As a marketer, the key lies in extreme curiosity and embracing how your fans, or consumers, live and experience your brand.
Brand Marketing Manager
The interview with Nicolas Jayr was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.
Tell us about your role as the Brand Marketing Manager of the Formula 1.
Sports is my biggest passion in life. Working in the industry in some shape or form is something that I’ve always wanted to do, and so I tried to apply the skills and knowledge that I acquired in advertising & communications over the years towards it as soon as I could. So, whilst I have been at F1 for two years now, I have been involved in sports marketing for over six years.
First, working on Nike, whilst at advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy, which was the culmination of a formative five years in the advertising industry. After 18 months learning from the very best at W+K and Nike, I took on a role “client-side” as marketing manager for broadcaster ITV, looking after their marketing communications for a variety of sporting properties such as the FIFA World Cup, the Six Nations, the Grand National, or the French Open, working together with an in-house team of skilled creatives and editors.
I would say that I have always been quite curious, inquisitive, and driven – so it’s always been a goal of mine to align my passion points to experience acquired over the years. After having experienced sports marketing from a product and athlete POV (Nike) and from a broadcaster’s POV (ITV), being part of a sporting organization like Formula 1 just felt like a natural next step in my career…
So, I joined F1 in July 2018, the day after France won the 2018 World Cup (quite the way to end my experience at ITV), and no day has been the same ever since. It has been a very interesting time to join the sport, following F1’s takeover by Liberty Media, and working under a new leadership that was looking at establishing a bold, new vision for the sport.
As a Brand Marketing Manager, my job is incredibly varied, working together with a myriad of stakeholders from broadcasters & race promoters around the world to our 10 Formula 1 teams & global sponsors, from our creative & media agencies in London to a variety of internal departments & teams.
In two years, together with defining the tone and attitude of the F1 brand across many touchpoints, I have helped launch two seasons of a popular series on Netflix, Drive to Survive, produced our very first Season Launch event in Melbourne in 2019, partnered interesting brands and artists with the sport, such as The Chemical Brothers or Complex, and most recently developed a consumer-facing expression of our CSR platform, called #WeRaceAsOne, as we returned to racing with purpose.
The role takes on a lot of different aspects of my previous jobs, from the strategic & brand planning side inherent to marketing to the creative and production side that has been my strength from years of advertising agencies experience – to some serious account management skills, having to deal with more stakeholders than in any previous role! In short, it’s a fascinating job and one that has been a hell of a ride for the last two years.
How do you implement a brand identity in campaigns/ marketing initiatives? Why is a brand identity important?
Brands are wonderful things in that they live and exist in people’s minds, thanks to a multitude of associations that are the result of people’s own experiences of the brand. These core associations and values represent the essence of the brand, ultimately making up its DNA. Part of the role of a brand marketer is to define what brand associations are most important to bring to life for a specific product, to which fans/consumers, and why.
In F1, the most basic associations, common to all people are the idea of F1 being about ‘Cars’ & ‘Drivers’ – fans with greater knowledge begin to unlock ideas such as ‘Tech’, ‘Global’, ‘Risk’, whilst the richest and most sophisticated associations revolve around concepts such as F1 being ‘The Pinnacle’, or ‘On The Edge’.
The latter is something that we have been trying to bring to life in recent campaigns – re-enforcing the idea that F1 as a sport is at a unique intersection between control and chaos – where anything can happen, and all is measured in milliseconds.
Even basic associations, like ‘Drivers’, can benefit from being enhanced, with added layers of association unlocking further value for the brand. One of the main outcomes of the Netflix series is that it has shown to fans around the world another side of the characters that make up the sport, the drivers. It has revealed their personalities, their humanity, their doubts – traits which are normally removed from the day to day.
Winning is one thing, but the journey to get there, and what it takes to even be part of Formula 1, to be one of the 20 ‘heroes’ standing on the grid, provides us with incredibly rich storytelling opportunities, and a tapestry of unique associations that in that case has helped us further boost the profile of our drivers, and ultimately the sport.
To conclude the secret to a good brand identity is to ensure consistency, and authenticity in the way you communicate about your brand associations – in a way that ultimately enhances people’s own experiences of the brand and re-enforce its positive associations.
As an expert in branding and marketing, what are your thoughts on individuals having their own personal brand?
The biggest transformation in the marketing industry, ever since I have started my career, has been the rise in the prominence of digital platforms and their role within every aspect of our lives. Not just young people… people of all ages & demographics. With this has come a proliferation of ways for people to express themselves and find an audience – meaning that everyone can access a media and therefore become its own brand.
