. The simple fact that CVC, the majority owner of F1’s commercial rights, and Ecclestone have their agenda. No harm in that but teams, drivers and now sponsors are wanting their input in the direction of F1.

I think Ecclestone will take this for what it is and what it represents. The members of F100 represent $720 million in sponsorship dollars to Ecclestone’s machine and that’s not chump change. I suspect that Ecclestone knows they represent but what he may consider is, do they control or just represent? There is a difference. These companies are already leveraged in F1 via team sponsorship and it does give reason to pause at just how demanding they can actually be.

As we’ve seen in America, when a company is doing something a large portion of people aren’t happy with, they take their frustration to the cash register. They stop buying their products or services and this hurts the company. It has had a major effect on some companies when a consumer votes with his/her wallet. I suggest that the F100 group could equally vote with their wallets and they, like FOTA, must be taken seriously. Odd that FOTA and F100 are not working in tandem as they are closely aligned but then again, perhaps that would muddy the water of negotiations.

That’s why I started the Grand Prix Fans Association or GPFA a couple years ago. The truth of the matter is, we ultimately hold the cards because we can vote with our wallets as well and that has a trickle-down theory in which the machine of F1 would seriously be harmed. F100 would not find an amenable audience or consumer if we were not happy. I see your F100 and raise you a GPFA. Game, set, match.

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