By Christian Sylt / www.forbes.com / September 19th, 2016
Partnerships don’t come much more unlikely than delivery service DHL and Formula One auto racing. Parcel delivery doesn’t have the glitz and glamour of F1 and isn’t the kind of service that the 400 million fans who watch the races are likely to use too often. However, looks can be deceiving as DHL and F1 are a match made in heaven with a partnership which dates back to 2004. Lifting up the hood soon reveals the synergies.
DHL is the world’s largest logistics company and F1 hosts races in 21 different countries every year, sometimes on different continents with just a week between them. This year the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal was followed by a race in the European nation of Baku seven days later. Getting from one to the other requires transporting tonnes of equipment and thousands of people. It couldn’t be a better showcase for a delivery service as Arjan Sissing, senior vice president of corporate brand marketing for Deutsche Post DHL Group, explains.
What do you provide to F1 (other than cash)?
Our partnership with Formula 1 is principally based around the logistics services that we provide to Formula One Management and the teams. We have a longstanding relationship with motor sports and have been Official Logistics Partner of Formula 1 for more than ten years, although our involvement in the sport precedes that. Our DHL Global Forwarding Motorsports team have been involved in the sport for over 35 years.
How does F1 use your services?
We support the logistics division of Formula One Management, FOM Cargo, in planning and moving the freight for the championship. DHL provides air freight, ocean freight, road freight and express delivery services for Formula 1 shipments. The DHL Motorsports team works with the teams to book their freight for air and ocean transport to ‘fly-away’ races, handling transport documentation, assisting with customs clearance, packing and carrier management.
When did your F1 partnership begin?
Our Official Logistics Partnership with Formula 1 began in 2004, although our involvement in the sport dates back much further than that.
How did the deal come about (who approached who and when)?
We already had a long-established relationship with Formula 1 when we became Official Logistics Partner of the sport. We had been providing logistics support to the sport’s management company and to many of the teams. Through these relationships, we took a decision jointly with Formula One Management to formalize the partnership and to expand it into a broader, commercial arrangement. This would ensure that DHL could strengthen its positioning as a provider of logistics services to the championship while also taking advantage of Formula 1’s global commercial appeal to promote our own associations with the sport and to benefit our brand.
Why did you choose F1 rather than another sport?
There are a number of synergies between DHL and Formula 1. Both the DHL and Formula 1 teams share a dedication to values such as speed, precision, reliability, teamwork and personal commitment. It’s this combination of characteristics together with the global network, extensive industry expertise and proactive approach that makes DHL the preferred partner of Formula 1. Our partnership with Formula 1 also allows us to showcase the specialist services and expertise of our motorsports and automotive sector teams.
How is F1 of particular benefit to your industry?
As a transportation company with a large fleet of commercial vehicles, we also see strong long-term benefits from the technical innovation within Formula 1, which has the potential to be adopted within the automotive industry and create efficiencies in the future. The sport has a number of logistics challenges – due to the specific time pressures, global race calendar and sensitive, high value equipment that is being transported – which also allows us to develop and showcase our expertise in motorsports logistics. Some of the solutions we have pioneered with Formula 1 (for example, the packing of race cars) have also been applied for other motorsports championships, as well as for other global events and in our general automotive logistics services.
What are the key target markets for your partnership?
The benefit of Formula 1 is that it is a truly global sport, with a dedicated, passionate fan base throughout the world. It gives us high brand awareness with the general public and is also popular among our core customer base – particularly among experienced, senior logistics professionals. Formula 1 has also been innovative in expanding to emerging markets, where DHL also has a leading position within the logistics industry.
What results have you had from your partnership so far?
Our motorsports partnerships – including Formula 1, but also Formula E, WTCC and MotoGP – have delivered tremendous value across a range of metrics, from brand reputation to employee engagement. We have been able to generate commercial benefits both directly – through our logistics services to the championships and teams – and indirectly – through relationships that we have been able to build with other partners and suppliers of the sports and also with the broader automotive community. We have also enhanced our marketing presence within Formula 1 with initiatives such as the DHL Fastest Lap and the DHL Fastest Pit Stop. Both have been highly successful in generating interest and excitement among Formula 1 fans (for example, the YouTube video of one of the fastest ever pit stops by Williams in Baku has attracted almost 2.5 million hits), both enhancing their enjoyment of the sport while drawing attention to skills and qualities that are also relevant to the DHL brand.
How do you use your F1 partnership to motivate and incentivise staff?
A mainstay of all our partnership activities is to ensure that we generate value across all stakeholder groups – both external and internal. This means that we use every opportunity we can to engage our employees. In the case of Formula 1, alongside the overall pride that many employees have expressed simply through being associated with one of their favorite sports, we have used it as a storytelling platform, showcasing the work of the team. We have also historically incorporated Formula 1 into internal promotions (i.e. offering race experiences and tickets as prizes) and have organized racing-themed staff events, such as go-kart racing championships, which have reinforced our motor sports associations. There is a tremendous affinity with Formula 1 within our organization.
Give an example of how you activate your sponsorship
Our Formula 1 Backstage by DHL Facebook page has more than 600,000 followers with a very high level of engagement. It allows us to keep up the interaction with the Formula 1 community and to share in the emotions around the sport, while also maintaining interest in our direct activities supporting the championship and our promotional initiatives (such as the DHL Fastest Lap). As another very different example, we have also taken advantage of our on-site presence at races to host business forums for automotive sector customers.
What are your objectives for the sponsorship?
We have a broad range of objectives. Our logistics services provided to Formula 1 and Formula One Management are part of our regular business activities as an integrated logistics provider and at the same time showcase our business expertise. In addition, DHL as a leading, globally operating logistics company aims to position its brand and services in a highly competitive market. We use Formula 1 as a marketing platform which guarantees consistent worldwide awareness and a broad range of engagement opportunities.
Both the DHL and Formula 1 teams share a dedication to values such as speed, precision, reliability, teamwork and personal commitment. We are also truly global brands offering a high quality product.
What has been your proudest moment so far during your sponsorship?
There have been many. In our business, seeing events (and in the case of Formula 1, a whole championship) pass off without any hitches gives us most pride, as it means that we have done our job. Perhaps an example of a proud individual moment would be when we handed over the DHL Fastest Lap to Sebastian Vettel in 2013, marking the first time that any driver has won the award three times (and the first time that a driver has won both the Drivers’ Championship and the DHL Fastest Lap in two consecutive seasons). This was one of many examples where we have been able to directly participate in a moment of Formula 1 history.
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