Although he is only known by 13% of American racing fans, former F1 champ Fernando Alonso, 32, is recognized by 98% of his fellow Spaniards, and 71% of the rest of the world as a whole. As a result, he has been named “the most marketable F1 driver around the globe according to Repucom’s Celebrity DBI, which went on to rate Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain second followed by Felipe Massa of Brazil, 4- time world champion, Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Ferrari’s Finnish driver Kimi Raikkönen.
“For domestic markets, these rankings shift somewhat. Alonso scores highly in his native Spain and in Italy, the home of Ferrari, while Vettel, Hamilton, Massa, Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button are all good examples of the difference domestic perceptions play in local markets,” Geach said. "Take the US market as an example,” continued Geach, “avid fans of F1 are growing, up from 15% in 2011 to 19% in 2013. Alonso is very likable, and as the global appeal of the sport increases, he is also starting to edge ahead as the fans’ favorite driver.”
The biggest surprise to many is that despite being a 6-time champ Sebastian Vettel does not score as highly in terms of public opinion as the other four. Still, all this could turn around during the new F1 season with its various changes that could well attract new audiences, thus altering international consumer perceptions of competing drivers.
“Alonso’s dominance in the rankings is due largely to his international deals and association with the Ferrari brand,” explained Nigel Geach, Senior Vice President of Motorsport, Repucom. “Despite Red Bull’s recent successes, 59% of F1 fans have an interest in the Ferrari team, representing the highest levels of interest in team in the circuit. Since races are screened across 160 global markets to a cumulative worldwide TV audience of 1.8 billion, it is easy to see the importance this can have on perception of drivers.”
Interestingly, while Massa is known by 99% of the Brazilian population, ( the highest level of awareness of any driver based on domestic results), he ranks only as the “40th most marketable person in Brazil.”
Note: The Celebrity DBI is an independent global index that quantifies consumer perceptions of more than 5,000 celebrities, including film and TV stars, musical performers, athletes, business leaders, news pundits, personalities and more to determine each one’s ability to influence brand affinity and consumer purchase intent by evaluating celebrities across eight key attributes: Appeal, Aspiration, Awareness, Breakthrough, Endorsement, Influence, Trendsetter and Trust.