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Infiniti Partnering with Red Bull F1 Team

Nissan’s luxury brand betting on Formula One as it stages global roll-out.

by on Feb.28, 2011

Infiniti will partner with F1 champion Red Bull Racing.

Infiniti will be teaming up with last year’s dominant force on the Formula One circuit, the world champion Red Bull Racing team.

While its Japanese rivals have found the F1 racing circuit too rich for their taste, the Nissan luxury brand is betting the world’s most popular motor sports venue can provide an affordable platform to help Infiniti continue its long-awaited global roll-out.

The new deal also pairs Infiniti with its French alliance partner, Renault, which provided the engines that helped Red Bull drive to the Formula One World Championship last year.  It was, in fact, a twin victory, the Red Bull team taking both the team and driver’s championships.

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“Over the mid-term, Infiniti will be simultaneously expanding its global presence and broadening its product range,” explained Senior Vice President Andy Palmer.  “Given these twin ambitions, it is clear that Formula One offers us an unrivalled global communications platform.”

An estimated 550 million TV viewers regularly watch the F1 circuit worldwide.

With a reported 550 million TV viewers worldwide, there’s little doubt that Formula One has tremendous power as a marketing tool, but there remains plenty of debate about how effective it is, considering the hefty cost of participating in the sport.

Toyota, for example, was reportedly investing as much as $400 million annual in its unsuccessful quest for a championship.  Honda’s budget wasn’t far behind.  Both ultimately decided the payoff didn’t justify the price.

Infiniti officials won’t discuss what they’re planning to spend, though Nissan Motor Co. Chief Marketing Officer Simon Sproule suggests that the maker isn’t investing anywhere near what its rivals spent.  That’s because Infiniti has a more limited role, effectively one of the Red Bull Team’s primary marketing sponsors.

“We were not about to buy a team,” as competitors like Honda and Toyota tried, Sproule stresses.

That’s not to say the deal is limited to plastering the Infiniti name on the Red Bull team’s cars and nomex fire suits.  “We’re exploring a technical collaboration,” as well.  One that will go both ways.

Formula One organizers have been pushing teams to develop advanced hybrid systems that can help deliver maximum performance while reducing fuel consumption.  Red Bull hopes to tap into the knowledge Infiniti and parent Nissan have been gaining through their battery car development program, which has already produced the Nissan Leaf, and will result in several additional electric vehicles in the next several years.

Nissan and Infiniti, meanwhile, believe that track-based hardware may eventually migrate from the track to the highway, which has happened with a number of technologies, over the year, including such things as ceramic brakes and aerodynamic design.

The Infiniti/Red Bull program will run for two years.  That will coincide with a long-anticipated global launch of the luxury brand, which has spent its first two decades limited to a handful of markets, notably including the U.S.

Formal announcement of the Infiniti/Red Bull partnership will be made on Tuesday at the Geneva Motor Show.

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