Don’t just unwrap it, launch it!

Every year Formula 1 springs back into action during winter with car and team presentations and first proper tests and shakedowns of the new machinery. Of course, it’s Formula 1, and such presentations are sometimes much more than mere chit-chat of team management and drivers, coupled with the unveiling of the brand new set of wheels, nuts and bolts. In case you somehow managed to miss all the “drama” and fever surrounding the innovative launch of Mercedes’ new F1 machine, I can tell you it was pretty well prepared, a bit hastily executed but extremely viral event, unlike that of some other teams. Mercedes harnessed Twitter and managed to set their hashtag into trending column, and while not everything went according to plan (or at least that’s what they want us to think!), the effect was here – everyone was talking about Mercedes and their new car. It will be interesting to see whether there is more in new Mercedes than loud launch event, but I reckon Lewis Hamilton’s arrival brought new set of ideas onboard.

But even for Formula 1, many launch events are nothing more than short Q&A session with team principal, his subordinates and of course drivers. Oddly enough, teams are still not ready to embrace and fully use the potential of these events. I doubt it’s about money – it’s more about Formula 1 still being stuck in it’s own “too serious to officially have fun” way of thinking. Can rally teams learn from this, and maybe profit by adopting more bold approach to the launch and presentations events?

Sure they can! Volkswagen Motorsport did it by closing off Casino Square in Monte Carlo for their launch event, and they streamed it live, with great support of social networks. In all honesty, even though event was well planned and executed, it still lacked that “wow” effect, but I do not blame Volkswagen for that – it’s mainly the consequence of WRC’s absence from mainstream media. After a season, or two, of close racing between two or three big teams and crews, and all while every rally is on TV and in print, web and radio, and I guarantee that future launches would be much more spectacular.

Allow me to derail a bit – do you think that with proper presence of WRC in media, TV and the Internet, there is a chance for modern WRC drivers to become your mainstream big sporting heroes? The ones that thousands of fans will follow on stages and in media. Colin McRae, Ayrton Senna… that kind of heroes. Now, keep that thought of WRC heroes being household names and allow me to discuss an idea.

What I wanted to discuss in this post is the potential behind car launch events. Are WRC teams so sure their new cars, sponsors and occasionally driver line-ups are of no interest to the ordinary fans? So they (teams) don’t even consider turning these events into something more spectacular, and instead they opt for the ordinary “sit tight and talk into this microphone for a while, before we lift the wraps and take some photos” concept. It’s like unveiling a new design of chess figurines or new colour scheme of ice curling stones.

For example, Citroën could launch their car and team in Paris (I know, right?), have two cars driven onto stage across the short gravely track, all while there is proper show taking place for fans and media. Ford could do the same in London, and so on. Or why not the other way around? Oh, by all means, it would probably cost more than few cocktails and some fine cuisine, but it would also bring more exposure not only to team and it’s sponsors but to the sport in general.

Oh, I hear you loud and clear nay sayers and sceptics. “Who would come to see such events, you silly person!” Well, currently, probably not that many people, because what is this thing you call WRC? Is that the show presented after snooker season rerun on sports channels? But give it a proper media pack and bring it to fans instead of waiting for them to come, and I bet Citroën would have thousands watching their launch show in Paris!

My faith for now lies with Volkswagen! They did it great this year in Monte Carlo, with all the glamour and prestige, and I am sure they will work on that idea for next year. With some carefully prepared PR campaign and buildup, there could really be a huge show next year – perhaps not in Monte Carlo, but more everyday place, like Berlin for example.

In short, there is big potential in these events, perhaps WRC could use some of it.