For those who love autosports and particularly formula 1 the name Max Verstappen should ring some bells. He is one of the most talented drivers in Formula 1 (F1) together with Charles Leclerc and is often compared to the legend, Ayrton Senna. Since I am following F1 since 1998 I know all the ins and outs regarding this sport. My passion for marketing and branding makes me look at the other side of the sport, the media, marketing and money machine of F1 teams and the drivers.
Big sums of money are involved in F1, making it one of the most expensive sports ever. Teams invest millions in the development of their cars, but also in their drivers. Max Verstappen, who started at Toro Rosso is now driving for Red Bull Racing and has become one of the best-paid drivers at the moment. But there is more than meets the eye. Max has built an amazing team around him to make everything he touches turn into gold. In my view, he has everything to become one of the best earning F1 drivers in history, and the best earning Dutch sportsman ever. His marketing and media engagements are unique and always succeed thanks to his many unique selling point. I would like to use this article to point out these USPs (Unique Selling Points).
1. Its all in the name, (Max) Verstappen
As some of you might know, Max is the son of Jos Verstappen a talented driver who drove in Formula 1 from 1994 – 2003 for teams like Benneton, Stewart, Arrows, and Minardi. It was that period of time where his father started branding the name Verstappen. He became one of the most successful F1 drivers in Dutch history. The Dutch Verstappen Fanclub was quite decent and he did a lot for his fanbase.
After his retirement, he fully devoted himself to preparing his son Max for F1. The name Verstappen opened doors more easy for Max in terms of racing opportunities, marketing and sponsoring. The guidance and experience of his father together with Max his born talent made him excel in every racing class he participated in. Next to his father, Max is also supported and guided by his manager Raymond Vermeulen. His sister Victoria Verstappen manages his clothing brand “unleash the lion” and Red Bull Racing does all his team PR.
It was never the question of whether he could make it into F1.
The surname Verstappen proved to be one of the key factors in creating a buzz in the autosport and marketing world. Just like Jacques Villeneuve (son of Gilles Villeneuve), Damon Hill (son of Graham Hill), Nico Rosberg (son of Keke Rosberg), and Mick Schumacher (son of Michael Schumacher) are some great examples of father and son F1 driving pairs. Today over 95% of the Dutch population knows the name “Max Verstappen”. It is not strange that Dutch sponsors are in line to work out a deal with him.
2. The commitment of his (Dutch) sponsors
His father Jos played a huge part in creating a strong foundation for sponsoring. Some started sponsoring Jos and are now sponsoring Max.
Here are some that play a key part in his career.
The software company Exact signed a sponsorship contract with Max Verstappen back in 2015 and is said to have a duration of 3 years. it has recently been extended and we also see Max coming back in Exact’s commercials from time to time.
Few know that Exact sponsored his father Jos Verstappen back in 1996. The relation and connection stayed ever since and resulted in a new deal for Max in 2015.
Source: Getty Images Europe
Originally an amount of around 1 million euros per year was paid, but this has now doubled to around 2 million a year. For a company like Exact, this is a great deal since the value of Max has skyrocketed since 2016
That Jumbo is becoming one of the biggest parties in the Dutch supermarket landscape was already apparent after they took over the La Place restaurants from the bankrupt V&D department stores. But Jumbo also sees great potential in Max Verstappen. Because of the good relationship of the owner, Frits van Eerd, with car racing and Jos Verstappen they signed a deal with max at the beginning of his career.
The exact amount that Jumbo pays to stand on Max Verstappen’s clothing will be around 1,5 million euros a year. They have also set up Jumbo Racing days, which will increase the fee to around 2 million euros per year.
Ziggo Sport has taken over the activities of Sport 1 and as a result, became a sponsor of Max Verstappen. Ziggo Sport broadcasts all Grand Prix races of the Formula 1 and this currently has a huge attraction for the Dutch Formula 1 fan.
There are undoubtedly several Formula One enthusiasts who have made the special move to Ziggo to not miss anything from Max.
Max will now be seen more often in various programs around the live Formula 1 races, in the Formula 1 Café, and in the Peptalk talk show on Monday. This deal offers a key role in the branding of Max Verstappen. Being able to show his commercials on prime time television against better prices cause of his deal with Ziggo is crucial for promoting his brands.
He can promote his personal merchandize and Verstappen travel, which allows fans to book “Max Verstappen tribunes” tickets on circuits like Spa Francorchamps (Belgium), Austria and Hungary with whom he also has deals in terms of reserving circuit tribunes primarily for his fans only.
The drink that gives you wings started its own formula 1 team back in November 2004 by acquiring the Jaguar F1 Racing team is also a personal sponsor of Max Verstappen.
Red Bull is probably his biggest payer at the moment, especially now that he has signed a new, improved and extended contract with this drink supplier. Next to of course his salary of around 20 million per year he also generates extra income with deals related to the energy drink. According to the company Triple Double, the sponsoring income of Max in 2017 was around 3 to 3.5 million euros. It is expected that these numbers have doubled over the past 2 years. This together with his yearly salary of 10 million and the rewards for the World Cup points that he is taking this season remains the same as what he already received. He receives close to $ 50,000 per point. So a win yields 25 times that amount, or $ 1.25 million. On top of that, he gets a $ 250,000 bonus for every win.
