Cannes Lions 2021: ‘Data and tech make things look professional’ – Fernando Alonso
The two-time world champion was joined by Laurent Rossi, CEO, Alpine F1 racing team and Guru Gowrappan, CEO, Verizon Media in a session
Jun 22, 2021 07:50:00 AM | Article | Raahil Chopra
At Lions Live (the online version of the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity), Alpine F1 racing driver Fernando Alonso spoke about how technology has been at the forefront of innovations in the sport. Alonso was joined by Laurent Rossi, CEO, Alpine F1, and Guru Gowrappan, CEO, Verizon Media.
Gowrappan set the context for the talk by stating how the world is in a profound moment of transformation. “How we engage and transact has shifted and a ‘new normal’ has taken flight. Technological advancements have sparked new consumer behaviours and the future that we once dreamed about is our current reality,” he said.
Gowrappan was shooting his talk in a New York City studio which was first used for movie productions. “Thanks to the advancement in technology, it is now used by all sorts of content producers,” he said.
Adding to the importance of technology he said, “Technology has shown us that we have the power to be truly connected with the people and the world around us. When our technology is married with creativity at scale, the world begins to open up in new ways.”
He then went on to explain how technology fuels creativity which in turn drives business growth and transforms the fan and athlete experience. This, in turn, paves the road for greater innovation.
He said, “In today’s world, the fan experience and the athlete’s experience are all intertwined. There’s no longer a barrier that separates the fan from the field, court or race track. This is not just the future of the sport, but the future of content, connection and transaction. While we’re using sports as a case today, technology sparks creativity in other areas like commerce, betting, finance and entertainment and so much more.”
Getting back to Formula 1, he labelled technology as an essential part of the team and sport. “In F1, technology isn’t a competitive advantage. It’s an essential part of the team and the sport. How teams creatively harness the true power of technology is the key to winning. Scores of technicians and engineers study every facet, and if anything is off even by a millisecond the team risks defeat.”
Verizon has been a partner of the Renault F1 team which is now the Alpine F1 team to connect with new audiences.
Staying relevant in a fast-moving landscape
Gowrappan then asked Rossi how one can stay relevant in this fast-moving and competitive landscape and the role of tech for the F1 team.
Rossi said, “It is at the heart of what we do at Alpine. Excellence means bringing technology at the forefront of the group Renault, be it from technology, customer experience or even distribution.”
Taking the discussion further, Rossi spoke about how the team connects with fans using tech like XR (extended reality) and VR (virtual reality).
“F1, firstly, is a gigantic marketing platform. There are half a billion viewers around the world – that’s a lot of eyeballs looking at Alpine. The launch (of the car) at the beginning of the year was made using XR tools. It was exceptional because it allowed us to connect with the audience in a way that also conveys the values of Alpine in terms of innovation and ways to surprise our customer base. VR is at the forefront of what we are doing today. It helps with the engagement of fans. It is also true for the way we show our car to multiple stakeholders. Even our drivers and engineers are accessing some parts of the car and pit even through VR,” he said.
After asking the F1 race driver about the start of this season, Gowrappan then asked him about how he has used technology to change the way he drives.
Stating that the gut feeling of engineers and designers has now been replaced by tech, Alonso said, “When I started 20 years ago, we didn’t have half the technology. Everything was much more basic. It was more a gut feeling of the engineers and the designers to make a faster car. Now, technology has allowed us to do that. We make better decisions based on the data we have and the sensors that we have in the F1 car makes things easier and much more professional. I think we are in a sport that’s very different compared to 20 years ago.”
The two-time F1 World Champion added that technology has also helped him make better decisions during a race.
“We have sensors all around the car. The information we get from them with regards to tyre management and other problems on the car help us with decisions such as overtaking, when to save tyres, the engines, the brakes. We also have information about our rivals thanks to the radio communications. If they have a problem with the car, we can hear the radio conversations and so we can react to that.”
Also added that technology has also helped the fans of the sport by offering a better viewing experience.
“Technology is a revolution for a sport. Now, our fans can see more data on television about our car, our gear shifts, our speed into the corners, the braking, the ergonomics. And I think this helps the fans to understand what we are seeing inside the cockpit,” he said.
Alonso signed off with advice for those who want to be champions in their respective genres of work.
“You have to have some kind of talent but at the same time, you have to work very hard to follow your dreams and to improve every day. This is a very competitive environment. You need to find perfection, but once you find perfection, you need to repeat it every weekend and every year because the level keeps rising,” said Alonso.
Innovation is the key
The talk ended with Rossi emphasising the need for creatives and marketers to innovate.
“Innovation is the key for creatives and marketers to stay on top. When you aim at being at the forefront, you always want to surprise your audience. The best way to surprise your audience is innovation. This is the way you can constantly reinvent yourself. And so, for marketers and creators, innovation is a super powerful tool.”