Flying start to our 2018 season

What a start to 2018 it’s been for the Top Step Communications team, with the proverbial cobwebs having been well and truly blown away by what’s gone on so far with our motorsport clients.

Kicking off the year (on January 3, in fact), we were proud to help ambitious Essex team Fox Motorsport announce their return to the British GT Championship in style.

fox tweet

As the first team to bring the brand-new Mercedes-AMG GT4 to UK shores, the news attracted international attention as well as strong coverage in motorsport bibles, Motorsport News and Autosport and a stint on BBC Radio for Team Principal Paul McNeilly.

The Fox news didn’t end there either as racing newcomer Matt Konczos confirmed his plans to contest the Ginetta GT5 Challenge, his and the team’s messaging and timelines being co-ordinated by us with Ginetta themselves to ensure maximum coverage.

While this was going on, we were busy assisting the brilliant Frozenspeed Motorsport Photography grow their brand with the latest in a series of pictorial blogs, this one focused on MotoGP.

Frozenspeed pic

A carefully-structured social-media strategy has helped the business gain greater awareness, increase its follower numbers, drive more traffic than ever before to a selection of online galleries and sell the superb 2018 wall calendar.

We’ve been proud to work with seven-time British Touring Car Champions WSR for the past two seasons and entered our third year with Dick Bennetts’ team in flying style.

Being able to lead planning for the announcement an ultra-strong line-up of Colin Turkington, Rob Collard and Andrew Jordan – co-ordinated with BMW UK to ensure additional reach – brought yet more international attention for the team.

WSR-007

And then it was on to the annual Autosport International Show which does seem to be back to somewhere near its best after a period of decline; at least that was the impression we got, read our blog on that very subject to find out more.

Fresh from the team’s driver announcement the previous day, Bennetts was in demand in Birmingham as we orchestrated a series of interviews from media as far afield as Australia.

1818 - Dick Bennetts with Speedcafe

We’d planned the announcement for the previous day to not only give WSR ownership of the BTCC news cycle for a full 24 hours (rather than being drowned out by the various announcements and livery unveils at ASI), but to also ensure that both Turkington and Jordan – attending the show to mark the 60th anniversary season of the BTCC – could speak at length about their excitement to a fully-engaged audience of 100,000 visitors over four days.

While that was going on, we were also supporting JAS Motorsport in the debut of the brand-new Honda Civic Type R TCR at the Dubai 24 Hours.

New Civic

Putting JAS TCR Project Leader Mads Fischer in front of a global audience on the 24H Series live stream, co-ordinating a supply of high-quality photography and carefully devising and executing a social media plan around the event ensured that the car’s debut achieved global coverage in the motorsport media before and after the event.

It also helped JAS to achieve their highest-ever January Facebook and Twitter engagement figures and grow their follower numbers significantly on both platforms.

Finally (because that’s all not enough, is it?); the exciting announcement of 15-year-old Gordie Mutch – surely the next big thing in Scottish racing – graduating to the Ginetta GT5 Challenge as part of a four-strong line-up at Fox Motorsport.

Gordie image

Coverage was secured in the Scottish Sun and Autosport among other major outlets, thanks to careful establishment of influential media contacts. 

And breathe….

Or, at least, that’s what you’d think. Our season is just getting started with the planning of busy programmes in the FIA World Touring Car Cup, British Touring Car and GT Championships (plus their support categories), national and continental TCR series and the 24H Series all underway.

If we can help you achieve your media objectives, get in touch now via info@topstepcommunications.co.uk or via our contact us page

Autosport International back to its best…nearly

Autosport International is back. That’s certainly the feeling I came away with from the National Exhibition Centre after Top Step Communications’ annual visit last Thursday.

Professionally, ASI is a ‘must-do’ event; a chance to catch up with old colleagues and meet new faces ahead of another busy motorsport season, and a terrific opportunity for our clients from racing and rallying to make big announcements and press the flesh with potential partners.

