The Sauber F1 team and Chelsea FC have announced a unique link up between two brands across two sports, designed to increase the reach of both into a new platform and to give added value to sponsors. Also with a shared platform across two of the biggest TV sports in the world, they can offer a joint sponsorship deal to a global brand looking for exposure in both areas. This is something Tony Fernandes has been hoping to achieve by owning both the Caterham and Queens Park Rangers teams.
According to the Sauber statement, “In concrete terms, this (the deal) includes the sale of merchandising articles and exchange of knowledge in the area of sport science. Both partners will support each other by featuring the other partner’s logo and thus benefit from a significant market presence outside their original sport.”
Sauber has been running a crypic logo on the engine cover in recent races saying “Out of the Blue”, teasing that an innovative new deal was about to come on stream. This is not the household name sponsorship deal, putting significant money into Sauber’s warchest, that many had expected. But it does allow Sauber to promote itself on a big stage, not least with Chelsea about to appear in the finals of the FA Cup in England and the European Champions League, the biggest tournament in club football.
It’s a slightly odd mix; the clean cut, low profile Swiss team and Chelsea, which is one of the ‘showier’ clubs. But Chelsea’s Ron Gourlay, who works for team owner Roman Abramovitch, said, “We felt that this Swiss team, the fourth oldest of the existing teams, reflects our own ideals perfectly.”
Abramovitch has flirted with F1 before, without ever buying in. Bernie Ecclestone invited him to quite a few Grands Prix and he was a presence in Monaco for several years with his yacht Pelorus moored just outside the main harbour because it was too big to come inside. At the time there were teams for sale, including BMW Sauber, as it then was, but Abramovitch opted to stick with football.
One of the realities of the comparison between the two sports is that whereas a team like Chelsea, currently 6th in the English permier league, can beat anybody on their day – they beat Barcelona last week to reach the Champions League final – it’s very hard for a team like Sauber to beat the top F1 teams and win a race. They almost did it in Malaysia in wet conditions, but the reality is that they will almost always play at the level they are at. Football offers the chance for a memorable win. QPR have beaten some of the EPL’s top sides this season, despite being close to the bottom of the table.
Sauber CEO Monisha Kaltenborn said, “A partnership like this between Formula One and Football has never existed before in this form, yet there are numerous commonalities and possible synergies. In either case we are talking about team sport at the highest – and international – level. The Sauber F1 Team and Chelsea FC are dealing with many of the same sporting and commercial topics and we want to strengthen each other in these areas. We are looking forward to exploiting these opportunities, and we congratulate Chelsea on making it to the final of the Champions League.”