The 11th edition of the Formula One Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix (F1SGP) was held at the Marina Bay Street Circuit over the weekend of 14 to 16 September 2018 and was the 15th round of the 2018 F1 World Championship. Coming into the 2018 F1SGP, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton had a 30-point lead over nearest-challenger Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari in the World Drivers’ Championship standings. During the Qualifying Session, Hamilton secured pole position with a stunning lap of one minute 36.015 seconds. The next day, Hamilton won the 2018 F1SGP from pole position, extending his lead over Vettel to 40 points. The first edition of F1SGP back in 2008 was the inaugural F1 Night Race and the first street circuit in Asia. Currently, the event is the only race on the F1 Calendar that is held entirely at night.
Race promoter Singapore GP adopts several strategies to market the event, which we will describe using the 4P’s of marketing, which are Pricing, Product, Placement and Promotion.
Ticket Promotions 12 ‘Super early bird’ ticket categories were released for the 2018 F1SGP from 27th September 2017 to 31st October 2017, with a 33% reduction in ticket prices. 11 ‘early bird’ ticket categories were released from 1st November 2017 to 8th May 2018 with up to 28% off regular ticket prices. Ticket holders for the 2017 F1SGP who purchased a pair of 2018 tickets during the ‘Super early bird’ promotion stand a chance to win a trip to the 2018 F1 Melbourne Grand Prix.
Meet and Greet Ticket holders were given the opportunity to ballot for passes to attend the Drivers’ Autograph Session that was held on 13th September. There were 15 pairs of passes up for grabs for early bird ticket holders.
The F1SGP has traditionally been graced by famous artists from around the world and this helped to attract fans of the performing artist to attend the F1SGP. The star-studded entertainment line-up included Jay Chou, Martin Garrix and Dua Lipa.
Singapore GP utilised its connections with GP promoters worldwide through sharing of the knowledge and database of the targeted market audiences in their respective regions. For example, Singapore GP displayed banners and commercials during the Melbourne GP to advertise the F1SGP. Social Media Over the past two years, F1 owner Liberty Media formed partnership agreements with social media platforms Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter. In 2017, F1 became the fastest growing sports brand across digital platforms. Team, racers and organisers could promote their respective brands and maintain interaction with fans worldwide using social media. Worldwide Ticket Distribution Singapore GP deploys authorised tickets resellers overseas to ensure convenience for fans worldwide to purchase tickets to F1SGP. Official resellers are located throughout Asia, Africa, Europe, Middle East and the USA. Flight promotions and discounts were also introduced to attract overseas fans to visit Singapore.
As part of promotion efforts through a community engagement programme, the F1 Roving Truck made stops around different parts of Singapore to give locals a chance to race on the Marina Bay Street Circuit in simulators. Between 17 and 18 August, the Roving Truck was present at the Tampines Festival of Speed held at Our Tampines Hub (OTH). The pit-stop challenge was another activity that was held at OTH, while race highlights of the F1SGP from 2008 to 2017 were also shown at the event. Singapore Airlines (Sponsorship, Advertising/Publicity) Singapore Airlines (SIA) signed a contract in April 2018 to extend its Title Sponsorship of the F1SGP for until 2019. Thereafter, SIA actively promoted the event to its customers, while aiming to increase the brand awareness of SIA globally.
SIA has been using its unique form of ‘Grid Girls’ – cabin crew wearing the SIA uniform – as a sponsorship activation since 2014. Despite a ban on using Grid Girls during the 2018 F1 World Championship, both male and female SIA cabin crews were present as brand ambassadors at the 2018 race and assisted in hosting invited guests.
Secondly, SIA created a promotional package for the event by offering its customers exclusive offers on accommodation, race tickets, and return flights, while providing the option for customers to customise their own package between 13 to 18 September to suit their needs.
