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F1 sponsor Singapore Airlines will still use cabin crew at race despite ‘grid girls’ ban

Singapore Airlines will continue to use the iconic ‘Singapore Girls’ in its marketing activations at the Formula One Grand Prix this weekend, but the airline has refused to say how cabin crew will be tasked at the event and whether they will still use staff as ‘grid girls’ to welcome drivers.

Last year, the new F1 owners Liberty Media banned walk-on grid girls in an attempt to bring the sport’s image up to date. The previous status quo, whereby ‘grid girls’ donned clothes on the track promoting sponsors and created a human corridor to welcome drivers was deemed to be outdated and inappropriate.

However, Singapore Airlines – which first introduced its version of ‘grid girls’, in the form of cabin crew wearing the airline uniform, back in 2014 – refused to answer questions as to how this year might be different after the management ruling.

When Mumbrella asked the airline what type of sponsorship activations the Singapore Girls would be involved in and whether male cabin crew would participate as well, a company spokesperson responded: “Unfortunately, we are unable to comment beyond what has already been shared and would encourage you to watch the race to find out more.”

The statement previously put out by the airline read: “Our cabin crew are brand ambassadors for Singapore Airlines and will continue to play an integral role in the upcoming Formula 1 2018 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix.”

But back in March, F1 Singapore GP marketing director Sasha Rafi told Mumbrella in an interview that she did not believe the ‘grid girls’ concept was exploitative. “You could perceive grid girls as sexist. However it was not just about what they were wearing but also what they stood for – ambassadors to showcase the brand of the title partner.

“The Singapore Airlines grid girls for the last few years have been the icons for Singapore and the ROI for sponsors is about airtime and brand awareness, it was a channel to allow that to happen.

“I don’t think that is exploitation. It does work as a brand activation for the sponsor. Singapore was different to any other circuit where you might see grid girls wearing short skirts and leather boots. It differed from market to market.”

As the headline sponsor, beyond the appearances of the Singapore Girls, the airline has also organised other activations for this weekend including a photo exhibition in Orchard “for the public to get a flavour of the race”.

There will also be a Singapore Airlines fan village within the circuit for those attending. It will include race simulators, a Singapore Airlines photo wall, merchandise store and an A380 and Boeing 787-10 virtual reality experience.

Meanwhile, F1 chief executive officer and chairman Chase Carey – who helped to acquire the sports property for Liberty two years ago for some S$11 billion – told Singaporean news site Today that changes were happening fast because “we’ve listened continuously to our fans in order to understand what works and what needs to be looked at”.

He added: “There is no other sport which has such a huge fan base — more than half a billion — spread across five continents, takes place every year and not every four like the Olympic Games and the Fifa World Cup.

“This potential has (yet) to be fully tapped, but we’re on the right way. Working together with all the stakeholders will allow the sport to really become the greatest spectacle on the planet.”

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