ID Comms

Shouldn’t Santander and Engine Group just forget about accident-prone F1 drivers and talk about banking?

Clients, marketers, are pretty sensible most of the time but show them a sportsman and their common sense goes through the window as rapidly as Lewis Hamilton drives off the grid (usually into someone else).

Santander UK has announced a review of its marketing strategy (according to Marketing) but it still seems want to to major on its sponsored Formula One racing drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.

Jenson (who was named after the famous British Jensen Interceptor sports saloon, inexactly) won last weekend’s rain-sodden Canadian Grand Prix in brilliant fashion. Hamilton, on the other hand, after blotting his copybook with the stewards in his previous race, pranged teammate Button and came off worse and was forced to retire.

Is this the kind of guy, described as a “nutter” by former Formula One world champ Nicky Lauda, you would want to be your banker?

Most of us would say, “no thanks Lewis.”

But Santander, advised by Peter Scott’s Engine Group, is apparently staying with the two colourful drivers and its ‘we are Santander’ line to persuade UK banking customers that it’s the best bank to be with, despite its lamentable record for consumer service (it gets the most complaints of all, per customer).

So has Engine Group lost its marbles in sticking with the racing boys or is something else going on here?

Engine Group is based on the old WCRS agency (CEO Peter Scott is the ‘S’ in WCRS). It handles all sorts of stuff for Santander, perfect for its positioning as a mini-marcoms company that’s intent on taking on the big boys, WPP, Omnicom etc.

But anyone with half a brain at WCRS could tell you that the ads featuring Lewis, Jenson and co are crap.

It’s a nice film but the ghostly Hamilton presence lets it down. He just doesn’t make sense as a banking value.

But no doubt there are other people at other companies within Engine saying that the two drivers play well with the corporate market, in sales promotions, with left-handed Lithuanians who might be the next big thing.

So you’ve got a vertically integrated marketing programme that depends on Lewis (the alleged nutter) and Jenson, who’s pretty good when it’s raining.

Trying to sell banking services in their pit stop gear.

One could go on but it’s all really silly. The trouble is that Santander, and presumably Engine, are locked into it all, given the cost of sponsoring the McLaren F! team.

Or maybe Engine locked Santander into it.

Either the way it’s an accident waiting to happen (something Santander et al know quite a lot about).

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.
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