The F1SGP marketing campaign was generally a success with the event attracting 263, 000 fans over three days. It was the second highest turn out in the history of the event since 300, 000 fans witnessed the inaugural F1SGP in 2008. The pricing strategy adopted by Singapore GP catered to fans of different income levels and likely played a significant part in raising the overall attendance. Fans could purchase tickets for as low as $78 for the Zone 4 Walkabout category on 14 September. Early bird ticket sales are effective because psychologically, it creates a sense of urgency and scarcity among fans, who would be eager to purchase the tickets as soon as possible. The chance to win tickets to the F1 2018 Melbourne Grand Prix provided additional incentive for 2017 F1SGP ticket holders to purchase tickets for the 2018 edition. The product promotions were able to meet the needs and wants of two specific group of people – F1 fans and concert-goers. Lucky F1 fans who managed to ballot for tickets for the Drivers’ Autograph Session and Pit-Lane Experience were handed once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to meet their favourite drivers and to explore the garages of the F1 teams respectively.
Concert Goers turned out in huge numbers for the respective concerts. Jay Chou performed for 45, 000 fans while 60, 000 watched Dua Lipa and Martin Garrix share the stage. The huge turnout was a testament to the success of the marketing campaign. The improvement in F1’s digital presence also allows for greater engagement between drivers and fans. Easy accessibility of digital platforms appeals to the newer millennial fans, resulting in an immense rise in YouTube and Instagram subscribers. Overall video viewership also increased by 283% and followers by 56% to roughly 12 million. The cross-promotion of F1SGP in other F1 Grand Prix is an effective way to advertise the event to the targeted market audience. The sharing of databases provides valuable information that allows Singapore GP to understand and effectively market its products to meet the demands of fans. The availability of tickets through online and authorised distributors also allows for greater ease in purchasing tickets for fans worldwide.
Having SIA as the event’s title sponsor further boosted the global marketing reach of Singapore GP, as the airline provides international flights for 19, 505, 144 passengers to 62 destinations in 32 countries in the financial year of 2017/2018. SIA also provided promotional travel packages which assisted fans in planning their trip to Singapore, effectively marketing the event internationally. However, despite the successes of the marketing campaign, there were certain areas that were compromised. Singapore GP must factor in the number of tickets released under the early bird discount period because selling away too many tickets at a discounted price could reduce the overall revenue of the event.
The effectiveness of using the Drivers’ Autograph Session to boost ticket sales might decline because many fans are able to meet their favourite drivers at the hotels prior to the event or during other sponsor-related events ahead of the race weekend. Moreover, despite efforts to widen market reach globally, Singapore GP has failed to maintain the interest of international fans. Over the years, F1SGP has recorded a constant decrease in international viewership since the inaugural race in 2008 with an estimated 33% drop from 600 million viewership to 400 million.
The F1SGP marketing campaign was all-encompassing and generally a success. However, there are certain aspects of the strategy which could have been refined to improve the overall success of the campaign. Singapore GP could have started selling tickets for the 2018 event during the 2017 F1SGP race weekend and offered a special discount for those who purchased the tickets during that weekend. The hype and excitement during the event itself, plus the discount would make it attractive for Formula One fans who grace the event every year.
‘Student Price’ promotion could also be introduced to attract young fans. The high prices should not hinder younger fans from purchasing the tickets and experiencing the night race. To complement the Drivers’ Autograph Session, Singapore GP could add a new contest that will provide ticket holders with a chance to win passes to become part of their favourite F1 Team for a day during the Free Practice Session on Friday of the race weekend. This money-can’t-buy-experience will appeal to F1 fans who will get to experience life in a garage.
Finally, Singapore GP could promote the F1SGP via an eSports Championship that is open to Singapore Residents, who will drive around the Marina Bay Street Circuit on race simulators. The competition format could include a qualification round when competitors compete to set the fastest time on a single lap. The top 20 drivers will qualify for the Championship Final to be held a week before the race weekend when they would compete in a race format similar to an actual F1 race. The top three drivers would then be awarded special prizes that include VIP passes to the paddock club during the race weekend.
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