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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Clarke

Who is the stakeholder in marketing?

I wanted to chat today about the issues with motorsport in the modern era, why regulators need to be more nimble, and why marketing is the key. 

Let's start with the most basic premise all involved in professional motorsport need to understand: the only stakeholder that matters is the fan. Without the fans, there is no profession. There is no income. No prestige. Nothing. 

This leaves me looking at Formula One and Australian Supercars. And if you bear with me, you'll see how marketing philosophy fits in. 

The 2021 #F1 season was as good as we have seen in this millennia. The title fight to the end was drama-filled and only happened because the rule makers made changes to try and curb the dominance of the AMG Mercedes team and Lewis Hamilton. 

Floor changes and the inability to change the chassis for the season handed Red Bull Racing a superior car at the start of the season. Mercedes pushed through and developed and developed, and by the time the final race came, it had the better car. It did so within the boundaries of a spending cap, while its rival exceeded the cap for virtually no punishment. 

Netflix and Drive to Survive brought the fans, and Lewis Hamilton v Max Verstappen engaged them for the entire season, and it wasn't just the racing that entertained. 

Then, there was a significant rule change at the end of that season that ruined the competition. With the spending caps in place and a serious performance gap, there was no chance for teams to catch the dominant team – Red Bull Racing - in one season, and now we are seeing that won't happen in two seasons and maybe more. 

We face the real prospect that one team will win every race, and Verstappen will likely not be beaten again this year. 

Well done. It's truly a performance to be lauded… but at what cost? 

I can hear the TV sets turning off globally. But the people who run F1 have mistakenly thought that Red Bull Racing is the stakeholder, and they listen. 

It is not. 

Christian Horner and his views on the sport are entirely irrelevant. He is winning, and he doesn't want change, no matter how much harm it is causing. 

I remember when I was doing a book with Mark Skaife, and he said his first job as a team owner was to make the sport as big as possible. His second was to take the biggest piece he could… Horner doesn't appear to care about step one. 

By now, his car should carry significant handicaps, or the sport should find ways of opening up technology and philosophy to continue the engineering evolution at the heart of F1. Imagine if every other team could inspect each other's cars in detail. If the critical underfloor had been exposed last season, F1 would not be bleeding out. 

We could stop the time trial that is even boring Max Verstappen who wants to make extra pitstops to relieve his and his team's boredom. 

Maybe only the greatest fans of Verstappen and Red Bull are enjoying this season. The rest are unhappy. If the fans aren't happy, what do you need to do? You need to appease them. 

Either remove the secret squirrel or throw some weight at RBR until the competition is enough to engage the fans again. The racing is ordinary, and even the battle behind RBR, which people are raving about, doesn't have any real racing. It just changes from race to race. 

And for Horner and Verstappen to say it is no different to Mercedes for most of the hybrid era is to distort the facts. There has never, let me capitalise that, NEVER, been a dominance like this, and it is to the detriment of the sport and eventually to Red Bull Racing itself; they are just too self-absorbed to see what is happening. 

If the sport makes changes and Horner is not happy, and he and RBR crack the sads and quit, not enough people will care enough to make it an issue. Even Ferrari is not bigger than the sport, and it is measurably more important to F1 than Red Bull Racing. 

Then we take Australian Supercars. This year, the new rules have provided a parity imbalance. And for weeks, we have had arguments about the Ford teams not doing a good enough job. The fans didn't and don't care, and the scientific data didn't support that assertion either. 

But instead of listening to self-interest, Supercars – despite feigning disinterest – is and has been working for a solution, and it is getting there despite the complexity of trying to make two cars with different body shapes and different engines to have parity to effectively be identical. 

So, how does this twisted little story relate to marketing? Professional services marketing is about looking at yourself from the outside, forgetting about internal structures, practice group names and the like, and reflecting on the way your clients look and the way you talk. Focussing on the client, in much the same way as F1, should focus on the fan, not Christian Horner. 

With Hunt & Hunt Lawyers, we are doing that. Our lawyers understand their clients and the outcomes required. We need to let those on the outside know that, which is what I do with the help of the lawyers and staff. 

It is about language. It is about reflecting on the way people ask for help from lawyers. Most of the people in here get it, and that is awesome. It means we can provide advice that reaches the outcomes in a way our clients understand and relate to. 

My job is to help those inside that don't get it to get it. 

That is my professional services marketing mantra, and I use it on all my clients to a degree, just as I do when writing books and articles. 

It reminds me of a plane trip from New Zealand I spent next to former Ford Australia boss, the late Geoff Polites, who relayed a story to me about the AU Falcon. As the president of the dealer body, he asked a meeting about focus groups thoughts on the car well before its release.

Ford's marketing team told him than public hated it, but they said they would 'change their minds'. They didn't, and it signalled Ford's fall from the top of the motoring industry in this country. In this case, the consumer mattered, and Ford ignored it as its own peril.

I'm happy for thoughts from anyone. You can even slam me over my F1 views, but I love the sport, and to me, it is ill and in need of a cure. Basic marketing philosophies will help them. 

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