Who will benefit from Armstrong’s Dirt Rally WRC deal?

Earlier this week, Jon Armstrong revealed his Junior World Rally Championship plans in partnership with Codemasters, bringing the Codemasters DiRT Rally Team to the WRC in 2021.

While the deal offers a lifeline to Armstrong’s WRC ambitions, it also has massive potential to benefit Codemasters, the WRC, and rallying as a whole.

Before I unpiece the details it is worth stating that the World Rally Championship already reaches millions of people across the globe.

But that doesn’t mean there are no avenues yet to explore. Codemasters’ involvement in this year’s championship is something completely new to the WRC.

So, what exactly can Codemasters bring to the WRC?

Last October, Codemasters celebrated nine million drivers on Dirt Rally 2.0. Yes, that’s nine million unique players on the game since its release 20 months earlier.

It’s a staggering number of people interested in rallying and makes up an ideal target market for real-life motorsport. Times are changing and life in lockdown has shown the value of gaming as a way of engaging the next generation of rally fans, drivers, marshals, mechanics… the list goes on.

Codemasters is a perfect avenue to attract more stakeholders to the WRC and Armstrong’s foray into the Junior WRC is an ideal way to test the water.

“Codemasters is such a big brand that it can potentially draw new people to the WRC,” said the 26-year-old. “I know the WRC is huge in its own right but I hope that this can bring the two groups of consumer closer together.

“Personally I have a lot of followers now in America that are currently more interested in gaming rather than the WRC. I think this is a good way to get people that are still a little bit green involved in the sport.

“Rallying is quite a unique sport and we are all in this together to raise its awareness.”

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How does the deal benefit Codemasters?

Codemasters’ commitment to Armstrong’s JWRC campaign didn’t come at the click of a finger. There was plenty of hard work behind the scenes to make it happen.

The realities of business mean there are no magic money trees or golden cash buckets to write the cheque required for a serious world rally programme.

To make a proposition like this work it needs to have a selling point. Just like Codemasters can influence gamers to tune into real-life rallying, its presence in the WRC has the potential to sell virtual rallying to die-hard rally purists.

Car manufacturers utilise rallying to increase their sales figures; Codemasters can tap into the same market to sell more copies of Dirt Rally.

And as Armstrong explains, his ongoing focus is providing a beneficial return on investment for Codemasters.

“Codemasters has a wealth of experience in virtual motorsport but real-life motorsport is still quite new to the marketing team.

“It is a little bit like educating them at the moment, showing them how things are done and what they can get from it.

“The team wants to highlight the similarities between gaming and real-life. There are some really good ideas, we’ve got a nice content plan, and it totally makes sense for the best rally game developer to sponsor a real-life team.

“When we arrive at events I hope that people gain a sense of what we are trying to do. We want people to follow us and enjoy what we are doing.

“For me, I want to make sure we generate the return on investment that we are expecting. Obviously, I am competing against other marketing options that Codemasters could spend its budget on.

“I want this to become an asset that Codemasters can continue with, I don’t want it to fizzle out.

“It is all quite new but I know there are some great ideas. We just need to give it a go and then built upon it.”

The final product

This may be Dirt Rally’s first taste of WRC action but it is not the first time Codemasters and Armstrong have combined to take on real-life rally stages.

Anyone remember that fearsome Ford Fiesta on Galway International Rally? Or that menacing Mini WRC on the Down Rally?

Armstrong’s partnership with Dirt Rally 2.0 on those two 2019 events not only reaped a reward in terms of rally results but has clearly planted a seed to show such an investment is fruitful for video game sales.

Speaking to Armstrong you can tell that seeing the game’s branding on a rally car got fans interested in the latest edition of Dirt Rally. Fan fever for “DiRT” in Ireland was out of control and inadvertently raised Armstrong’s profile even further.

Two years on the DiRT-Armstrong pairing are back and more focused than ever on achieving results on the stages as well as meeting those marketing requirements.

Time and again Armstrong has found a way to showcase his talent behind the wheel of the rally car. But this deal is the biggest one yet.

Adam Hall

Brought up in the Irish countryside, Adam was never far away from the world of rallying. From following local events like the Circuit of Ireland and the Ulster Rally, Adam now puts the stories from stages all around the world into words through his website Rally Insight.

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