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The adage “If you ain’t first, you’re last” from the 2006 film Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is really more of a NASCAR thing, but that hasn’t stopped Formula 1 sponsors from adopting it.
The Formula 1 Heineken Silver Las Vegas Grand Prix debuts Nov. 16-18, and brands fortunate enough to jump aboard when the event was first announced are in the pole position for certain perks—like that name, for example. By signing on as a title sponsor, Heinken gets to plaster its name and that of its Heineken Silver brand all over the event, its Wolfgang Puck-catered main-grandstands, its Heineken House hospitality venue and above all the acts on the Virgin Hotel-run Heineken Stage.
T-Mobile announced its Grand Prix sports marketing partnership last November and sealed a multiyear deal that runs through 2025. It’s providing 5G coverage throughout the race grounds, offering the event’s official app with multiple views of the race through 5G cameras and is hosting the T-Mobile Zone and T-Mobile Stage at the MSG Sphere on “Turn 5G,” complete with a Club Magenta VIP lounger and performances by J. Balvin, Mark Ronson and Major Lazer.
“As a wireless company, our priority is to keep customers, Las Vegas Grand Prix staff and attendees connected with our 5G network—which is no easy feat at an event with hundreds of thousands of fans,” said Mike Katz, president of marketing, strategy and products at T-Mobile:
MoneyGram, meanwhile, announced its sponsorship of Haas Racing in October 2022, just after plans for F1 in Las Vegas went public that March. Launching that partnership just ahead of the new Miami Grand Prix and a year before F1’s Las Vegas debut, MoneyGram saw an opportunity for the only U.S.-owned F1 team and its sponsor to increase their profile stateside.
Despite Formula 1 touting $1.2 billion to $1.3 billion in economic impact from a Last Vegas event, the race circuit and its U.S. owners at Liberty Media actively had to sell Las Vegas on the race’s merits and value. Emily Prazer, chief commercial officer for the Formula 1 Heineken Silver Las Vegas Grand Prix, noted signing on early secured brands like Heineken, T-Mobile a prime spot at the event, but also made a strong argument for its existence by making it the first race to generate $100 million in sponsorship over three days.
“When we first put the business plans together for Vegas, my whole point was the more sponsors you can bring in with experiential elements that add value, the better time your fans are going to have,” Prazer said. “Vegas needs to be the ultimate fan experience, so bringing in the likes of T-Mobile, Heineken, American Express…[they’re] the types of brands that local promoters across the world are desperate to bring in because of what they bring to the party.”
Start your engines
Just before the race events, Heineken and T-Mobile are among the brands hosting an opening ceremony on Nov. 15 featuring Andra Day, Bishop Briggs, J Balvin, Journey, Keith Urban, Steve Aoki, Thirty Seconds to Mars and will.i.am. There will also be appearances by Blue Man Group, Cirque du Soleil and 20 Formula 1 drivers—as well as a T-Mobile sponsored drone show.
Heineken has been working with Formula 1 since 2016, but it didn’t discuss having its name on Las Vegas’ opening-night festivities—or its event in general—until August 2022. By that November, it had secured naming rights and began getting the city and F1 fans acquainted with its low-calorie Heineken Silver brand launched earlier this year.
“We don’t want to be the beer of Formula 1 in the U.S,, we want to be the brand of Formula 1 in the U.S. …when Americans think about Formula 1, we want them to think about Heineken,” said Frank Amorese, vice president of media and partnerships at Heineken USA.
But showing up early means saturating the race with all things Heineken. Reigning F1 champion Max Verstappen currently serves as a spokesman for alcohol-free Heineken 0.0—which is the focus of all of Heineken’s track signage. There will also be a Heinken House party venue just after Turn 1 on Koval Lane behind the Strip with a full lineup of DJs
There will be Heineken photo stops throughout the city, bars at multiple locations, beer in the Paddock Club and branding in LED on The Sphere.
Heineken’s partnership with Red Bull has made drivers like Verstappen and Sergio “Checo” Pêrez available in hospitality areas in Miami for business, celebrity and other VIP guests, but being the first to stamp its name on F1’s newest event gave Heineken an edge even drivers couldn’t provide.
“The Super Bowl is an absolutely amazing event, but all of these people have been to 10 Super Bowls,” Amorese said. “But they haven’t been to this, so you get to see the wonder of experiencing something new through their eyes—of someone that has done literally everything else.”
Prazer noted that as construction of the track elements concluded this year, her team at the Grand Prix had to remind locals that all of that work and the associated traffic wouldn’t happen every year. Much as they’re building infrastructure for years to come, the brands at the Grand Prix are laying a multiyear foundation—with Heineken signed on through 2027, American Express joining for multiple years and T-Mobile intent on sticking around a while.
“The network infrastructure we’ve built has laid the foundation to help the Las Vegas Grand Prix operations team more effectively run the event and give all fans an unprecedented experience,” T-Mobile’s Katz said. “And this is just the beginning … We’ll continue to innovate together for years to come.”
MoneyGram is wrapping up the first year of its three-year deal with U.S.-owned Haas Racing and sees enormous potential in the Las Vegas Grand Prix. CMO Greg Hall noted that “the cabbies aren’t happy right now,” but all of that construction taking the city from announcement to race day in a year is about to pay off big—especially for a race that takes place at night and will draw lots of attention in Europe and Asia as a result.
“We really love the addition … not having another U.S. race but doing it where you can reach another audience,” Hall said. “On the other side, in our heads was like ‘How much do we invest in this? This is going to be super expensive.’”
MoneyGram Haas gave the idea a test run by hosting a Las Vegas watch party for the Japanese Grand Prix, which started at roughly 10 p.m. locally. It then launched its “Drive Your Dreams To Vegas” promotion that offered one winner a $50,000 prize that included two Paddock Club tickets in the MoneyGram Haas F1 Team Suite at the Las Vegas Grand Prix, a chance to meet team members and walk the pit lane, airfare and hotel accommodations, team apparel and $5,000 in cash.
The promotion required entrants to sign up for marketing materials, giving MoneyGram a sense of what F1 fans might want from the company. MoneyGram saw a boost in new customers from F1’s new race in Miami last year, but such promotions have typically yielded more use of MoneyGram’s app and created more demand for its products and services.
“Being first in and being a title sponsor gives us an advantage because we have the team, because we have the car logo, because we’ll be there,” Hall said. “But also we can create these experiences that most other brands won’t be able to create.”