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  • Writer's pictureLewis Houghton

Guerrilla marketing in Formula 1

The element of surprise that (ideally) brings new eyes to the sport

No, that’s not me in my little car blasting down the M621 (I always adhere to speed restrictions).

In the wake of the news that F1’s viewing figures are on the decline, I thought it would be apt to analyse previous guerrilla marketing campaigns carried out by F1 and its teams.

But first, let’s break down the numbers that are being thrown around recently.

Typically, F1 will announce their viewership for the previous year with a dramatic press release. F1 was growing year-on-year by sizeable amounts.

But so far this year, we’ve had nothing official. Credible sources are reporting a reduction in viewers. Only marginal, for now, but they expect it to continue.

Viewership figures were through the roof proceeding the titanic fight between Verstappen and Hamilton in 2021. Pair that hype with exciting new regulation and aerodynamics changes, and fans were entering 2022 optimistic for another good scrap for the top step.

As we all saw, it was a bit of a Red Bull washout and the aero changes didn’t quite produce the closer racing we all hoped for. The same goes for 2023, so far (minus Sainz’s masterclass in Singapore).

Industry leaders are accepting that Verstappen’s dominance is hurting viewership, similar to how Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton’s supremacy has hurt the numbers in the past.

But that’s beside the point. Today’s topic isn’t about Verstappen land. It’s about guerrilla marketing.

So what exactly is guerrilla marketing?

Guerrilla marketing is where unconventional methods are used in the promotion of a product or service. The whole ‘guerrilla’ aspect is defined as a small group taking part in irregular fighting, typically against larger forces.

Here are three examples:

Credit: HubSpot (Frontline)

Credit: (Kill Bill)

Credit: The Evening Standard (Maybelline)

The beauty of guerrilla marketing is how much can be said without anything being said. Take the Kill Bill ad. They used existing assets (a regular billboard) and designed it with 3D effects and even included a car as a prop. Not a single word is necessary.

Frontline used a clever bird’s eye view technique to make regular shoppers appear as fleas on the dog’s fur. Clever. Simple. Effective.

And the Maybelline ad incorporates existing assets (the London Underground) and re-purposes them in a way not seen before. Sometimes, it’s better to say nothing at all. And these ads prove that.

Guerrilla marketing can be highly effective in creating thought-provoking campaigns that break the mould of traditional advertising.

So, back to Formula 1.

It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes F1 or its teams take their advertising to the streets and create a buzz through guerrilla marketing.

Let’s rewind to 2010. Red Bull deployed Mark Webber and his team to the streets of London on the run up the British Grand Prix. They had Webber park up outside the Houses of Parliament and the team performed a tyre change before he drove off into the distance.

Credit: Persona Design

Even back in 2010, people were whipping their phones out to capture this unique experience. The key technique? To place your brand or service where it’s least expected.

Here’s another one.


2006 Turkish Grand Prix. A billboard ripped up by tyre marks with a lifesize F1 car attached to it isn’t something you expect to see on your daily commute, which is why it's effective.

Another one? Go on then.

2013 Monaco Grand Prix.


Less in-your-face, but still effective.

Monacair, Monaco’s main airline, would fly drivers and VIPs into the bay via helicopter from Nice airport. Hublot, the luxury watch brand, decided they could work with the helipads that typically don a large ‘H’ and placed their branding centre stage. Not bad, considering the HSH the Sovereign Prince Albert II of Monaco was attending the race that weekend. Talk about putting on a show!

So F1 haven’t done anything properly radical for a good few years.

Do you think guerrilla marketing is an effective strategy and do you think F1 should implement it more often?

Lemme know!


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