Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso is Formula 1’s most marketable driver with Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel only 4th despite winning the last 4 world championships, according to a report. The report by global sports marketing research firm Repucom found the Spaniard, a double world champion, enjoyed the greatest worldwide recognition. Britain’s 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton, who drives for Mercedes, was 2nd on the list and Brazilian Felipe Massa, who moved from Ferrari to Williams at the end of last season, took 3rd place. Finland’s Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 world champion who has returned to Ferrari this season after leaving the sport and then making a comeback with Lotus, rated higher than Vettel in awareness but below him in overall marketability. “It may be a surprise to some that globally, Sebastian Vettel does not score as highly in terms of public opinion as the likes of Alonso, Hamilton and Massa,” said Repucom’s Nigel Geach, senior vice president of motorsport. He said that was due in large part to Ferrari’s popularity and brand recognition – the Italian team are the most glamorous and successful in the sport – as well as Alonso’s own international sponsorship deals. “Despite Red Bull’s recent successes, globally, 59% of F1 fans have an interest in the Ferrari team, representing the highest levels of interest in any F1 team,” added Geach. “With races screened across 160 global markets to a cumulative global TV audience of 1.8 billion, one can see the importance this can have on perception.”
The report said Alonso was known by 71.14% globally, although only 12.76% of those in the United States were aware of him. Vettel’s global awareness rating was 54.30%. “Alonso is a very likeable driver and as the global appeal of the sport increases, people seem to be rooting more and more for a new F1 champion and as the results show, Alonso is starting to edge ahead as the fans favorite,” Geach said.
The season starts with the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday and Vettel’s Red Bull team are already on the back foot after problems with their new Renault V6 power unit in testing. Hamilton and Mercedes are the early bookmakers’ favorites. Despite Hamilton’s global recognition being 2nd only to Alonso, the report found compatriot Jenson Button was more marketable to a British audience. “Button’s appeal, influence and aspirational scores see him as a better product endorser and a more marketable personality,” it said of the McLaren driver and 2009 world champion. Massa enjoyed the highest domestic recognition of any driver, with a 99.2% rating in Brazil compared to Vettel’s 97.58% in Germany.