Andrew Mariot - Sponsorship and PR guru (CSS Promotions) recalls
Without any question the most spectacular Formula1 launches we were involved in were run for the eccentric boss of Essex Petroleum. David Thieme.The Zoro-hatted American had taken over primary sponsorship of Team Lotus back in 1980. Thieme was in the oil spot market business and was for a while spectacularly successful buying and selling tankerfuls of crude oil as they plied the high sea.
He wanted to impress his 30 or so big customers by not only sponsoring Lotus and but also putting on the biggest and most lavish launches ever. At CSS Promotions we came up with the concept of using the Albert Hall as the venue. In addition to the car launch we would put on an evening’s entertainment. Thieme liked the idea but had one worry: he didn’t want anyone to go hungry, and he wanted to feed them. The only problem – there aren’t any kitchens at the Albert Hall.
But with big bucks most problems can be solved and thus his guests , the media and a lot of hangers-on were treated to a lavish dinner cooked by legendary South of France Chef Roger Verge and brought in by heated wagons from the kitchens of the Dorchester. When the meal was over Shirley Bassey was the entertainment
A year later Thieme wanted it to be even bigger and it was probably our finest hour. Through Mark Thatcher, we managed to persuade his mother to turn up and press the flesh with all Mr Thieme’s key clients. Outside the Albert Hall we’d done a deal, via an ex-MI6 character we knew simply as, “Mac”. Mac oiled the wheels so we could park Mr Thieme’s double-decker hospitality bus in the bus lane opposite the Hall. Then we placed on top of the bus Mr Thieme’s helicopter and it looked pretty spectacular I can tell you. The helicopter, of course, didn’t actually land on this forerunner
to current uber-hospitality units, we craned it there. No-one was quite sure if the roof of the bus was strong enough to take the weight of the chopper – there were a few anxious moments – but sure enough the bus did not become a single-decker...
This time the entertainment was no less than the legendary blind R & B star Ray Charles with the Scottish singer Barbara Dickson as the warm-up act, Verge again provided the food, someone won an Essex-liveried Lotus Esprit in a free raffle, the Albert Hall was swathed in mimosa and quite a lot of people got drunk on Dom Perignon champagne. The only problem was that before he had settled a fairly substantial part of our bill Mr Thieme’s star had fallen to such a degree that he was sought by certain authorities – never to be seen at a race track again. Or wave a pen over a cheque book. Indeed everyone who had quaffed the champagne had actually done so at the expense of CSS Promotions rather than Essex Petroleum – and most of them weren’t even our friends
Extracts from the BRDC 2009 bulletin