Supercars is Australia's 3rd largest attended, and the 4th most watched television sports event. It’s perceived as one of Australia's most physically challenging sports, with elite athletes driving the world's toughest racing machines. A new media partnership with Fox Sports and Network Ten presented an opportunity to reposition and rebrand the high-octane sport. What was need was a new, striking and dominant identity that took the sport into its next phase, on and off the track.
Hulsbosch created a powerful and gutsy marque that better reflected the sport. The ‘rocket red’ and white insignia suggests an exhilarating race experience, while the curvature of the ‘S’ references the tight racetrack corners and chicanes. The letter ‘C’ is cleverly incorporated into the negative space representing the strategic thinking and power of the Supercars Championship.
James Warburton, Former CEO
There is nothing that revheads like more than smoking tyres and the smell of petrol. It’ll get their adrenalin running quicker than a V8 car screaming around the corner on Mount Panorama at Bathurst. The ability to develop speed has always been at the forefront of people’s imagination. As far back as the 9th BC, Homer the author of “The Illiad” conjured up the idea of a vehicle which ‘self-moved obedient to the beck of the gods’1 and in 1478 Leonardo da Vinci developed a self-propelled cart; often considered the forerunner of today’s automobile2. But it wasn’t until 1885 when German engineer Karl Benz stunned everyone in Mannheim with his first modern, gas-fuelled vehicle the Benz Patent Motorwagon, reaching dizzying speeds of 13km per hour. When later that year Bertha, Benz’ wife, took the Motorwagen on a historic 100km trip from Mannheim to Pforzheim to show its practicality for families, the car manufacturing industry was born and the first commercially-available automobiles sold like hotcakes3.
The visceral experience of motion, of speed and moving through time in an amazing car is utterly unique and completely seductive. Those heart-stopping, white-knuckled moments when you put the pedal to the metal to smoke the car is a dream come true for many drivers and with the advent of the car, the very first organised automobile race was held in France in 1894. Later that year racing began in the USA and once James Bennett owner of the New York Herald, offered a trophy for the fastest car, international car racing took off in earnest. In quick succession there were Grand Prix races, speedway races, stock-car races, hot rod drag races and sports-car races.
Previous brandmark 2000 - 2013
In all kinds of racing, speed is the pre-eminent goal and these car races have developed a distinctive culture of their own, shared by many diehard fans right across the world.
Touring car racing, better known as the ‘Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’ is the premier motorsport category in Australasia and one of Australia’s biggest sports. The competition is made up of heavily modified road-going cars and the series includes the world famous Bathurst 1000 race as a championship round. This round is widely regarded as the pinnacle of Australian motorsport and in 2016 Bathurst 1000 was seen by 5.54 million Australians across three days, underlining the growing popularity of V8 Supercars4. The taste of speed has transformed supercar racing into an extraordinary sporting spectacle with a cult following that is unrivalled in Australian sport. ‘The sounds, the speed, the danger, going to a race is like going to a rock-n-roll festival or the biggest damn circus in the world. It’s like sensory overload’ 5.
Supercars is Australia’s third largest attended and fourth most watched television sports event and is perceived as one of Australia’s most physically challenging sports with elite athletes engaged in brutal combat, driving the world’s toughest racing machines. As such the migration to new media partnerships presented an opportunity to reposition and rebrand the high-octane sport. The time was right for a new, striking and dominant identity leading the sport into its next phase on and off the track.
It fell to James Warburton, CEO from 2013-2017 to find a team that was able to dig into his world of petrol, flame and steel to assist in the rebranding of V8 Supercars. A call to his mate John Borghetti AO at Virgin Australia, confirmed Warburton’s choice. Hulsbosch had already re-defined the Virgin Airlines brand in Australia and Warburton wanted to see if there was anything he could do for the Supercars brand.
Finding themselves caught up in the testosterone-fuelled world of car racing the Hulsbosch team’s baptism came courtesy of Bathurst 1000. ‘I remember going up to Bathurst with Hans and he was wandering around snapping away on his Leica M8 and yelling at me, “Your brand is not anywhere mate! Where’s the branding? This is absolutely terrible! Where’s the branding?” He was 100% correct’ 6. ‘Your brand needs a very powerful, gutsy marque. Just like the race itself’7. Indeed, V8 Supercars is dynamic, aggressive and intensely competitive yet the sport needed an identity to represent these characteristics on a global stage.
