Remember the old rule that a brand name should be memorable and roll off the tongue? It seems that's truly been consigned to history for Formula 1 teams, with this year's season to feature two of the most ridiculously unaesthetic and impractical names yet.
First, Sauber announced that it would officially be named the Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber. And then came the former Minardi. Renamed Toro Rosso after its acquisition by Red Bull's Racing Bulls in 2009, it became AlphaTauri in 2020 in order to promote Red Bull's clothing line. Its pithy moniker for 2024 Formula 1 season? Visa Cash App RB Formula One Team (they should really read one of the best branding books).
The verbose rebranding of the AlphaTauri team is generating more vertigo than the speed at which F1 drivers take corners. Firstly, there's the sponsor, or rather the two sponsors. Visa and Cash App. These are separate companies, with the latter owned by Block Inc. However, and quite logically, the new team name is leading many people to presume that Cash App is a Visa product.
And then there's the 'RB'. Does it stand for Racing Bulls, the name of the company created to buy the team back in 2006? Or does it stand for Red Bull, the name of the parent company, which, just to make things more confusing, also owns Oracle Red Bull Racing? The new logo design confuses things even more by putting the Cash App logo below the RB, so it reads Visa RB Cash App Formula One Team. So does Cash App belong to Visa or Red Bull? ...oh, wait.
The move has been ridiculed on social media both by fans and commentators. As well as being ugly, it's also questionable from a commercial point of view. Obviously brands pay handsomely because there's a lot of exposure to be gained from Formula 1 team sponsorship, but as well as the confusion over the ownership of Cash App, the new name is so unwieldly that many people are likely to simply abbreviate it as Racing Bulls.
It's hard to imagine even the most verbally dexterous commentator getting their tongue around a phrase like "...and it's the Visa Cash App RB Formula One Team coming from the outside." Apparently, even the Faenza-based team itself has resorted to the abbreviation ‘V-CARB’, which sounds like some kind of medical device.
"Toro Rosso, Alpha Tauri were all good and sexy team names, but Visa Cash App, sorry, that is the worst team name ever and not even appropriate for F1. Just cheap," one fan complained on X.com. Many people are making similar comments, but one person has pointed out that there was a team named LEC Refrigeration Racing in the 1970s.
Kathryn Orr, Brand Strategy Director at Designit, an innovation consultancy specialising in big brand changes, told us she isn't surprised by the public reaction: “Besides being a mouthful, the name itself is confusing with commentators already resorting to nicknaming the team 'RB,' or 'The RBs.' (Thgough hopefully that doesn’t stick either, as it evokes thoughts of the fast food chain that has the meats…thus bringing yet another brand to the mix).
“Alongside sheer confusion, the name smacks of yet another boardroom decision that didn’t take F1 or fans into account. In visiting their website and reading the press release, Visa and Red Bull speak only to the benefits of the partnership and the commercial opportunities, which is not exactly what the racing fan audience wants to hear. In a rebrand, best practice is to think five steps ahead and look at the decision from all angles and audiences. How will this name be interpreted and used by fans and critics? How is it good for the brand(s)? The team? The sponsors? What is the worst that could happen? Someone, somewhere, needed to play devil’s advocate here."
Kathryn suggests the rollout could also have been better planned. “The rollout could have used a lot more thought and attention to head off negative reactions and speculation," she told us. "Where is the hype video? Where is the team support and excitement that can be shared with fans? Where is the story that connects the sponsors with the sport? The reveal itself is core to the success of a rebrand. It’s not enough to switch over URLs, social handles, and put out a press release. Rebrands need their own campaigns to get the audience on board ...whereas all it’s done is bring on a craving for curly fries and a roast beef sandwich.”
So what will Formula One branding treat us to next? Well, someone's built an F1 team name generator to come up with suggestions. Located at f1team.lol, it allows you to choose between UK and US brand names and comes up with such delightful, if retro, beauties like the 'Nando's Ask Jeeves Excite F1 Team'.