BTCC Group interview

I’ll admit, a massively soft spot for the event lurks inside me. Visiting in 1996 as an impressionable 11-year-old, I was delighted to win a PlayStation and British Touring Car Championship tickets as runner-up of the ‘Big Quiz’ on the main stage; one of several things that remain etched in my mind.

Meeting Sir Jackie Stewart – there to announce the establishment of Stewart GP and a Ford tie-in – Martin Brundle, John Watson, David Leslie and Matt Neal, watching Piero Liatti’s mega donuts in Subaru’s Impreza 555 in the Live Action Arena, and sitting in Gianni Morbidelli’s Australian Grand Prix podium-finishing Arrows grand prix car all contributed to an utterly mega experience.

Those wonderful early experiences were so fantastic that it saddened me to see ASI descend into a far less fever affair as the worldwide economic decline took hold on the motorsport industry a decade ago.

PORSCHE STAND PIC

Don’t get me wrong, a massive Classic Team Lotus stand crammed full of ex-Jim Clark, Mario Andretti and Nigel Mansell machinery is extremely cool, and organisations like the Historic Sports Car Club (who won ‘Historic stand of the Year’ this time around) and 750 Motor Club put on super-strong displays. But it’s not what the crowd comes for, is it?

MANSELL IMAGE

It’s been steadily regaining lost ground over the past few years and for 2018, there was a tangible feeling that the show was getting towards being back to its best. Special guests included Formula 1 World Champion Nigel Mansell, Indy 500 winner Gil de Ferran, and the winners of the past nine British Touring Car titles to mark the launch of its 60th anniversary season and unveil several new-car liveries for the year.

Better still was the use of the event for the global launch of the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship, with every major driver and manufacturer vehicles from Citroen, Ford M-Sport, Hyundai and Toyota present, and for the launch of the all-new Ginetta LMP1 machine, with which the Yorkshire firm aims to take on the might of Toyota at Le Mans.

WRC IMAGE

Add into this the biggest ‘Autosport Engineering’ section I can remember seeing – presided over by the irrepressible Tony Tobias, and it’s abundantly clear how much value the four-day January spectacular still holds for the industry.

It was great to see the show prove useful to our clients; JAS Motorsport, whose multiple title-winning Honda Civic Type R TCR formed the centrepiece of the award-winning Vital Equipment stand, WSR, whose Team Principal Dick Bennetts was an in-demand man from media from as far afield as Australia and Fox Motorsport, who made a team visit on Thursday.

1818 - Dick Bennetts with Speedcafe

Ok, so the Formula 1 launches are a thing of the past, but that’s more down to the current technical and testing regulations negating the benefit of completing a new car early or eating in to a driver’s contracted PR days, than any shortcomings of ASI.

Show Director Kate Woodley and her team have done a magnificent job to stop the event sliding into a state of irrelevance and instead maintained a one-stop-shop for industry insiders, motorsport media and – most importantly – an engaged fanbase.

GINETTA LAUNCH

Well done guys. We look forward to an even better show next year.

Could we help you maximise your big announcement at ASI 2019? Get in touch today.

Watch what you tweet

The opening-lap elimination of three of the top four qualifiers at the F1 Singapore Grand Prix provided the most dramatic moment of the Formula 1 season so far.

But before Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen or Max Verstappen had even climbed out of their cars, an tweet posted by @ScuderiaFerrari ensured that the fall-out on social media would be immense – for 24 hours, at least.

tweet1

Tweeting simply ‘VER took #Kimi7 out and then he went to #Seb5 #SingaporeGP’ the person with the keys to the team’s account proved how a careless use of language can create a very unwelcome storm. As soon as the incident happened, the tweet laid the blame firmly at the feet of Red Bull racer Verstappen.

Yet, six-and-a-half thousand responses to this tweet showed just how vehemently an engaged F1 audience wanted to take issue with this assertion.

Ferrari, whose reputation as poor communicators precede them, did themselves no favours by reinforcing their position three-and-a-half hours later with a follow-up tweet.

The underlying message was clearly ‘what do you know from your armchairs? And also stop slating us.’

