The Formula 1 United States Grand Prix (USGP) is new to Austin, but Austin is new to Formula 1, too. That means some of the racing teams coming to Texas for the first time are anxious to develop strong ties to the business community. And they're willing to do some crazy stuff to make the networking happen.
The Marussia F1 team is doing just that. One investor in the team is Sir Richard Branson — that Sir Richard Branson. He owns Virgin, he's been into space, and he'll be in Austin with the team for the USGP. CNBC, the American TV network, is also a sponsor.
Marussia recognized that Formula 1 does not enjoy the widespread American goodwill of say, NASCAR, due to the failures of other recent F1 races in the U.S. So no one is going to pay $5 million for a sponsorship package here.
Mike Scudamore is Marussia's sponsorship and acquisitions manager. He is sure that Formula 1 just needs to show businesses what they can do. "So we want to give business people a chance to get into the garage," he says. "They can hang around the team and get a chance to see and feel what Formula 1 is all about."
Do you want to watch qualifying with Branson in the team garage? How about Paddock Passes? Do you want to mingle with the team (and maybe Branson) in their hospitality suite? Maybe party with them at their team event? It's all available with Marussia.
But wait, there's more. Rhino Marketing out of Houston is shooting a documentary on the team. "F1 races enjoy the largest global TV viewership of all motorsports," explains Thomas Hensley, a producer of the film.
"With Formula 1 returning to the United States, there was an opportunity to create a TV documentary around F1 returning to the U.S.... we'll follow the Marussia F1 Team to give a team’s perspective on racing back in the U.S." A Marussia sponsorship can also get you in the movie.
This never happens in real life, but for most of us, Formula 1 is not real life and this team is making it ridiculously affordable to get full team access and even place your logo on their F1 car.
"Affordable" of course is a relative term so let's not kid ourselves, this package, while being listed at an amazing discount, is not exactly in the "affordable" range for most us. But for some, it may be just what they are looking for to get in front of an international audience.
Marussia is selling team sponsorships and F1 car sponsorships. A worldwide F1 team sponsorship would cost in the seven-figure range, and a regional sponsorship like this one is way up into six figures — except this year, when the sport makes its debut in a new region so the prices are well discounted.
Team sponsorships, depending on what you buy, include paddock passes, a pass to watch qualifying in the team garage, three-day paddock club tickets, and well, a chance to live the life of F1 for a couple of days. What's that worth?
Marussia is currently 10th in the 2012 constructors standings and driver Timo Glock finished 14th in Abu Dhabi last weekend. They're not likely to win the race, but they do compete and they are sure they have a lot to offer businesses.
"Sponsors will see up close and personally what Marussia and F1 can do for their business. We'll take them into the heart of the team because we want to embrace Americas enthusiasm for this race, this circuit and the city of Austin," says Scudamore.
Here's what one car sponsorship looks like on rear wing endplate according to the Marussia sponsorship kit:
Or, for a little bit more you can have the leading edge of the sidepods:
Or, you can get access but no sponsor logo.
Going once, going twice... yeah I know, crazy right? Well, maybe not for everyone.
Parties interested in sponsoring the Marussia team in Austin can contact Mike Scudamore with Marussia for more information.