Exclusive Q&A with Allianzs Christian Deuringer 23 Sep 2010
Allianz are no strangers to Formula One racing, having been involved with the sport in one form or another for more than a decade. Thursday in Singapore, however, was something of a landmark for the ongoing relationship, as Allianzs name became the first official branding to grace the official Safety and Medical Cars. Speaking exclusively to Formula1.com, Dr Christian Deuringer, Vice President and Head of Global Brand Management of Allianz SE, explained why the company has chosen to extend its Formula One engagement
Q: Dr Deuringer, its the first time ever that the Safety and Medical Car are branded. When was the idea born and how long did it take to seal this coup?
Christian Deuringer: You can already see my excitement. It pretty much started five years back, when we were revisiting our strategy on how to position ourselves in F1. At the beginning we were focused on our brand communication, and now try to link everything much closer to our core business. We are providing 50 million car insurance policies worldwide, and the topic of road safety became more important, and this is why we are trying to find the perfect linkage between Formula One being the strong global sports platform and the Allianz brand engagement. And of course the perfect symbol to bring this linkage to life was the Safety Car, where we have already done some advertisements and promotions. But now having the official Safety and Medical Car with branding is a first, and it does make us a little proud. But to get there was not as easy, as this is not something that you choose based upon a price list. You definitely need to work hard and both parties have to have a trusted relationship.
Q: The Allianz involvement is now in its 11th season. You surely evaluate this commitment frequently and compare it to other platforms - that you are still here is a clear sign that Formula One delivers
CD: Absolutely, as otherwise we would not be such a loyal partner. But of course as a big corporation we also need to do our homework from time to time. Over the course of the first half year we did look into all other competing platforms. But if you imply criteria like global reach, and most importantly the opportunity to link it and integrate it with our business with leveraging a long term partnership, then Formula One was clearly the best choice.
Q: What other platforms have you been looking at to reach global awareness?
CD: With 75 million customers we were looking for a retail platform, and this in the end narrows somehow also down to soccer, where we already have an engagement with Allianz Arena stadium north of Munich. This is clearly a big success in Germany and mainland Europe, but it does not have the global appeal that we were looking for. Also soccer as per our assessment is massively overpriced, so the tickets you need to pay to get into this sport are tremendously high, and these were not part of our budget scope to generate comparable impact. Formula One as a platform produces a way bigger bang for the buck, as opposed to soccer.
Q: You just mentioned that Allianz is insuring over 50 million cars worldwide. What message do you want to give these customers with the branding of the Safety and Medical Car?
CD: The message is as simple as it could be: drive safely. And this message is as simple as it is effective. We are involved with our Allianz Center of Technology - a unique research institute based in Munich that is conducting for example one crash test every week in airbag and safety belt research, so we know about the impact these little things can do. If you send out this little and simple reminder, we hope that this message gets well received from participants of road traffic all over the world. And here the notion of the insurance community comes into the play, as Allianz is nothing else than an alliance of various individuals who are placing money into a bucket which is then distributed to the few ones who really need help. This is where the logic really starts, as if we are able to reduce road side accidents, injuries and fatal accidents, the better it is for the individuals and in respect also for the community. So this creates a win-win situation.
Q: The Safety Car driver Bernd Maylander has already been a brand ambassador for Allianz for quite some time. Is this now the logical step to take it global?
CD: Absolutely. This was the missing link in the story. We will keep working with Bernd also in the future. This is now a very simple measure to bring this whole engagement to life.
Q: Safety is key to Formula One, as is limiting risk. This is another point where F1 and Allianz can create synergies. Can you explain this from the Allianz side?
CD: Formula One is all about risk management, but also about speed and safety at the same time. Allianz is also about managing risk and opportunities. But we are not only providing insurance, but also the third largest active asset management company in the world, so we are looking into opportunities. And the Safety and Medical Car are the perfect vehicles, as they are fast and exciting - and all about safety.
Q: The Allianz involvement started with being a team sponsor in 2000 with BMW-Williams, followed by trackside advertisement in 2002 and then becoming an official partner of Formula One in 2007 - and now the Safety Car coup. Has your engagement now arrived at where you wanted to take it?
CD: For the time being in F1 we are quite happy. It does take time to develop trusted relationships and to get to know each other. And after all these years we got to a point where we got to certain money can't buy opportunities to be able to position our brand.
Q: Recently Formula One is increasing its presence in the Asian markets. How important is this for Allianz?
CD: The growth patterns of both Formula One and Allianz are quite similar. We are going east, and also F1 is going east. If you take Singapore for example, we are having our regional headquarters right here. Now we find Korea on the F1 calendar, which is one of our major markets for life insurance. Next year we have India in the calendar, which is our most amazing success story in Asia, so again there is a perfect match. All in all this was also one of the components for our platform selection to have a regional fit of races and markets and by this the local activation opportunities. What happened today will create a perfect win-win situation.