This not only angered the fair-minded individuals who simply disagreed with the earlier pronouncement, but also fed the all-too-common trolls, who couldn’t resist the temptation to take things up a notch. Former F1 driver Mark Webber (fair-minded, not a troll) even responded curtly with:

tweet2

Unlike press releases, tweets don’t go through several layers of team management for sign-off before publication; there simply isn’t time for that.

This, in turn, means that a social media manager must shoulder considerable responsibility; especially when the account they administer has nearly two million followers (an audience around 100,000 times larger than your average media database).

Ferrari’s response to the incident was not only badly-judged (presuming it wasn’t simply lost in translation); it was arrogant and incendiary. And yet the whole scenario could have been all-so-easily avoided.

A factual tweet describing the incident when it happened would have read more like ‘Contact between VER, #Kimi7 and #Seb5. Both Ferraris out.’ Notice the difference? Same incident reported, but no blame apportioned until more of the facts were known.

To avoid a similar situation arising on your watch, here’s a few tips from us;

  1. Make sure your facts are just that. FACTS.
  2. Leave it to someone else to apportion blame; the event officials or even your driver or team through a direct quote. If it’s their truly-held belief that someone was in the wrong then let them express it, but be sure to explain the positives and negatives of doing so to them first.
  3. If you do feel compelled to apportion blame, be prepared to apologise immediately if you get it wrong.
  4. Should you end up with a situation like Ferrari, don’t ‘like’ or retweet any comments. You don’t want to look like you’re fanning the flames by reinforcing an already unpopular position.

If you want more advice on the appropriate use of social media in motorsport and how to avoid landing yourself in hot water, then get in touch with us today.

 

Five Motorsport Championships we love!

Here at Top Step Communications, we’re proud to provide PR and media support to teams and organisations at all levels of the motorsport industry in the UK and abroad, and as you can imagine, that means plenty of travel and a multitude of different series to engage with.

But as much as this is our profession, we’re fans first and foremost. That’s what drove us into this industry in the first place, and that means we get extremely fevered-up by corking action on-track and a frenetic atmosphere in the grandstands.

So, as we get towards the business end of the season, we thought we’d share with you our favourite championships of 2017.

Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship

A bit of an obvious one really, but Britain’s highest-profile four-wheeled championship continues to go from strength to strength. As if a capacity grid of 32 cars representing 11 different marques wasn’t enough, manufacturer entries from BMW, Honda, Vauxhall, MG and Subaru mean the highest level of direct support from the carmakers since the fabled Super Touring era of the 1990s. Non-stop action is guaranteed with some outstanding racing at the front, the usual midfield squabbles and – this year – the emergence of two of tin-top racing’s undoubted new stars in Ash Sutton and Tom Ingram to challenge the established heavyweights like Colin Turkington, Gordon Shedden and Rob Collard. Even better, the drivers are REAL PERSONALITIES and don’t waste a chance to speak their mind; even when Louise Goodman or Alan Hyde shove a mic under their nose. Catch the whole thing (plus support categories) live on ITV4 for the rest of the season, or pop along to an event. At around £30 a head for a full day of action (including open access to the paddock) plus free entry for kids, it’s extremely good value for money too.

ADAC TCR Germany

ADAC TCR Germany, 3. - 4. Lauf Red Bull Ring 2017 - Foto: Gruppe C Photography

ADAC TCR Germany, 3. – 4. Lauf Red Bull Ring 2017 – Foto: Gruppe C Photography

When you give yourself just two months to create a low-cost race championship with a national profile, you’d be forgiven if only 10-15 entries were recruited for the first race. ADAC, working under just these restrictions, remarkably welcomed 44 cars to its opener in 2016. A year on and the series has strengthened with more cars, teams and drivers winning week-in-week-out, and the racing being wonderfully erratic, sometimes pure farce, and always massively entertaining. Through all this – and a Balance of Performance system that has infuriated everyone whenever their car has been disadvantaged – the superb speed and consistency of Josh Files and his JAS Motorsport-built Honda Civic Type R TCR, fielded by the Target Competition team, has shone through and left the British driver on the verge of a second straight title. How much longer can his talent be ignored?

