The current working title of my dissertation is ‘An Analysis of the PR Value of Sponsorship in Junior European Single-Seater Motorsport’. Single-seater motorsport is a discipline containing cars without roofs that only contain a single seat. The word ‘junior’ has been used instead of ‘amateur’ to avoid any inadvertent inclusion of club-level recreational motorsport. This is because this proposed study is intended to focus on sponsorship of drivers in lower-series ranks intending to work their way up to becoming professional paid racing drivers – with the ultimate aim of those on the European ladder usually being Formula 1.
Although some teams may have some very limited sponsorship of their own, the majority of funds for running in a series must originate from the drivers themselves. This can be achieved through private funding but most of the time it will be at least linked to some form of sponsorship – whether this is obtained through traditional approaches, membership of a young driver scheme or personal links. This study will intend to explore what are the expected public relations benefits, if any, of different forms of sponsorship in such series to the sponsor and whether this mirrors the reality. It will also analyse if improvements can be made to current approaches to make the benefits of such relationships more profitable (whether fiscally or in terms of increased positive exposure) to both the sponsor and the recipient.
My initial attraction to this topic stems from an interest in motorsport since a young age, which in the past few years has increasingly focused on the variety of aspects of public relations visible in all areas of the sport. Whilst previous studies have been done of public relations in Formula 1 both in the media and in academic pieces such as Smith’s (2006) thesis undertaken at this same department, there has been a complete lack of academic work done specifically on its feeder series, an area I feel could be fascinating from a public relations perspective given its intrinsic dependence on sponsorship, a marketing area that Boyle and Haynes (2006, p.222) state that public relations has a “key growth” of application within when looking at it from another sporting context (football).
What I believe will be the academic interest in this study is the opportunity to look at how the value of public relations through sponsorship is affected in a context where the circumstances may not be considered ideal. The first thing Turner (1989, p.18) lists as a benefit a potential investee should look for in a sponsorship is media exposure. This is something that many junior single-seater championships lack. According to The Formula 1 Broadcasting Blog (2012), as of September 2012 the GP2 Series – widely considered to be the premier feeder series to Formula 1 – only passed 100,000 UK viewers for a race once during its latest season, which was broadcast on the Sky Sports F1 channel. A glance at any European newspaper will show that stories about categories below F1 rarely appears without some local interest, with print coverage largely being confined to a few pages in specialist publications such as Autosport magazine.Despite this lack of exposure it is well known that the pursuit of motorsport at this level is expensive – exact figures are rarely disclosed but the new-for-2013 entry-level BRDC Formula 4 Championship announced on their website upon launch that they expected a year with a professional team in the category would cost £70,000 (MotorSport Vision 2012), and the bills are only known to escalate up the ranks. Therefore there is the opportunity to analyse what public relations benefits there could possibly be given the low correlation of exposure to expense, and how these can be maximised. Moreover, there is the possibility to look at how sponsorship for European junior single-seater motorsport might be acquired due to these limitations, such as personal