The London Grand Prix PR stunt
A few years ago, a story did the rounds that a diamond had gone missing from a Jaguar during the Monaco Grand Prix. The Ford owned team featured the sparkling stone on its car as a result of a sponsorship tie-up, but somehow it went missing during the weekend.
The story made headlines globally. Not because the watching world is at all interested in diamonds on racing cars but more because one allegedly disappeared, probably making a Monegasque track worker or spectator a lot richer.
This week, London has been in the headlines. Host to the coming Olympic Games, the city is buzzing as the days count down to the opening ceremony. If the media speculation is to be believed, once the Olympic buzz has come to an end the city could engulfed by the glorious scream of Formula One engines.
In one of the most brilliantly executed PR stunts in the sport’s history, Santander has transformed an otherwise ho-hum media event into a full blown three-ring circus.
First came the suggestion that a Grand Prix in London could be held around the Olympic site. An Australian firm was involved in putting together a track design, the same one which turned Sydney’s Olympic white elephant only slightly greyer. A video of the circuit was produced and it seems that everyone is on board.
A race in London is Bernie Ecclestone’s dream come true, so when asked by the media if he was in favour of the concept of course he was going to say yes. Hell, he’ll even throw in £35million himself, the sort of generosity he’s famous for.
While not connected the coincidence is almost uncanny. Santander began its media campaign on British television. It started as a bit of a competition, asking fans to guess where a Grand Prix in London might be held based on some cryptic clues given by Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. It all built up to an event hosted by Santander in London at which a London Grand Prix circuit was presented.
There was no pitch to Formula One, no serious intention to host a Grand Prix. It was a publicity stunt, pure and simple, but oh my how it’s worked. You can’t buy that sort publicity, when outside events coincide perfectly to blur the line between the real and dream words.
London Mayor Boris Johnson is keen. Bernie hasn’t stopped salivating at the thought while the media is still having a fit believing it’s all actually going to happen. Based on the back of a few off the cuff remarks from some important people, London, having never hosted a Grand Prix before, will suddenly have two!
But the thing is it won’t. None of it. It’s all a load of nonsense stirred up by media types desperate for content after a couple of slow news days.
The flashy videos and presentations are one thing, but actual progress towards a London Grand Prix is just wishful thinking. There was going to be a Grand Prix in Hyde Park back when Sir Stirling Moss was racing, and we’re still waiting on that one. Someone, somewhere in London is currently standing quietly in the corner with a diamond in their pocket, and one suspects they’re probably Spanish.
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