This is a fascinating twist on branding and advertising in sports. Formula One is a massive global industry (and a passion of mine, go Kimi and Heikki!). The cars are pure prototypes, so continuously refined and updated that a race car is not intact at any time except when on the race track, even when it is rolled into the pits, it is immediately stripped apart and refinements are continously made. Typical teams have staffs of many hundred who focus 100% on attempting to win. I've had the pleasure of visiting the Renault F1 factory and yes, the wind tunnel is worked 24 hours a day, new bits are manufactured around the clock, etc. A massive competitive world, where Ferrari, McLaren, Toyota, Williams, Honda, BMW etc race each other every other weekend attempting to become world champions.
Ok, so whats the big news by Honda? A very key element in paying for the several hundred million dollar annual budgets of these teams is sponsorship. That is why a modern race car is so full of all the branded stickers of Vodafone, Intel, Panasonic, Telefonica, Johnnie Walker etc. Today Honda has announced that its new car will have no branding. Rather Honda has painted the car in a Blue and Green look, with planet Earth as its branding. Imagine a globe, blue seas and green land, painted onto the racing car. Fascinating. The reasoning? Honda wants to use the 600 million viewer audience of Formula One, to promote Honda's leadership in being "green" ie caring for the planet.
First, even though I am a huge fan of F1 and also have always admired Honda, this does seem a bit of a stretch - as Formula One is among the most fuel-inefficient activities possible. Lets ignore the fleets of trucks from one venue to another, the number of jumbo-jets that carry the cars, mechanics, tyres, etc criscrossing the continents, and the literally thousands of miles of testing they do per season. Just in one race, a typical F1 car burns 2.8 kg of fuel per lap (a little over a minute). Take Malaysia's Sepang circuit, at 5.5 km in length and lap times of near 1.35, in one hour, an F1 car burns something like 115 litres of race fuel (plus all amounts of other oils etc).
So perhaps there is some level of hypocrisy here? But still, this is also quite a brave move. Honda is the only F1 car without branding. I don't know if their branded partners have a presence still (I would assume them to be there still) without the brands visible on the car.
But it is certainly a sign of the times. Honda feels it gets better marketing visibility on its green values, than the contribution from its sponsors to feature their brands on the car.
I don't see this being copied by everyone (in F1) as the message would be watered down the more teams would adopt it. But I would not be surprised to see similar ideas in Nascar, or DTM or other car race series. But a fascinating development in branding. Oh, and congrats Jenson Button for your first win last season, here is to Honda getting more wins this season. But my heart is with Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari and Heikki Kovalainen at Renault for this season. And Kimi for champion! (First race is in Melbourne in three weeks)