HindustanTimes Tue,23 Sep 2014
Good for brand value, but is it good for cars?
Joe Saward, Hindustan Times
August 24, 2012
First Published: 00:09 IST(24/8/2012)
Last Updated: 16:54 IST(24/8/2012)
Sam Hornish Jr in his Chevrolet powered Panther Racing Dallara during the 2003 IndyCar season. Getty Images

With Formula 1 still on holiday for a few more days, there has been little to report in the sport. However it is worth noting that US automotive giant General Motors (GM) has just announced a major new sponsorship, which should serve to remind Formula 1 that looking into the mirror from time to time to see whether one is still attractive is not such a bad idea.

GM was looking for a way to turn its Chevrolet brand into a global player. With new engines coming into F1 in 2014, it should have been a slam-dunk for GM to use motorsport.  But they did not see it that way.

The football way
Instead they have agreed to pay the Manchester United football team something in the region of $220 million to become its shirt sponsor for the next six years. Worse still, it is rumoured that the name Chevrolet will not even appear on the short, as there is not much room for a  nine-letter word on a football jersey.

If Formula 1 was selling itself better it might perhaps have been able to lure GM into the game, not only because it would help the US company with its marketing power, but also because it would provide the firm with energy-saving technology - which is what all global motor companies are nowadays chasing.

F1 a good fit
It is difficult to say what a new F1 engine programme would cost a manufacturer because people can spend as much on research and development as they want to spend, but the new generation of 1.6-litre V6 engines, which will be introduced in 2014,  have the advantage that they are going to use technology that will be useful for car companies. So its is not only global exposure that Formula 1 brings, but also technology that car manufacturers are desperate to develop.  Football shirts may be cheaper than F1, but they have no value showing the world about a company’s technology. Still, there may be positives from all of this.

Manchester United’s shirt sponsor at the moment is the insurance company Aon. It will need to do something else to keep its name in the international spotlight.

Aon is the largest reinsurance firm in the world. Its Vice Chairman is Grahame Chilton, who has two sons racing: Tom in the British Touring Car Championship and Max in GP2. The latter recently did his first F1 tests with Marussia, as he is a part of the Marussia Carlin GP2 Team.

Carlin is owned by Grahame Chilton and there have been suggestions for some time that he may soon invest in the Marussia team, as part of a plan to get Max into a regular F1 drive.

Who knows? Perhaps Aon will be start using F1 to sell insurance…

The writer has covered every grand prix for the last 25 years.

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