Simpson Race Products Ginetta Junior Championship

Ginetta Jr

A bunch of teenagers – some as young as 14-years-old – let loose at the UK’s best circuits in identical 100bhp Ginetta G40 race cars sounds like a recipe for disaster. To be honest, that’s part of the appeal, and there have been some fairly chaotic moments. But driving standards – at the front of the field especially – feel vastly improved this season and that’s led to some of the best racing anywhere on the planet (check out Knockhill Round 17) as the next generation of racing stars hone their racecraft. The emergence of Seb Priaulx, Daniel Harper, Tom Gamble and rookie Kiern Jewiss, plus the addition of British GT race-winning team Fox Motorsport have added extra dimensions and created a season-long four-way title fight.

FIA World Rally Championship

WRC

The WRC appeared to be on shaky ground 18 months ago. The World Rallycross Championship, with its young-fan focus, Monster Energy girls aplenty and short, sharp, five-minute races and short-track set-up had been a major disruptor to the establishment. Fast forward to the summer of 2017 and nothing could be further from the truth. Reinvigorated by the return of Citroen and Toyota – both already victorious this year – first-time winners in Ott Tanak and Esapekka Lappi and the switch to M-Sport by top dog Sebastien Ogier, the WRC is very nearly back at the level it reached at its competitive peak. Rallying has always been cool and with the latest generation of cars looking more like space ships than family hatchbacks, it is winning new fans and gaining more traction online and in mainstream broadcasting. And on that point, modern on-board and drone camera technology have produced some breathtaking footage this year (expertly broadcast by Red Bull TV globally). Long may it continue.

Pirelli World Challenge

Acura NSX GT3 Team Has Breakout Weekend In Utah

We love the Blancpain Endurance Series, but with more than 45 cars per race, it can be all too easy to forget who’s in what car and even who won the last event. Likewise, Blancpain Sprint falls down on having such an evenly-matched field of teams and drivers that the racing can sometimes be a tad stale, even if the trackside sight and sound of a glut of rumbling GT3 cars is a joy to behold. The US-based PWC gets around all of that and mixes in awesome street circuits like Long Beach with old favourites such as Road America and Mid-Ohio. A high-quality batch of front-running drivers like Alvaro Parente, Pat Long and Ryan Dalziel, plus a variety of classes from GTA down to ST (street tuner) and several different race formats means this is one series you simply have to check out.

 

How to handle bad publicity

While we all hope that everyone will only say nice things about us, sadly it’s not always the case.

Sometimes you will do something wrong, or – perhaps more importantly – someone will feel you’ve done something wrong, and the result will be a tonne of bad publicity.

It’s vital to plan now for what might happen in the future and how you will handle it. To get you started, here are our top tips for dealing with bad publicity:

Plan in advance

Depending on what your business is or does, you can consider what could go wrong with a relative level of ease. For example, if you’re a motorsport team, think about the potential for accidents on the track, contract disputes with drivers or sponsors, or a team member saying something out-of-line on social media; all of which have the potential to cause bad publicity.

By setting out how to approach a variety of problems, you’ll ensure that you’re better prepared for when a time of crisis or uncertainty occurs.

Have someone on your side

Working alongside a PR agency, such as Top Step Communications, is invaluable during times of bad publicity. Firstly, our proactive PR work will have already ensured that there is a regular stream of good, positive news about you widely available, meaning we can be certain that people won’t only be hearing negative things about you.

Secondly, when something does occur, our team of experts will be quick to react. We’ll know what to say when, through which channels to say it, who in your organisation should say it and how they should deliver it. Every detail needs to be considered and our years of experience means we can advise you accordingly.

Alternatively, you don’t have to work with us on a regular basis to have assistance when things go wrong. If you find yourself in a crisis situation and subjected to bad publicity, get in touch immediately. We can help you quickly and simply to assist as soon as possible.

Don’t say too much

A deluge of negative messages through social media makes it all too tempting to defend yourself via the same platform. But there’s real danger in saying too much. Have one statement, deliver it and then leave it there.