Sports, and music – because both are passion points for people around the world – have led the way, and the most valuable media brands right now in sport are the athletes themselves. The most powerful media in Formula 1, whether we want it or not, is Lewis Hamilton. With over 19m followers on Instagram, he has double the amount of fans than @F1 official channels. The same principle applies to any other sport. Cristiano Ronaldo has 237m followers to Juventus’ 42m. And LeBron James has 70m to NBA’s 49m.
So, Lewis Hamilton is our best asset, arguably one of the greatest drivers of all times, but his voice, and the perception of his voice in the public consciousness is the biggest media of all – something that he is utilizing with great result in the fight against racial injustice and equality this year.
In a different way, the rise of a young driver like Lando Norris in the last 18 months, has been brilliant to witness, with his incredibly honest, genuine (and fun) voice on social platforms reflecting the persona that he truly is, in a totally unfiltered and authentic way, which gives appeal to fans.
What is true to athletes is true to all. With the evolution of digital platforms, building a personal brand is at everyone’s fingertip – to express your points of view, to show and share what matters and what counts for you, and ultimately expressing your own individuality.
Digital platforms have become incredible tools to showcase one’s personality in an authentic way, both at a personal and a professional level. When hiring young people in the industry, I am increasingly drawn to observe what their digital persona shows about them – what they like, what they express, and what’s important to them. Linking back to the power of association, it has become increasingly easier to curate and tailor your personal ‘brand’, and I believe it has become an essential tool in the job market today.
You’ve worked in both the sport (Formula 1, Nike) and non-sport (Google) world, have you found there to be any differences working in sport as opposed to other industries?
What makes a brand like Formula 1 so unique is that it essentially is a live racing spectacle, which changes and evolves on a daily basis, and is being put to the test at every Grand Prix. The fact that the product itself evolves constantly, is quite a significant difference to marketing a product like Johnnie Walker, for example, where product consistency is at the heart of the brand experience (the taste of the infamous Black Label hasn’t and isn’t meant to change any time soon!).
At the heart of sport is an extremely fast-moving world, where anything can happen, and perceptions can change in a matter of seconds. Winning/losing, triumph/tragedy, heroes/villains are all part of the fabric of live sport… and whilst you can plan, prepare and wish for something to happen, the outcome will often be unexpected.
I still remember working on the 2014 FIFA World Cup with Nike, and one thing for sure is that 1) we didn’t expect Nike-sponsored Brazil to have its most embarrassing defeat ever in the semi-finals at home against Germany (losing 7-1), and 2) neither did we think that the unsung hero of the Finals (between 2x Adidas sponsored teams, Germany and Argentina) would be a substitute and Nike-sponsored athlete Mario Gotze scoring the winning goal in extra time…
In sport, to react to history as it happens, and showcase the relevance of your brand when it matters most, you need to be extremely adaptable and think and act quickly. It links a lot to journalism, in that sense, in that you need to constantly tailor and adapt the message depending on its relevance.
Having said that, the secret of good brand communications tends to be the same across all industries. As a marketer, the key lies in extreme curiosity and embracing how your fans, or consumers, live and experience your brand. What do they like about it, what do they hate about it, how, when and where do they experience it?
Understanding your fans is the first key. Then, ultimately good marketing is about good ideas, and equally importantly good execution. One without the other never works. As Sir John Hegarty famously said, “advertising is 80% idea, but also 80% execution”.
A bad idea well executed will remain poor, whilst a great idea with poor execution will fall flat. Any example of any great campaign, across all industry, will have combined both.
Where do you see the future of marketing heading? Is technology really going to take over?
Whilst technology will continue to evolve at pace, and the way fans and consumers experience brands will continue to change, I think that fundamentally marketing will always remain about the same principles – the power of ideas, and associations, to convey what makes a brand unique in unique ways.
The essence of our job is fairly simple and ultimately is all about craft – crafting the right idea, the right story, at the right time, to the right audience, through the right channel.
And whether it is through a TikTok video, a 30’ TVC, a poster, a social post, a podcast, or a 10-parts documentary, the job and the art of marketing is about utilizing the power of words and images to convey a message that can change/enhance/build on people’s perceptions. Marketing is the art of persuasion, and with the acceleration of technology and always more ways to reach more people, it is certainly a fascinating world to be part of!
Anastasiya's Final Thoughts
A Brand Marketing Manager at Formula 1, Nicolas Jayr demonstrates the passion required to succeed in the world of sport marketing. He excels at his craft because he loves what he does. Nicolas describes everything that goes on behind the scenes of these huge sports brands, and it’s a lot of work. He says that brands are wonderful because they live in people’s minds, which is a cool way of looking at them. Nicolas believes consistency and authenticity are the keys to succeeding in marketing your brand. Social media has also played a crucial role in how branding has evolved, and he recommends that branding yourself is an essential skill in the job market. It’s interesting to see how something so seemingly simple as an Instagram post can be much more complex in reality!