Fingal has been working for Honda F1 since 1999, when Honda Motor Company began preparations to return to Formula One the following year as engine supplier to the new British American Racing team. Honda employed both the design and marketing arms of the company in order to both provide an online presence and the public relations service.
Since then Honda Motor Co. has bought outright British American Racing and now, as the Honda Racing F1 Team, has its own in-house PR service. However, Fingal has been retained as the interactive agency charged with designing, building, maintaining and providing content for its official team website.
The relationship has gone from strength-to-strength as Fingal has used its design experience to break new ground in the F1 online arena, with Honda always keen to bring in brand-new USPs in order to stay ahead of the competition and improve the online experience for the global fan-base. Fingal is also charged with providing websites for the media, Honda local markets and, launching this year, team sponsors.
Brief and content
In 2006 the public-facing website was in its second year and the HTML format needed a facelift. Competing Formula One teams had begun to close the gap in terms of design, functionality and content.
It was clear that the existing design and structure, while original and modern at time of launch in January 2005, was being imitated elsewhere. Fingal approached Honda to consider a major rebuild and Honda jumped at the chance to move ahead of the competition once again.
It was Honda’s intention to provide a number of stand-out features that would break new ground and provide its fan-base with the definitive Formula One website. The client was conscious that video content is rapidly becoming the must-have feature of any brand website.
Through behind-the-scenes video features the Honda Racing F1 Team realised it could bring the exclusive, and often hard to access, world of F1 into the homes of the general public. So was born Honda Racing TV.
Fingal was asked to look at the way in which other sports teams incorporated video so an evaluation was carried out of the top international football teams’ sites as well as top sports sites from the USA – basketball, American football, NASCAR, Indycar, etc.
Honda also wanted to engage fans in other ways and Fingal suggested a number of solutions, including the Fans’ Gallery, which allows users to upload their own images and videos. The functionality and competition mechanic, whereby users send in the best content relating to a monthly topic, was developed by Fingal.
The intention from the first conceptual discussions was to create a dynamic, interactive magazine. It had to be designed to communicate all aspects of the team in a clear engaging format to wow both the hardcore fan and the casual visitor.
The site would make use of magazine style layouts and bold typography, with many of the page layouts being based on a square grid; a device used to link the pages together on a virtual 'tabletop', giving the site a sense of unity and movement.
As an extension of the magazine concept the ‘Honda Racing TV’ area would need regular TV content and with the films released twice-weekly throughout the year, giving previews, inside information and features.
Fingal decided to house all the videos in a custom built console that could be accessed from anywhere on site. This allows the designers to collate all the videos together in a kind of stand-alone TV channel while still integrating them with content throughout the site.
The deadlines for the project were quite tight, as Honda wanted to get the new site up early in the 2007 racing season and still wanted to provide a simplified low-band offering retaining the nine languages offered by the existing site. In the end, the project took 10 weeks to complete in total, including planning and testing.
In total Fingal had eight people working on the project at various times, but at the core of the project there was one designer, one actionscripter, two php developers and a content editor. Fingal also had its Italy-based translation agency working on the localisation.
Launch and reaction
The site launched to the public on 4 June. Feedback from F1 team sponsors, Honda markets, fans and just about everywhere was actively encouraged. Reaction was overwhelmingly positive, with visitors as expected loving the TV content but also enjoying the fresh look and feel and chance to send in their own images and videos.
Reaction from the F1 world has also been terrific, with news snippets appearing on websites and in magazines such as F1 Racing. Fingal has also been hugely encouraged that the creative media have recognised the hard work involved.
Traffic numbers are good, too, with Alexa ranking www.HondaRacingF1.com third amongst the F1 team sites, up from fourth – impressive considering the Honda Racing F1 Team is ninth in the F1 World Championship and the Ferrari website (ranked number 1) is a portal for road-car as well as F1 information.
Of course, there’s a lot more to be done. There will be further integration of video and work is ongoing on a stunning 3D animation of the car around one of the F1 circuits. There’s also an interactive element in the pipeline which will allow users to explore the Honda RA107 F1 car and find out more about each area of the machine.
RSS will also be employed within the news area and may be rolled out into the images or Honda Racing TV sections, allowing subscribers to know exactly when new content is available.
As part of Fingal’s remit it will be continuously adding to the sticky content such as Honda Racing TV features, editorial features, news stories, wallpapers, screensavers and images so that the site is kept fresh and visitors return to the site.
Fingal is also in the process of launching HTML websites for media, local Honda markets and team sponsors to allow them to exploit Honda’s F1 programme.
The work for the Honda Racing F1 Team is on-going and it’s the Fingal’s intention to keep one step ahead of the competition.
Fingal is a ‘Creative Communications’ agency with award-winner print, interactive and PR/marketing divisions, offering complete solutions to its prestigious clients, including Aston Martin, Rolls Royce, Honda Racing F1 Team, Philips, DAKS and William Grant & Sons.
Fingal was recently acquired by the acclaimed John Brown Publishing Group with a client portfolio including John Lewis, Orange and RBS.
About the Authors, William Dron and Andrew Rees
William Dron graduated in 2002 with a BA(Hons) in Communications, Culture and Media from Coventry University and went immediately into motor sport PR, joining Fingal in January 2003. He is now Senior Content Manager for interactive at Fingal.
Andrew Rees joined Fingal as an interactive designer in 2003. Since then he has risen to Lead Designer working for clients such as Rolls Royce and Aston Martin.