Of course, you should monitor the reaction and decide how to respond if you see inaccurate reporting. Each situation requires a judgement on how or what to say, but in times of crisis, less can sometimes be more.

Learn from it

Don’t just pretend it never happened; instead examine exactly what did occur. Think about the actions that enhanced your reputation and those that simply increased the negative publicity. Taking onboard the lessons will ensure that you are prepared for the next time.

And don’t be afraid to get back out there and start promoting yourself positively again – it’s one of the key things you must do after a period of bad publicity.

If you’d like to chat to us about how we can help to promote your business in the best ways then get in touch today!

Social media for a small business in motorsport

While social media is becoming ever more essential for businesses, it’s simply not effective if not used properly.

For some small businesses, especially those in the motorsport industry, social media can be hard to master. Perhaps you feel you don’t have enough to say – or maybe you do, but you don’t have enough time to say it. Whatever the reason, here are our handy tips for how small businesses can get the most out of social media:

Promote your products

If you sell physical products, either within the industry itself or to fans of the sport, then social media is a great platform on which you can show them off. You can share pictures of what you sell, retweet customer praise and showcase everything you have to offer. It’s an extremely cheap and effective way to have an online catalogue of your product range.

Announce something new

If you’re launching a new product or service then social media is a great place to announce it. With the fast-moving nature of social channels, there’s an immediacy to anything posted and that’s great for anything new or fresh. You can even tease it beforehand, building up a level of expectation or excitement ahead of your announcement.

You can go behind the scenes

Social media is a far more intimate and personal platform than your website and as such it’s a great place to lift the curtain and show more about what is happening behind the scenes. Share photos, videos or anecdotes about what is happening in your workplace to give customers more of an understanding about who you are.

You can make business connections

Social media isn’t just somewhere to find customers; you can also find business allies as well. Small businesses in motorsport are all trying to find their footing on social media and build up their follower numbers, so follow someone else and they are likely to reciprocate. You never know what services you might find someone has that you need and vice versa.

Get involved in a community

There are an increasing number of online groups forming across social media, particularly ones focused on small businesses, so take a look and see if there are any relevant to you. These can be really helpful either as a sounding board or as a place to be able to promote what you do.

Remember to be social!

One of the biggest challenges motorsport businesses face on social media is ensuring channels aren’t too promotional. Social means having conversations, reading what others are writing and engaging and posting regularly. This all takes time and effort – a popular social media channel won’t just appear overnight.

So, if this is something that you just don’t have time for then this is where we can come in. Our social media experts have worked with plenty of businesses to help them produce Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn profiles with high and engaged follower numbers and regular conversions to their websites. If you think that we could help your small business boost your social media channels then get in touch with us today to find out more.

Why Floersch’s Facebook fine matters for motorsport

It’s been dubbed the most over-the-top penalty applied to a motorsport competitor in the last decade but, whatever your view, the €5,000 fine handed down to Sophia Floersch’s at last weekend’s ADAC Formel 4 event at Oschersleben is a cautionary tale for everyone. It also showcases the very real need for PR support no matter what level of motorsport you are competing at.

If you missed it, here’s the video. During Friday practice, 16-year-old Floersch narrowly missed a recovery vehicle that drove across the circuit as the Mucke Motorsport driver approached at high speed.

Accusations and counter-accusations flew on-site about whether or not Floersch had slowed down sufficiently during red-flag conditions, and then about whether the flags had even been displayed in the first place.

The whole situation accelerated when Floersch posted the on-board footage of the incident on her Facebook page, creating embarrassment for race officials that only intensified as race fans and professional drivers shared and commented on the video. It swiftly went viral; a thread about the incident on Reddit achieved more than 4,000 comments.

Possibly as a result of the red faces caused by negative comments from people such as 1996 Formula 1 World Champion Damon Hill to his 50,000 plus Twitter followers, officials decided to issue the huge monetary fine to Floersch for ‘uploading the video without the permission of ADAC’.

