The inaugural F1 weekend in Las Vegas was a spectacle of glitz, glamour, and high rollers, turning "The Entertainment Capital of the World" into a racetrack unlike any other. With an estimated overall economic impact of $1.3 billion, the Las Vegas Grand Prix rivaled events like Super Bowl LVII, also making its debut in the city.
Formula One sponsorships, ranging from $1 million to over $50 million, saw brands like T-Mobile and Puma hosting over-the-top experiential events. For example, T-Mobile had a mini race track and experience in their store, while Puma advertised heavily on The Sphere, including a CGI experience. Celebrities like Rihanna, Paris Hilton, Brad Pitt, and others added star power to the event. And, in an “only Vegas” moment, Elvis impersonators greeted every driver in front of a miniature “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign.
Amidst the glamour, Brand Innovators, a network of senior brand marketers, hosted a two-day marketing innovation summit at the McLaren and Vista Las Vegas venue at Drai’s Nightclub. The event featured a fireside chat with former driver and F1 legend David Coulthard and insights from C-level executives at Puma, Fanatics, the Las Vegas Aces, The Las Vegas Raiders, Hilton, T-Mobile, and others.
One panel was “Connecting with Gen Z through Brand Purpose & Authenticity.” The panel was moderated by Meaghan Nelson, Executive Director of Social Networks at Brandwatch, and featured Jayson Atienza, Founder and Creative Director at Studio Atienza; Marco Nazzari, Director of Marketing, Brand and Business Intelligence at FIFA; Karishma Rahman, Senior Director, Global Brand Marketing, Paramount+ and Oliver Trevena, Founder at Caliwater.
The panel shared strategies that define their approach to engaging with audiences, especially the dynamic and socially conscious Gen Z demographic. The conversation highlighted three key points: the importance of authenticity, understanding Gen Z values, and embracing diversity and user-generated content.
The Essential Role of Authenticity
In the saturated market of celebrity-endorsed products, Trevena emphasized the power of authenticity. Caliwater is Trevena’s newest endeavor, co-founded with actor Vanessa Hudgens. The low-sugar alternative to water also has a bevy of celebrity investors who believe in eco-friendly activism and products.
“The celebrity partnerships are an authentic connection that resonates with consumers, particularly the discerning Gen Z audience,” said Trevena.
For sponsors, F1 provides a unique way to align with the passion points of its diverse and global audience through both onsite and digital activations.
One way Paramount+ does this is by aligning the content featured. Rahman shared that the content featured at each F1 race is different and curated based on authentic listening. For example, for the race in Brazil, Paramount+ featured Bargain, a Korean language show, because there’s a massive K-pop fanbase there. For the Las Vegas Grand Prix, they featured Lawmen: Bass Reeves.
“Trust your vibe. Trust your tribe,” Rahman stated as a crucial step in listening authentically.
Understanding Gen Z Values
The second central point discussed was the need to understand Gen Z values. The panel recognized the importance of staying connected with this generation, which values community, social consciousness, and engagement.
Caliwater does this through cause marketing efforts for No Kid Hungry. Their genuine commitment to values is crucial for staying ahead in a market saturated with traditional marketing tactics.
“If you believe in it and you're truly a part of it, then the messaging just comes, the content is easy,” said Trevena, who’s been an ambassador for the global non-profit Not for Sale for sixteen years.
Another way to connect with Gen Z is by creating spaces for participation and community pride.
Atienza highlighted his partnership with Hennessy, which has helped to successfully refurbish multiple courts across the globe, turning them into spaces where community, art, and sport seamlessly intertwine.
Embracing Diversity and User-Generated Content
The third key topic was the importance of embracing diversity and user-generated content (UGC).
As the youngest and most economical partner of Formula One, some questioned if Paramount+ was the right fit. Rahman got her answer after the first practice on Thursday night came to a grinding halt due to a loose water valve cover that badly damaged Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari. Fans quickly turned to social media and created memes of the incident featuring Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, one of Paramount+’s shows, peeking out from underneath the cover. “The UGC affirms why we’re here,” said Rahman.
Giving Gen Z ownership while staying authentic to brand values is an imperative way to engage younger demographics. Studio Atienza did this with a mural that Atienza created in black and white. Students and teachers then colored in and completed the mural to viscerally “Make Their Mark.”
In the digital age, connecting authentically with Gen Z remains a challenge. However, as Nazzari noted, "Diversity is always on the agenda," reinforcing the commitment to an inclusive and authentic approach.
Posted at MediaVillage through the Thought Leadership self-publishing platform.
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