G-Star is the fourth Dutch brand that officially connected itself to Verstappen. The company was founded in 1989 by Jos van Tilburg in Amsterdam. In 2016 rapper Pharrell Williams became co-owner of the brand, to which rapper Jaden Smith also has been associated with since this year. In terms of sponsoring income, this deal would earn him around 1 to 2 million euros. It is a clothing contract, in the form of a one-off cash contribution per year and a royalty will be paid on every product sold. These types of contracts often have a value of several million.
3.Creating a constant sense of urgency to boost merchandise sales
Max and his marketing team are masters in creating a constant sense of urgency towards all his fans (particularly his Dutch fans). Thanks to his immense popularity in The Netherlands and Formula 1 nearly every product he launches becomes an instant success. By creating limited editions of cap, helmets and scale models a constant boost in sales is guaranteed throughout the year. Here are 2 examples:
Red Bull Racing Max Verstappen Special Edition Cap
Launched especially for the Spa Grand Prix in Belgium, this limited edition cap sold like crazy and nearly every dutch fan wore it during the race. A marketing job well done if you ask me.
1/2 Helmet Max Verstappen 1 of 1000 Limited pcs., Austria GP Helmet
Every year a limited edition helmet is launched. This helmet is sold as a scale model. But of course, a limited car model is sold where he wears the helmet aswell.
4.Branding through his sponsor Jumbo Supermarkets
Jumbo and Max Verstappen have turned into a giant peanut butter and jelly sandwich. When you think of Jumbo you automatically think about Max Verstappen when you are Dutch. At first, they only made him perform in the advertisements of the supermarket chain but was also in the spotlight on different Jumbo racing days.
Recently Jumbo came up with a new promotion where customers could earn a scale model of the car in which Verstappen won the Grand Prix of Austria. The 1:24 scale model turned into a huge success. All ordered models were sold out before the end of the promotion. The supermarket had to purchase a new batch of models not to disappoint the many customers who wanted to order it.
5. A clothing brand related to his personal slogan
In the Netherlands, we have the Dutch lion as our national symbol. Max uses a custom lion design on his helmet to honor this symbol and display his patriotism to his Dutch fans. Not only does this create more goodwill at his fanbase, but it also is another great way of branding. His logo is incorporated into the clothing brand “unleash the lion” started by his sister. By using the unleash the lion slogan in all his social media posts he constantly puts the brand in the spotlight. Max himself wears it just like his father, sister, mother, and girlfriend during each race weekend. This adds to the exposure of the brand worldwide.
6.The perfect marketing moment in time and by nationality
Next to all the above-mentioned marketing and branding efforts Max also has the luck of having the perfect marketing moment in time and by nationality. What I mean with that is that all favors are for him. Being Dutch, having amazing talent, creating an absolute hype in The Netherlands for Formula 1 and himself. But some other interesting key factors are:
We all love the Dutch, right?
Because of his Dutch nationality, Max is more popular in Europe and the rest of the world. This is because we Dutch have a favorable status of being decent and more likable. For Americans and Germans, this lies a little different if you know what I mean 😀 The fact that he speaks English and great German also makes him more loved in the UK and Germany.
Max could become a key figure in Formula 1.
With Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel coming to age they might retire in a few years from now. This leaves an amazing hole to fill. Max his team and talent could help him in becoming the most popular driver by far when that moment comes. Switching to another team could also speed up this process. Driving for a big brand like Mercedes or Ferrari could make him rise to new heights in both popularity and branding.
The Grand Prix of The Netherlands.
After an absence of 35 years, we finally have a Dutch Grand Prix of Zandvoort in 2020. The Formula 1 organization is hoping to benefit from the Max Mania in his home country. Since Verstappen has become one of the biggest stars in F1, all European races have been visited by a huge amount of Dutch fans. One can only imagine the amount of Dutch fans visiting this event in 2020. A huge opportunity for max and his team to profit in terms of branding and marketing. His sponsors are already preparing new ideas on how to link their products to this event and Max. Trust me it will be a HUGE as Mr. Trump would say.
7. His Dutch fans also called The Orange Army
Now there are fans, and you got Dutch fans. The Orange army is well known all around the world. The Dutch love to support their athletes. They do that in almost every sport. A great example is the Olympic Games where you can always see a massive following from the Dutch, no matter where in the world the games are held.
We are not a big country and only have around 17 million inhabitants, but a lot of them follow sports and are passionate about it. Jos Verstappen started the F1 virus for the Dutch back in the ’90s, but since Max Verstappen took his first F1 victory in Spain back in 2016 things changed rapidly.
The Netherlands caught the Max virus and the popularity of Formula 1 took off explosively. This resulted in one of the biggest orange armies in history! And of course all these fans need Max Verstappen, shirts, caps, flags, scale models…. you know. And Max does all the promotion work by himself, just by being who he is and driving his ass off every race. The Dutch were not used to success in Formula 1, and now they found their hero. So as you might understand, not much promotion is needed to get these people to buy his merchandise.
So there you have it, the huge potential that Max has and already is using to its full potential. More opportunities are coming and I am sure he and his team will use them to the fullest. It is only a matter of time for his team to build the Max Verstappen empire to exceptional heights. I believe that because of all the mentioned items above he will become the best earning F1 driver within 5 years. All thanks to great marketing and branding, and his exceptional talent for racing not to forget. Go get em, Max!