Initially reported by Floersch as €20,000 – something that caused fans great ire and again called into question how highly safety is valued versus broadcast rights – the DMSB, Germany’s motor racing federation, later stated that the fine was actually €5,000. Whatever the amount, it’s a huge amount for a young driver to have to pay.

It all could have been handled differently – as was seen in the FIA World Touring Car Championship round in Portugal two weeks ago.

Dutchman Tom Coronel (yes, that would be the guy who filmed a live video on his mobile phone during the warm-down lap at the Nurburgring last year, was fined €5000 for it on safety grounds and then successfully crowd-funded his penalty money before donating it to charity instead), crashed into an ambulance during a practice session, threading a needle between two unprotected road signs that should have been protected by a crash barrier.

Sensing an easy PR win, Coronel and the WTCC organisers released footage of the incident from multiple angles through both of their social media channels. The footage went viral, boosted the profile of both driver and series and possibly even led to an increased interest in the race itself.

We’re not here to say one tactic is right and the other wrong, but there are clearly two issues in play regarding the Floersch incident.

Firstly, the embarrassment factor. At a time when the details of the incident were sketchy, Floersch’s social media actions could be taken as seriously barbed against the race organisers which is typically not something they stand for.

Secondly, there are rights issues in play, and if a competitor has signed up to contest a series in which video content is deemed to be the property of the race organisers, or a main broadcast partner, then these are rules that must be obeyed just as rigidly as not jumping the start of a race.

The fine, it seems, could have been avoided had the team or driver had media support that was aware of the guidelines regarding video. It is one of the many roles of such a support structure to know these rules inside out, or to ask explicitly if they don’t.

The sheer magnitude of the penalty shows how seriously the DMSB takes its Ts and Cs regarding footage, and how little it likes to be left red-faced. And they’re certainly not the only organisation with this attitude.

So ask yourself; is it really worth it? If you don’t know, perhaps you’d benefit from someone who does.

At Top Step Communications, we’ve dealt with such red tape, pushed the boundaries, but always stayed on the right side of officialdom. We can help you to do the same while promoting yourself.

Get in touch with us today to find out more by emailing info@topstepcommunications.co.uk

Why does your motorsport business need a blog?

Nowadays, most businesses within the motorsport industry have a top-quality website. Well-designed and with all the info about your company, you may feel like that’s all you need.

However, while a great look and easy to navigate design is crucial, one thing you might have overlooked is the need for a blog. Here’s why you need one…

Google likes it

If you want your website to appear high up in search results then you need to do all you can to attract the attention of search engines. Google processes over 40,000 queries a second – more than any other search engine provider – so it’s critical to address what they’re looking for. While the algorithms used by Google change frequently (making in-depth SEO tricky to master), we know that Google always likes fresh content. Static content means not putting your head above the water to signal ‘I’m here’; the result being a fall down the rankings. A regularly updated blog, however, makes your website stand up and be counted.

It can help customers to find you

Blogs should be at least 500 words long and major on the kind of thing your existing (or desired) customers are likely to search for when looking for the services you provide. Include those key phrases and topics and the result will be a more visible website when the searches are made.

It can move people around your website

A good blog isn’t only about the content, but about what you include within it. A blog should contain at least one or two links to other parts of your website, where customers can find further information. This ensures their time on your website doesn’t just end on your blog, but encourages them to look more at what you have to offer.

It’s your own platform

A blog is a great way of showing potential or existing customers more about who you are and what you do. It’s an opportunity to show off what you know and become a thought leader in the area you work in.

It gives you something to share on social media

A blog is a great thing to share on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin and can be used to start a conversation with potential customers. Remember that social media is fast-moving and not everyone sees everything you post; so share your blog a few times to get the maximum number of eyes on it.

The downside…

Blogs take commitment, with new content being published every couple of weeks to have the desired effect. We know that’s not easy – after all, you have plenty of more important things to do, right? You might also struggle for ideas.

That’s where we can help. Our content-marketing specialists are blog-writing experts. As former journalists we understand what makes a good story, how to tell that story in an engaging way – and, importantly, how to promote your business while doing so. Look, we’re doing it right now! If you want to benefit from all of the above reasons why you should have a blog, then get in touch with us today.

