Gearing up for Formula E: Sustainability Gets Sexy.

It is generally overlooked but nonetheless undeniable that innovation in the form of new product development (NPD) has been the lifeblood of top sport worldwide in the modern era. Football’s all-conquering Premier League (created in 1991) and Champions League (1992), cricket’s revolutionary Twenty20 format (2003) and resultant cash colossus the IPL (2008), rugby union’s game-changing World Cup (1987) and European Cup (1995) are all standout NPD examples, but there are many more.


Next off the production line in 2014 is an innovation which has the potential to have the most profound impact of them all – not just on sport, but on society as a whole. Formula E, motorsport’s most radical innovation in generations, is the first world championship race series for electric cars, and will hit cities from London to Los Angeles after its debut in China in September.

Although it’s still early days, even at this stage Formula E is showing all the signs of becoming a major success.

It’s backed by the considerable weight of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA). The cars and tech are being developed by companies with serious racing credentials such as McLaren, Williams and Michelin. And the starting grid is full, ten teams having signed up to take part from a combined eight countries – five from Europe, three from Asia, and two from the US.


There’s also already a tangible feelgood factor in Formula E’s commercial programme. Team investors include Leonardo DiCaprio and Richard Branson’s Virgin. Broadcast deals (Fox, TV Asahi) and sponsorships (DHL and Qualcomm) are flowing, with more in the pipeline. All driven by an astute marketing and PR strategy led by CEO Alejandro Agag, the latest example of which saw the first public demonstration of a Formula E car at CES in Las Vegas.

But the big question, of course, is whether Formula E will prove a hit with fans.


We think it will.Formula E cars will be as good-looking as F1 cars, and seriously fast. 0-60 in 3 seconds, and a top speed of 150 mph. That will feel blindingly fast on the closed-off city street circuits Formula E will use.

F1-type cars racing at over 150 mph through the streets of iconic cities such as London, LA, Monte Carlo and Rio at night will clearly be an amazing spectacle.

Add to that the interactive innovations Formula E is working on – including enabling fans to actually influence races online while they are taking place – and it’s clear that it could also be a revolutionary fan experience.

What's not to like?

Along with the fact that it will all be delivered with minimal climate pollution, and raise awareness of the benefits of driving zero-emissions electric vehicles in congested cities, and it’s also clear that Formula E could be instrumental in making sustainability sexy, worldwide.



This piece features in the 2014 edition of #NowNewNext, Synergy's annual look ahead at trends in marketing and sponsorship.