101 Great Minds on
Music, Brands and Behavior
Director of Marketing and Communications at Formula 1
“We are still in the early days of our branding journey because the focus up to today has predominantly been on the visual side. Now it`s more about the energy the brand has and how we translate that into sound.”
Ellie Norman, Director of Marketing and Communications, Formula 1
Ellie has spent 20 years in marketing working across Automotive and Media Entertainment industries at global, regional and local levels. In 2004 she joined Honda Motor Europe as Communications Manager from agency-side. Accolades include winning ‘Advertiser of the Decade’ 2012, The Arrows. In 2012 Ellie joined Virgin Media as Head of Advertising & Sponsorship leading Brand campaigns and the strategy and implementation of Sponsorship. Following the change in ownership at F1, Ellie joined the management team as the companies first ever Director of Marketing & Communications to lead the sport as it grows its fan base and attracts a new younger audience. Ellie is a Business Leader member of the Marketing Society and has a passion for Reformer Pilates, Barry’s Bootcamp and classic Porsches.
Reese: What`s your role at Formula 1?
Norman: I`m the Director of Marketing and Communications. The way I think about my role is that I essentially represent the voice of the fan. My overall objective is to bring more fans into Formula 1 and to get them to spend more time with us.
"I think the growth of an experience culture with millennials and Gen Z`s is incredibly interesting. We have the possibility to fully immerse ourselves into a world through pop up`s or exhibitions despite the fact that you may have never physically attended a Formula 1 race."
Reese: You have to take this special sport into the digital age. What role will audio and music play in this transition?
Norman: When I think about Formula 1 and what I absolutely love about it is, that there are certain elements which have existed already when it was formed in 1950. Those elements are still there and represent the DNA that has been out in the world for 70 years. The sound of Formula 1 has been a huge component of the sport. Clearly, over time, the engines have changed and with that the sound of the engines. But I think one of the things that has remained, within that context of sport, is the fact that Formula 1 has touched and still touches every sense. Standing on the side of the track as the cars are about to start the race, the overwhelming sound of the cars, the vibration of the engines through the sound waves just move the whole body. This experience is incredibly unique to us as a sport. It has remained constant over time. As we take this experience into the digital landscape and world, I think we have great opportunities to actually share this event, which not everyone is able to experience on side of the track.
Reese: My first experience at the track was intimidating (laughs). Much of it was created through this immense sound coming from the roaring engines.
Norman: When we need to listen to something without sound, it`s quite interesting how the body reacts to it and how the reaction changes if you are adding sound to the experience. Just think about a horror movie without sound! For me, sound is definitely one of the most moving aspects, as it is able to change the way you respond to something completely. That is also one of the most fascinating elements of Formula 1 because it genuinely does move people.
Reese: What happened to audio as you had the massive rebranding project?
Norman: The rebrand came about because it was really important for us to understand our fans perceptions and associations. Also, we did have some perceptions and associations that we wanted to shift. It was important for us to really look at our brand identity. That started with a visual logo as well as considering the practical pragmatic things. We are still in the early days of our branding journey because the focus up to today has predominantly been on the visual side. Now it`s more about the energy the brand has and how we translate that into sound. We are just starting to experiment with sound and its abilities.
Reese: In terms of technology, we have no idea how we will be able to experience all of that within the next years. Maybe there will be a technology that is going to let us experience in a whole different way.
Norman: I think the growth of an experience culture with millennials and Gen Z`s is incredibly interesting. We have the possibility to fully immerse ourselves into a world through pop up`s or exhibitions despite the fact that you may have never physically attended a Formula 1 race. How can we start to recreate such an experience? I think with the development and the speed at which technology is developing, the recreation is more authentic that it has ever been in the past. We are able to make use of 4D sound, movement, wind, smells. You are able to transfer people to anywhere in the world.
Reese: Is it true that there was a time when the engines got more powerful, but also quieter and there was a dissatisfaction due to the missing visceral sonic experience?
Norman: Well, first of all, we are very lucky that we have such a huge global fanbase with over 506 million fans. Fans tell you what they like and what they don`t like. One of the shifts over the years has been the change in engines from V12’s to where we are today with V6 Hybrids, and with that the sound profile of the engine has changed. Avid fans of F1 will always reminisce about the sound of the V12’s! We recognize the importance of sound as a core component and since the V6 Hybrid engine was introduced in 2014 changes have been made to allow fans to hear more from them. In addition to that, we have 21 touchpoints, as we have 21 races each year. That is far fewer than any kind of other sport has on the planet. In football for example, there are hundreds of games within a season. For a lot of our fans, who are watching the races on TV or online, we want to share as authentically as possible the experience of being at the track. We have some very talented engineers within F1 who have created microphones which are installed within the exhaust of Formula 1 cars. These microphones are even able to with stand these extraordinary high temperatures. Sound will therefore be clearer, more authentic and move viewers in feeling the sheer speed at which the cars and drivers are travelling, even if it comes out of loudspeakers. We want to give fans the best possible experience no matter how they watch the races. We want them to be thrilled, excited and drawn into the spectacle, and that includes watching it on a screen.
Reese: In the future, the authenticity and a clear DNA of brands will become more and more important. They need to have their own voice.
Norman: Brands at their best are very clear about who they are, what they stand for and where they are going. For me, it is important to be able to answer all these questions. But it is also extremely important to be incredibly open about how to get there. Over time, how you get there will change, and you need to be working with other people, other brands and partnerships. Everything in our landscape nowadays is so fragmented. Just take the example of people listening to something with their headphones. I noticed that most of the time, what they are listening to and what they are doing on their phones, are two completely different things which are not connected to each other. Brands need to be able to cut through in every single touchpoint.
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