IC in F1

It is one of the most high-profile sports in the world,
with thousands of employees working to a shared vision of success.
Yet we never hear about how employee engagement works in Formula One (F1).
Until now.

By Peter Handford ////////////////////////////////////////

With more than 20 cars travelling up to 200mph jostling for a winning position, all eyes are on the driver to make the right moves and win the race.

But behind the driver, the Lewis Hamiltons and Sebastian Vettels, behind even the pit crew, who keep the cars running at peak performance during the race, there are the many hundreds of employees that are responsible for developing the car and making the race day a success. So it is essential that they work together as a well-oiled machine (excuse the pun) – which is where good IC makes a major differ.

Tom Foy is Director of Motorsports at global PR agency Weber Shandwick, with more than 15 years’ experience in internal and external communications, PR and media relations in the world of motorsport and automotive – working with major brands such as Aston Martin, Renault Sport and Red Bull Racing. For Tom, good IC in F1 teams is essential, as it motivates the whole team and unites them behind a single purpose.

He says: “If you look at the biggest teams in F1 – Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes – they have hundreds of employees, only a fraction of whom will ever be trackside. In any team, the vast majority of employees are factory based.

“These are the essential people back at base, working around the clock on the design, manufacture and engineering of the car, so creating very clear, engaging communications for all employees is really important. Updates on trackside events and post-race intel not only help to cultivate a team spirit internally but also equip them with critical information in terms of car development. It is not just something that is ‘nice to have’, it is essential to their workflow.”

In terms of their approach to IC, most teams are digitally focused and very little communication happens through printed collateral, although at certain key moments the most effective communication is still face-to-face, as Tom explains: “At many teams, in the week following the Grand Prix the Team Principal and – if they are available – the drivers will come by the factory, stand up in front of everybody and give a verbal debrief on the weekend, whether it was a good result or not. And that’s for absolutely everybody – everyone gets a chance to be there in person to listen and take part.”

This is the key point: the divide between top management and the majority workforce is one of the main obstacles to true engagement, and if the drivers – who let’s not forget are often A-list celebrities – will come and meet with the whole team, it shows how crucial good communications and engagement is to the whole process of winning a Grand Prix.

“In terms of their approach to IC, most teams are digitally focused and very little communication happens through printed collateral.”

Using sponsorship
as an engagement tool

Take a look at any driver or car during the Grand Prix and you will see that they are emblazoned with the logos and brand names of a whole host of sponsors. For businesses like Tag Heuer, AT&T and Ray Ban, F1 sponsorship represents an invaluable advertising and brand-building opportunity. But employee engagement can also be a major beneficiary of a sponsorship deal too – providing a platform for employers to grow their people’s investment with their brand by its association with the exciting, high-profile world of F1.

“If your company is involved in F1, and all the positive associations that come with that, it can raise pride and drive employee engagement in your company,” says Tom. “And it isn’t just by association; brands can use the sponsorship in really powerful ways to engage their people in real terms; whether that means a personalised video message from the F1 team after the race or the driver visiting their headquarters to meet their employees and sign autographs.”

“If your company is involved in F1, and all the positive associations that come with that, it can raise pride and drive employee engagement in your company."

It doesn’t stop at engagement either, if they want to push it a step further, sponsors can even use the deal to have a positive impact on their bottom line. For example, if a car manufacturer sponsors an F1 team they might use that as a method to incentivise their sales people in the showrooms, who could perhaps win VIP tickets to a race or get money-can’t-buy merchandise if they smash sales targets.

Tom Foy, Director of Motorsports at global PR agency Weber Shandwick

If used correctly, the sponsorship deal can provide a platform to create aspirational incentives that can help drive results and performance across the entire business. None of this is particular to F1 of course, but what these examples show us is that when you include your people with all of the positive aspects of your brand – no matter what their position in your business – it will motivate them to do better, because your business mission to succeed will become their personal mission as well.

IC Magazine is published by Headlines, one of the UK’s leading specialist internal communications agencies. Headlines supports some of the world’s best-known brands with expertise in all areas of IC, from strategy to delivery.

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