‘Brand Hamilton’

11 Jan

Lewis Hamilton’s photo shoot for GQ Magazine has been one of the most talked about topics amongst the F1 community on twitter today. Whatever your views on Lewis and the photos themselves, they certainly are a worthy talking point. Many have defended him and his right to do whatever he likes (which indeed he does), others have criticised the clothes he is modelling but defended the fact that he won’t have chosen them. I have to confess that my favourite response to this today came from @GrandPrixDiary “The clothes Lewis wore were not chosen by him, it’s a fashion shoot, all part of the job. I agree 100%. He still looks a right twonk though”

Lewis’s difficult season in 2011 is so well documented that I don’t need to re-cap the issues for anyone. It appeared at the end of the season as if he had turned a corner. Unfortunately I can’t help but start to feel cynical about what he said about keeping his head down in 2012 and not having any distractions from racing.

Since he said that in the final stages of the 2011 season, it appears that he’s rekindling his relationship with Nicole Scherzinger. I’m not saying he shouldn’t get back with Nicole as they clearly make each other very happy when they’re together, but she was a major distraction for him in 2011 and if they do reunite and she has another major career commitment e.g. a tour during 2012, it is likely to lead to further strain and distraction for Lewis.

My other concern for Lewis is that IX Management are starting to step up ‘Brand Hamilton’. Lewis cited his many PR commitments as being too much of a burden during 2011 and that this was having an effect on him. This photo shoot may be just one thing, but GQ is as major a magazine in the USA as it is here, and lesser known names who appear in the magazine only tend to be there for one thing – to seriously boost their profile. I don’t believe this shoot is a one-off. There’ll be further endorsements, more modelling and high profile appearances with celebrity friends. Potentially even Lewis branded goods e.g. an aftershave (gotta smell good after tending to your chin-strap beard).

With two new US races in the F1 calendar in 2012 (Austin) and 2013 (New Jersey), and the paddock saying that F1 needs to market itself heavily in the US if it is to succeed this time, the US market is undoubtedly a major temptation for IX Management. Lewis will be one of the better known drivers amongst non-F1 fans in the US because of his relationship with Nicole, and so has the best chance of becoming the ‘big star’ of F1. His management have plenty of experience at marketing a British sporting star in the US – just look at David Beckham. It can’t be denied that ‘Brand Beckham’ is much more significant these days than Becks’s actions on the pitch.

Lewis’s management company have promised to be present at every race in 2012 to provide support to Lewis, but this will not give him the same ‘bubble’ that Jenson Button has on the other side of the McLaren garage. His father continues to be Paul DiResta’s manager, younger brother Nic is building his own career, and it is unlikely that Nicole would attend every race if they do reunite. Will he bring his mother to more races? Jenson has the upper hand at McLaren going in to 2012 after his successes last year, and however things pan out for Lewis I’d tip Jenson to out-perform him again in 2012.

If Lewis wants to win another F1 title then he will need to stick to his word and keep his head down. It would be a real shame if everything he has worked for since a young boy was compromised by the temptations of ‘Brand Hamilton’. It is too early to tell at this stage, but there is a risk that 2012 could be another challenging year for the 2008 World Champion.


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