DHL’s Global Brand Leader, Arjan Sissing, on Formula 1 Fan Engagement

DHL’s Global Brand Leader, Arjan Sissing, on Formula 1 Fan Engagement

Across Formula 1, Formula E, W Series, Moto GP and more, the DHL logo provides the backdrop to the biggest motor racing competitions in the world. Such exposure provides colossal brand awareness. The power of this partnership, however, lies in DHL’s ability to reach beyond its logo and engage fans authentically across the topics that resonate with them.

The Sponsor sat down with Arjan Sissing, Head of Global Brand Marketing at Deutsche Post DHL Group, to lift the lid on this unique partnership.

F1 has an ambitious net zero carbon 2030 target. How do you work together to achieve this target in a manner that fans find engaging?

“First of all, DHL plays an essential role in helping Formula 1 achieve this target because we are responsible for a circus of almost 35,000 tons of racing freight travelling the globe every year. We provide the most efficient, environmentally friendly logistics solutions which help reduce the ecological footprint of Formula 1 as a whole.

As part of our partnership, we develop activation programs on the marketing side that are tangible, locally relevant and engaging for Formula 1 fans and beyond.

At the Brazilian Grand Prix, for example, we used our partnership to raise awareness of marine plastic pollution. We partnered with NGOs and 90 volunteers to collect over 500 kilos of waste. With the help of a local artist, we used this waste product to create a beautiful Formula 1 car sculpture at the track.

We also partner with a company called BEEN London, an innovative fashion company, where they use recyclable DHL trackside banners that you usually see during the race to make fashionable items like purses or bags. The proceeds of this exercise are then donated to the social enterprise Plastic Bank, which is working to reduce the amount of plastic entering our oceans.

These aspects are great for engaging fans in our sustainability work, but behind the scenes, we are also reducing Formula 1’s environmental impact by using different innovative logistical solutions. These include multimodal transportation, fuel-efficient aircraft, and the latest low-emission fleet trucks. The latter of which is particularly important for travelling the European leg of the series, most of which is done by road.

There is a high engagement rate amongst Formula 1 audiences with our sustainability work, so we see that people are genuinely interested.”

DHL employs approximately 600,000 people across the world. How do you leverage your partnerships across motorsports to strengthen your employer brand?

“I'd rather call them brand ambassadors instead of employees because they're my buddies in crime when it comes to telling great stories about DHL.

We provide them with authentic storytelling which they can easily copy and paste if they are fans of a particular sport, in this case, Formula 1.

What makes our people across the globe so proud is that everybody who works at DHL can genuinely state that they are working for the most international company on the planet. Our partnership with Formula 1 demonstrates that.

As their long-standing logistics provider, we are married to Formula 1, and so DHL is part of the very DNA of the sport. This gives a very authentic and proven story for our employees to share in. The partnership builds a true connection which is just unbelievable. There is a sense of pride that is not arrogant, but it's just to say, hey, we're one big family and we make the world go round.

We also provide rewards and incentives for our people with competitions such as the ‘Most Efficient Courier of the Year Award’. The winning employees or business units receive special prizes such as official merchandise or an invitation to the Grand Prix finale in Abu Dhabi.

When we think about recruitment and being an employer of choice, I always say we own the race between the races. We convey that we are much more than just a last-mile and courier-driven organisation. We want people to think about the professional opportunities with DHL in digitalisation, in engineering, and in e-commerce, for example. The partnership with F1 helps to highlight these opportunities, especially to younger audiences.”

What are the top three attributes shared between DHL and F1 and how do you highlight these to enhance stakeholder perception?

“The DHL Fastest Pit Stop Award is a great example because it encompasses not only the speed aspect of our service, which is a key one but also the teamwork.

As well as the Fastest Pit Stop, we sponsor the Fastest Lap, which is an extra championship point given to the fastest driver as long as he finished in the Top 10 during the weekend. The driver who achieves the greatest number of fastest lap points throughout the season also wins the DHL Fastest Lap Trophy.

Both activations reinforce our core attributes of speed and teamwork but also getting it right the first time. Just like an F1 driver, we don't want to come back for delivery a second time.

So, across all our Motorsport partnerships, I would say the three most shared attributes are speed, teamwork and getting it right the first time.”

DHL is the longest-standing global partner of F1. How do you keep a 40-year partnership relevant?

“Well, our partnership is still growing! The whole entertainment and show aspect of F1 has gone up a gear, and so this means a lot more materials need transportation.

The truth is, it’s challenging to find new ways to tell nice stories. Instead, we have been shifting from the one-way communication we have done since the beginning of the partnership towards more interaction and conversations with the fans.

Examples of this are the trophy design competitions where we included fans, employees, and customers in the design and production of the trophies. The most important one being the design of the DHL Fastest Pit Stop trophy which again brings in a sustainability aspect by using debris from the track.

Campaigns such as ‘Fan Reporter’ also seek to generate interaction with fans, employees, and customers. Telling the story of how good and how fast we are is nice, and it's for sure a true one. Nevertheless, the credibility and authenticity of somebody else, a like-minded person and fan, telling the story has another dimension of credibility that fans respond to in a very positive way.”

The F1 audience is changing with younger viewers increasing by 77%. How do you communicate with this new audience to ensure the DHL brand continues to resonate? 

“The content we create is far more tailored to each social media platform. TikTok needs a different approach than Instagram, and the story needs to fit into this new world which is ‘snackable’. Snackable in terms of topics and snackable in terms of length because when I asked my son to watch a two-hour race, he would rather go for a 10-minute summary.

The viewing and watching behaviours of younger audiences have changed and so have their interests. It isn’t enough to talk just about lap times we need to also provide more authenticity on the drivers. What is really going on behind the scenes, what are the interactions.

As part of this, we have created our own digital platform called DHL in Motion. It is our owned content platform which has curated a dedicated registered fan base of 1.5 million. This is where we can cater to specific audience interests and deliver first-hand content to new fans.”

On top tips and advice

“If you want to create awareness for your brand, a mere logo presence in the sense of branding may be a start.

But if you want to step up and really connect with the fans in their most precious moments of time, you need to think and act along a true 360-degree activation program.

Brand awareness can be an early objective, but you need to engage with your audiences in different geographies and in different cultural societies. That means putting on your listening mode and being creative. Then it takes time. It is an investment for sure, but it's worthwhile.”