Formula One motor racing - a modern
mobile opera blending the passions of speed and technology - is colored
these days with mobile communication names. Watch a Grand Prix along
with gazillions of people around the world - and it's impossible
not to notice that the contending sleek dream machines and tracks
lavishly sport names like Vodafone, Orange and Siemens. Moreover,
Formula One fans are being driven anew these days by an array of mobile
Formula One services. The world's most ultimately mobile sport is
meeting mobile communication, in style.
Mobile, by comparison
with old-timer type backers of Formula One - a glamour high tech game
that needs seas of sponsorship juice - is yielding constructive, fun new
services for tribes of passionate fans. For enthusiasts who've
"been there, done that" and got the Ferrari T-shirt (flag,
mugs, key ring holders) - and have grown bored with the often
over-lengthy style old media coverage of the sport, F1-on-your-mobile is
speeding into the gap with useful, succinct and personalized new media
services. From F1-on-the-fone text information to Grand Prix quizzes
("for the dedicated petrol-heads", we are told) and driver or
team screen savers for your mobile: F1 fanatics, undoubtedly, are being
revved in new ways by mobile this year.
It's a rule to
never under-estimate a man or a so-called "F1 babe's"
passion for their team - and how far they will go to lay their hands on
news, views and symbols of their tribal alliance. In places where fans
cannot easily, for example, get genuine F1 mobile phone covers -like
South Africa - roaring trade even exists in "gray market" type
Ferrari or BMW mobile phone covers. When phones proudly decorated by
such pretty, but illegal copycat and creative-theft type fare, give
problems, fans are tending to stream in for a pit stop at accredited
racing merchandise suppliers complaining that mobile phone companies
won't help them out.
Riding with the Prancing
Horse and Schuni on Your Phone
Says F1 fan
merchandise specialist Grand Prix Gear's Adrian Dowling: "Fans
love having F1 screensaver logos on their mobiles. They also are putting
gray F1 products onto their phones, like covers, and then run into
hassles as these goods are pirated and not recognized.
the last three years, I reckon, the sport has become five-times more
popular than it was - there are fewer people who think that it's
just about cars going 'round and round in a circle'! Fans are
always looking for fresh ways to follow or reinforce their interest in
F1. Mobile F1 text information services are a great service for fans who
can access these, F1 fans do tend to be tuned in to new technologies -
F1 is a lot about technology and marketing too."
Wireless Entertainment Services in Finland, this year licensed official
mobile graphics of Michael and Ralf Schumacher, the driving brothers of
F1- another service fans supporting either sibling are sure to be
Naturally, tribes like Tifosi - the true Ferrari fans,
riding high with the prancing horse team - want accurate, up-to-date
information and a feeling of kin with fellow Tifosi. Being a Tifosi
means things like establishing an immediate sense of relaxation with a
new doctor, because your healthcare provider has the entire range of
Ferrari miniatures parked in his rooms. Furthermore, the information
sharing and dedicated communication that new networks swirl with around
the world between F1 or, for that matter, many other communities of
dedicated motoring enthusiasts, can be mind
An entrepreneur friend of mine, for example,
who was without e-mail for a few weeks groaned about having to download
3 000 e-mails. A staggering 2 000 of these came from his chosen tribe of
Land Rover enthusiasts around the world. These he didn't moan
about, though - and joyfully set about replying to them.
have very strong feelings around things they deem mobile - especially
personalized forms, such as cars and mobile communication devices. And
the talking drums are never still in any true enthusiast's
lifestyle. Folk may be slow responders to emails from their bosses or
partners. But communicados from fellow fans - discussing important
matters such as 'launch control', 'composite
materials' or ' pole positions' - are all most welcome.
Such hobbies, it seems, are the sanctuary communities of this
Mobile Communication Changes
Of course, when the great debate over the
Ferrari team's remote control last minute switching of their
drivers' finishing positions in Austria broke out a few weeks ago,
it was akin to a tribal emergency situation. And, those Tifosi drums
around the world went into overdrive. Everyone had a lot to say.
