Goodbye Grid Girl, hello S'pore Girl?

NOW that the (multi) million-dollar question on who will be the title sponsor for this year's Singapore Grand Prix has been answered, the next big question appears to be - what's going to happen to the Grid Girls?

For the uninitiated, SingTel - formerly the title sponsor of the Singapore leg of the Formula 1 Championship - introduced the SingTel Grid Girls at the inaugural race in 2008, when it selected 44 young ladies from a pool of some 300 hopefuls, tasking them with the - some say, envious - responsibility of guiding the F1 drivers to their cars, among other things. Dubbed the SingTel Grid Girls, they became a permanent fixture at subsequent editions of the world's only F1 night race.

This week, Singapore Airlines (SIA) announced it had signed an initial two-year agreement to come onboard as the title sponsor - thus marking the end of SingTel's six-year run - as it seeks to give its brand-name a further boost by hitching its (albeit already sizeable) wagon to the glamorous, high-octane F1 franchise.

The champagne-sipping, jet-setting crowd which throngs the luxe Paddock Club each race weekend is the perfect audience to promote the premium carrier. SIA has been strengthening its network through code-share agreements and strategic alliances. It is acquiring next-generation aircraft as well as investing in cabin and lounge upgrades to edge out competitors. The converse is equally true for race promoter Singapore GP (SGP), which is working on potential marketing tie-ups with SIA, such as F1 packages - a logical step given SIA's extensive network and client base of affluent travellers.

And one could argue that in the kebaya-clad Singapore Girl, SIA has a ready-made Grand Prix mascot - an icon as instantly recognisable as a Starbucks sign to a caffeine-starved hipster. Plus, telling the F1 drivers to fasten their seatbelts would come perfectly naturally to them.

Beaming the Singapore Girl into the living rooms of the nearly 90 million television viewers who tune in every September when the Singapore Grand Prix flags off is great marketing. Rival carriers such as Dubai's Emirates and Abu Dhabi's Etihad have cottoned on to this, having already firmly parked their marketing dollars with Bernie Ecclestone and company.

But still, perhaps a wardrobe tweak might be in order for race weekend if the SIA Girls were to take their place on the starting grid this September. One wit quipped in an online forum: "With their tight, long skirts, they will take forever to walk away from the grid after holding their banner/umbrella next to the cars. This will delay the start of the race. Drivers sitting in their cars will be frustrated."

And while we're at it, why not bring out SIA's male cabin crew and flaunt some Grid Boys too? After all, gender equality is a big thing nowadays and the airline, criticised over the years for typecasting women, now gets a chance to make amends.

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