Red Bull branding matters for 2013

There is little news to have come from Red Bull’s meeting with the FIA and teams last week, to discuss how Red Bull Media House would fulfil its new role as the official promoter of the WRC.

The main bone of contention appears to be over who will provide the timing services to the championship – a vital point, of course, but not one that will trouble many of those potential fans whom the series wishes to excite. The cars will run and they will be timed, come what may. No timekeepers means no rally, so that’s not going to be an issue for very long.

Nothing has yet been said about where – if anywhere – Red Bull’s colours will be seen in the resultant coverage, however. And this is rather a key point.

The energy drink’s logos have been a regular feature of rallying at every level. In the WRC they have been carried by the Citroën World Rally Team since 2008 but the five-year deal ends this season and will not be renewed. When discussing the investment of Abu Dhabi Racing into the French championship-winning team for 2013, Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi stated that one of the key factors was that ‘100% of the livery on the cars was available’ – which is as unequivocal as it gets.

Red Bull’s sponsorship of Citroën ends this year after five seasons

There is a long-standing relationship between Red Bull and Volkswagen’s motor sport programmes, most famously its team of Dakar-winning Touaregs. Volkswagen makes its grand entrance to the WRC in Monte Carlo and it’s Red Bull’s first event as promoter – so will the Polos carry the famous colours of the people who promote the championship?

If that were to happen, the outcry would be pretty seismic with the teams and constructors free to make claims of favouritism if the Polos get a microsecond more airtime than the other entrants. All the teams will be working hard as you read this to reel in their own sponsors, who will in turn ask serious questions if they are merely to end up as bit-players in the Red Bull Show.

Red Bull has scored some big wins with VW sponsorship

Equally, one of the stars of Volkswagen’s Dakar project, Nasser Al-Attiyah, is doing deals to put together a fully-funded three-car team for M-Sport in 2013, with himself in one of the cars. Although Nasser will doubtless bring significant funding from Qatar, he is also personally sponsored by Red Bull’s Middle East franchises – as witnessed by the M-Sport Fiesta RRC that he drove to victory in Cyprus this weekend.

Traditionally there is nothing to stop Red Bull’s individual offices at a national or regional level from sponsoring sporting events, teams or personalities – in fact it’s positively encouraged. But what, then, will be said if Red Bull in the Middle East wishes to sponsor Nasser’s team in the WRC?

Nasser’s personal sponsorship from Red Bull could be contentious

The responsibility for the timekeeping of WRC events ultimately must rest with the FIA. Red Bull has more pressing questions to answer in the commercial exploitation of the series and its advertising rights – to which there is, as yet, no answer.

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