Taking over

Fernando Alonso didn’t win the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500, but for virtually the entire month of May, you’d have been forgiven for thinking he was the only driver in the race.

The Spaniard’s Brickyard debut was accompanied by near blanket coverage of his every move from the motorsport media and unprecedented levels of interest from the mainstream sectors (US included) that would previously have asked “Indy what?”

Yes, it helps that he’s a handsome, multi-lingual and charismatic double World Champion who embraced and respected the traditions of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but the sheer scale of Alonso-mania was only possible thanks to a communications strategy perfectly planned and executed with Zak Brown pulling the strings in the background.

The McLaren Honda Executive Director needed a brainwave. Eighteen months of bad press for his team due to underwhelming performances and sometimes explosive public criticism from Alonso meant a ‘good news’ story was essential. Time to indulge the marketing nous he’d put to good use in creating and growing his $76million Just Marketing Inc empire between 1995 and its sale in 2013.

His idea, that Alonso’s desire to compete at Indy could be indulged this year – and at the expense of his seat at F1’s ‘jewel in the crown’ Monaco Grand Prix too – was genius and not something former McLaren Group Chairman Ron Dennis would ever have condoned.

Since the deal was announced on April 2, barely a day has gone by without some kind of Alonso-related story being published in the media. A week since the race, they’re still talking about him.

Yes, there was the initial flurry of announcement excitement, but it was built upon with a trip to the IndyCar race at Barber Motorsports Park in April and one of the most packed press conferences for a series event away from IMS in its history.

Keeping the spotlight on Alonso

The carefully constructed news cycle kept spinning; a new spike appearing every time a potential drop in momentum was detected.

A re-imagining of the orange livery in which Johnny Rutherford won the 1976 ‘500 in a McLaren M16E was unveiled to massive fan approval, and then Rutherford himself was appointed as an ambassador; two PR masterstrokes.

And then came the time to hit the track. And how! Brown convinced IndyCar to broadcast Alonso’s Rookie Orientation Programme (the Indy 500 driving test) live and free globally on the series YouTube channel with embeds and shares available to all media. Cue a staggering 1.6million fans (mostly non-US) viewing during the six-hour stream.

A superbly-constructed calendar of track and interview video content, McLaren Indy history and, of course, Alonso’s incredible performance to qualify on the second row (admittedly easier in an Andretti Autosport Dallara-Honda than anything else based on recent Indy form) simply heightened the excitement.

As if to prove how crazy the news cycle had become, a four-second video of Fernando skateboarding down Victory Lane on a random practice day was viewed more than 400,000 times in 48 hours on the McLaren Facebook page alone as the #AlonsoSkatesIndy hashtag went berserk.

Packed press room

The IMS press office reported attendance by non-US media was up 170 on their average for the past decade (even taking into account a spike for last year’s 100th running) while in the UK alone the event was the lead story on the BBC Sport home page and national race broadcaster BT Sport published a peak 203k viewing figure – 975 per cent increase on a year ago. The worldwide figures make for interesting reading too.

And then, to cap it all off, he ran inside the top five for most of the event and – at the point at which he retired with mechanical failure with just 20 of 200 laps to run – had recorded the fastest average lap speed of any driver.

Even his naming as Rookie of the Year has created controversy, with fellow first-timer Ed Jones finishing third overall, and several drivers having their say about the judging process, just further elongating the news cycle.

And how did McLaren get on in Monaco without him? Nope; we can’t remember either. And we won’t remember come the end of the season, or in 10 or 20 years time either. All we’ll recall of Fernando Alonso’s 2017 is of how he wowed IndyCar with a stunning debut. Conclusive proof that if you think outside the box and take a calculated gamble, the results can be astonishing.

Clever bloke, that Zak Brown.

Remember, you don’t need to have the budgets of McLaren to be able to secure great coverage. Top Step Communications can help you get your team, driver or business into the news and getting the attention you deserve. Get in touch today to find out more.