The Hulsbosch team conducted vigorous consumer testing and contributed to research groups across Australia. Online surveys and extensive key stakeholder interviews provided a detailed and in-depth understanding of the evolution of the sport. This research and insights revealed that audiences are searching for sports that give permission for real heroes to unleash their raw and primal instincts, take risks and battle to win at all costs. This understanding resulted in a clear set of brand attributes and values – extreme energy, visually stunning, teamwork, respectful, relentlessly progressive, passionate, gutsy – all of which would drive the creative outcome. It was of the utmost importance that the new brand and visual identity reflected the V8 Supercars business growth strategy whilst successfully cutting through as a populist brand to appeal more broadly to current and future fans.
As it turned out, the strategic design process was as intense as car racing itself. ‘What surprised me was that I thought it was all about marketing and design. It’s not really. It’s all about branding. When it came to the strategic design process, they weren’t like some creatives I’ve worked with in the past; they had no problem in listening, adjusting and refining’ 8.
James Warburton, Former CEO
Hulsbosch designed a striking ‘rocket-red’ and white insignia; a simple, contemporary, and unambiguously tier-one identity consistent with elite sporting brands9. ‘An unforgettable and exhilarating race experience, touring cars’ new icon colouring of “red” displays a notion of fast and furious speed. Thrilling trackside showdowns are represented in the curvature of the “S” and combines with a signature of intensity to drive through the “esses”.
From the side positioning, the “C” represents the strategic thinking and power of the Supercars Championship. Primarily, this unique brand is a reflection of the courage of our Australian-based speed heroes. The new identity will generate a genuine presence as a stand-alone icon for the sport. It is developed as an enduring masterbrand to stand the test of time’ 10.
Warburton wholeheartedly agreed: ‘the new identity will transform and reinvigorate the brand and assures the sport becomes more globally recognised as the best touring car category in the world and is a leader in motorsport entertainment. The black was holding us back, so they elevated the cleanliness and gave us the white and red ‘SC’ that says to our market: “Supercars” 11. Job done.
Since the rebrand there has been a massive turnaround, anchored by crucial new television deals and race attendance up 3% since 2015. Facebook engagement is second only to AFL and there is close to an 80% improvement in profitability12. Supercars is changing, it’s evolving: ‘It’s family friendly. We are seeing more families to the street circuits, and drivers are incredible role models but also great athletes with a high level of commitment to the sport; the teams are incredibly professional’13.
1. Homer. (2014). The Illiad. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2. Keepthinking. (2017). Self-propelled cart – Codex Atlanticus Fol 812r 1478-80. University of the Arts, London. Retrieved from http://www.universalleonardo.org/work.php?id=512 3. Bellis, M. (2014). Karl Benz: Inventor of the Benz Patent Motorcar. ThoughtCo. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/karl-benz-and-automobile-4077066 4. Hickman, A. (2016). Supercars’ pulling power scores ten huge Bathurst 1000 ratings. AdNews. Retrieved from http://www.adnews.com.au/news/supercars-pulling-power-scores-ten-huge-bathurst-1000-ratings 5. Miller, G. W. (2002). Men and Speed: A Wild Ride Through NASCAR’s Breakout Season. Cambridge MA: Public Affairs Perseus Books Group. 6. Warburton, J. (2017). [Rebranding V8 Supercars]. 7. Hulsbosch, H. (2017). [Rebranding V8 Supercars]. 8 . Warburton, J. (2017). [Rebranding V8 Supercars]. 9. CAMS. (2014). V8 Supercars unveils new brand identity for Gen2 Supercars strategy Confederation of Australian Motor Sport. Retrieved from https://www.cams.com.au/media/news/latest-news/v8-supercars-unveils-new-brand-identity-for-gen2-supercars-strategy 10. Hans Hulsbosch quoted in AdNews. (2014). V8 Supercars gets a makeover. AdNews Newsletter. Retrieved from http://www.adnews.com.au/news/v8-supercars-gets-a-makeover 11. James Warburton quoted in Herbison, M. (2014). V8 Supercars rebrands in-line with its 2017 strategy. Marketing Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.marketingmag.com.au/news-c/v8-supercars-rebrands-in-line-with-its-2017-strategy/ 12. McKay, p. (2016). James Warburton talks V8 Supercars. Wheels Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.wheelsmag.com.au/features/1605/james-warburton-talks-v8-supercars 13. James Warburton quoted in McKay, p. (2016). James Warburton talks V8 Supercars. Wheels Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.wheelsmag.com.au/features/1605/james-warburton-talks-v8-supercars
"The time was right for a striking and dominant identity on and off the track. Supercars is dynamic, aggressive and intensely competitive. The sport now has an identity that represents these characteristics on a global stage."
James Warburton, Former CEO