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The Formula for High Fashion: How Sunglasses Deals Became Big Business for the F1 Industry

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Formula 1 is a sport that’s long been associated with high fashion and class, but it turns out that fashion and F1 is big business – particularly when it comes to the types of sunglasses that leading drivers are sporting.

Not only do a whole host of F1 teams boast strategic brand deals with sunglasses brands, but drivers have been landed in fairly hot water by the statements that their choice in shades have made. The big-money nature of F1, and the cost of retaining star drivers whilst developing some of the world’s most cutting edge vehicles, means that Formula 1 teams are heavily dependent on striking the right sponsorship deals for just about every visible area of their car and driver uniforms – including eyewear. 

As the racing team that’s enjoyed plenty of success with one of the world’s most decorated drivers, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes has attracted a range of sponsors hailing from a wide range of industries – from computing to energy drinks. Notably, we can see Tommy Hilfiger among the racing team’s leading fashion labels, and, interestingly, Police Eyewear. 

Whilst strategic deals between racing teams and eyewear companies may not seem like the most natural of combinations, the sheer star quality of having a pair of shades being sported by Lewis Hamilton can make for excellent marketing for Police – more so than most generic advertising campaigns. 

Riding the Wave of the Great F1 Comeback

Although designer sunglasses feel pretty on-brand for the excitement and glamour of F1 racing, onlookers may be forgiven for thinking that there may be better opportunities for exposure out there amidst other sports with stronger viewing figures. But in reality, it seems like brand partnerships with F1 firms have certainly come to fruition as Formula 1 recently enjoyed its most-watched season ever in 2021.

Of the top 10 most-watched F1 events on US cable, seven took place in the 2021 season, in which Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen’s battle for the championship captivated audiences all over the world.  Sunglasses supplier to Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton, Police, saw its chance to capitalize on the new wave of interest in Formula 1 and promptly ran a billboard campaign in Dubai featuring its new ‘Police x Lewis Hamilton’ collection. However, for the biggest name in F1 today, a love of sunglasses can inadvertently give off strong messages to the sport’s growing fanbase.

When Mercedes shareda picture of Hamilton sporting some striking orange Police sunglasses, rival teams were quick to spot their similarity in colour to McLaren’s famous Papaya livery. McLaren, being Hamilton’s former racing team, were quick to tease Mercedes that their ex-driver’s allegiances are firm with the British team. 

F1 and the Sunglasses Industry are Inseparable Today

Although we’ve focused heavily on Police’s deal with Mercedes, a wide range of sunglasses brands have now become synonymous with various Formula 1 racing teams around the world. Naturally, many sunglasses deals reflect the personality of the racing teams that they’re representing. For instance, Italian racing giants Ferrari have naturally struck a deal with high fashion glasses retailer, Ray-Ban. Whilst McLaren teased Lewis Hamilton’s orange Police shades recently, the team actually has a partnership with SunGod glasses. 

Alfa Romeo currently has a partnership with Carrera Eyewear, but the Italian fashion giants actually have many deals with many prestigious vehicle manufacturers, including Porsche and Ducati. 

In the UK, RedBull’s racing team has formed a partnership with Dita Eyewear, whilst Aston Martin has teamed up with Oakley. Whereas, the only US racing team with an eyewear partnership is Haas, which has coupled up with Mau Jim. Although F1’s relationship with sunglasses manufacturers appears to be little more than a mutually beneficial goods-for-free-advertising opportunity, the relationships between brands and racing teams go far deeper. 

For instance, Oakley’s recent partnership with Aston Martin has seen the manufacturer bolster its options for collaborative opportunities like the one that saw the brand release a signature range attached to leading Dutch cyclist Mathieu van der Poel.

Due to the brand’s natural emphasis on sports-based eyewear, the Aston Martin partnership also opens the door for collaborative opportunities within its range of prescription eyewear – which we may see more of in the coming months.

Other sunglasses manufacturers have been even bolder in marketing their collaborative shades to consumers. McLaren’s partnership with SunGod led to the July 2021 launch of the SunGod x McLaren Formula 1 team collection, which is comprised of four limited-edition McLaren F1 team sunglasses models – each of which is built on SunGod’s latest lens technology with the team’s signature Papaya colourway and logo in pride of place. 

With support for Formula 1 reaching unprecedented levels around the world, sunglasses brands may find a huge customer base as a result of their partnerships with leading racing teams. In a sport that has plenty of room for high fashion and the emergence of new icons each year, F1 and the eyewear industry could be the perfect match. 

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