It's truly amazing what a few words via mobile communication
devices can do in a matter of seconds.
Last minute commands from
your team boss as you're driving along can change the course of
things: and equally so for all of us, whether you're a sales rep or
Schumacher 'in the office' in your car. A few words into the
ear of Ferrari's Schumacher and Barrichello resulted in the latter
easing up just before the checkered flag, and letting his team mate take
the number one position.
As a Ferrari fan myself (yes, I admit
subjectivity here), I followed all this closely. And, I felt, that the
Ferrari sponsors' Vodafone's customized mobile offerings to
Ferrari (and other teams) fans, launched this year, could've really
supplemented what I was seeing and reading about in other news sources
really well. I also would not have to keep on resorting to desktop
Internet to hunt around all the F1 sites for the latest news and
F1 Text News Feeds and F1
Mobile subscribers - the lucky fishes! -
from Great Britain, Holland, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Italy, Hungary
and Malta can, in fact, luxuriate these days in a range of short, text
F1 message services from Vodafone. These services were launched this
year, as the group started sponsoring Ferrari.
There exists an
amazing range of F1 packages for mobile subscribers to choose from.
Vodafone UK says, "for the complete die-hards", there's
the "Premium Top Six" Package. This top of the range model
gives subscribers everything from practice positions, grid positions
after qualifying, updates throughout the race, points tables and up to
five alerts per race on any major news. Fans also have the option to
customize and personalize this information further - according to the
driver or team they follow.
Moreover, F1 fans in the United
Kingdom roared off at the beginning of the racing season, by indulging
their interest with a Grand Prix Trivia Quiz on mobile, which proceeds
over the F1 season until October. Cleverly, the Quiz is based on speed
and accuracy - "like F1"- and players can have some fun,
competing against each other for "pole
Like a popular "Footy on the
Fone" and other Sports
Vodafone Group Services
Senior PR Manager Julien Cozens reckons F1 services on mobile are
looking to be pretty popular.
"This is the first season for
our F1-on-the-fone services, and as with other sports text message
services, like 'footy-on-your-fone' and cricket, this kind of
service is welcomed by fans. A new and popular part of the football
fan's lifestyle, for instance, is getting a text alert, wherever
you are, every time there's a goal. Around one billion text
messages are sent a month in the United Kingdom - and text messaging and
sports information make for a very good
Interestingly, there are many marketing synergies
between mobile communication and F - and these are being shown to good
affect in advertisements in the United Kingdom for mobile. Some feature
drivers using messaging - others show fans using mobile as part of their
interest in F1.
Relaxed Drivers, Talk and Drive
One television advertisement for mobile
depicts a F1 fan's car breaking down on the way to a Grand Prix.
Frustrated as he is, the devoted fan is able to keep in touch with all
the race action thanks to a friend who is actually there, and who kindly
takes him through the race blow-by-blow on his trusty mobile. Everyone,
it seems, can now be a commentator like Murray Walker - with your
friends, your audience - if you're at a race (or any other sporting
event) with your mobile.
Cozens chuckles when we ask him whether
it is conceivable that we will see futuristic fanzoid offerings such as
"win a chance to talk to the driver during the race" from
mobile communication companies involved with F1. After all, drivers have
been talking (and listening) while racing for some years now - and have
been carrying cameras on their cars for ages for all eyes to share in
their driver's view!
Smiles Cozens: "It did happen
that a commentator spoke to a rally champion, while he was driving in a
race - and the television audience could follow their exchange. It was
quite amazing, I recall, to hear how relaxed the driver was. So there
are new developments and experiments in driver-public communication in
the motor sport worlds!."
Carol Posthumus is a freelance
author, analyzing how mobile technology impacts our lives. She lives in
Jeffreys Bay, South Africa.