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Formula One, Sport Or Business?

Dec 6, 2007
Formula 1 is widely recognised as the most expensive sport in the world. The amounts of money involved are vast and multi million dollar contracts are signed at the start of every season. With such huge sums involved obviously the advertising sponsors of teams are extremely merchandise focused. This is evident when drivers are interviewed and are always seen in their manufacturers cap, emblazoned with various company logos.

Big business has driven Formula 1 since the seventies, mainly due to Bernie Ecclestone's efforts to rearrange the management structure and commercial rights packages. Multi national companies soon saw the benefits of this new generation of motor sport, with television rights worldwide, the advertising would be the main driving force with the selling of merchandise as a strong secondary income.

The formula in Formula 1 refers to the strict set of rules imposed on all teams for the cars they enter. It restricts things such as engine power, ground effect aerodynamics and team orders, supposedly levelling the playing field. However those teams, such as Ferrari and McLaren with the biggest financial support hold all the cards in a sport where more money means better results. These teams have been clever enough to develop full ranges of merchandise, especially Ferrari who, with the added respect of a well renowned road car company make a great deal from their extensive merchandise collection.

Formula 1 is a worldwide phenomenon, it is broadcast to every country in the world and the viewing figures are only really rivalled by the football world cup. It is estimated that the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2006 pulled in a gargantuan 84 million live viewers with 154 million viewers tuning in to watch at least part of the race. Official figures state that 580 million unique viewers watched the 2005 season whilst the Canadian Grand Prix that year was the world's third most watched sporting event. With viewing figures like these and with such a widespread fan base there is little wonder companies will pay such extortionate rates to get their logo on a Formula 1 car, or a team's merchandise range.

It is regarded by most authorities that Formula 1 would be nowhere without the dedication of the swarms of fans that adorn the grandstands come race day. The sport evokes emotion and passion in all of the countries it visits, none more so than in Italy where the Ferrari fans in their red uniform of official merchandise can be seen as some of the most fervent sports fanatics in the world. That is not to say that the other teams do not achieve dedication from their fans; the world of Formula 1 seems to play to many people's nationalistic tendencies.

Fans will follow a team based in their country, such as McLaren in Britain or BMW in Germany, or support drivers from their respective nations, the Spanish hold Fernando Alonso close to their hearts where as newcomer Lewis Hamilton has brought British audiences back to Formula 1 through his superhuman efforts. The sponsor's have seen this also as a potential money spinner with popular drivers fronting advertising campaigns and pushing more Formula 1 merchandise upon its faithful public.

So what can the future hold for the billion dollar industry that is Formula 1? Many see the introduction of bio-fuel engines and greater efficiency as paramount in today's climate of environmental concerns. Apart from this, further rule changes to level the playing field, and increase the safety of drivers are also important. More exciting however is the re-introduction of slick tires (banned since 1998), and the development of a night race, mainly due to time zones and extracting the biggest world audience possible.

Added to this a race in India is being planned, opening up one of the largest potential markets on the planet. Despite its protestations, Formula 1 is simply an advertising tool to sell merchandise for the companies who foot the bill for the most expensive gravy train in world sport. However with the tussles between drivers and the ongoing controversy of team orders Formula 1 is sure to provide excitement and entertainment to its millions of followers.
About the Author
Shaun Parker is an avid motor racing fan and has purchased many Formula 1 merchandise items. To find out more please visit http://www.official-merchandise.com
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