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A matter of branding

NEWS STORY
20/06/2006

On June 6 (2006), a date that some within the pitlane thought wholly appropriate, Bernie Ecclestone unveiled a range of F1 branded merchandise for race fans.

In keeping with Mr Ecclestone's vision of Formula One as the sport that only the very best follow, there was no tat, far from it.

Instead race fans can choose between caps, ranging from £20 to £125, T-Shirts (£30), Polo Shirts (£45) and body warmers (£85).

There were posters (£20), note pads (£6) billfold wallets (£120) and even watches (£390), keyrings (£45) and carbonfibre mousemats (£250).

Almost everything that the F1 fan could want... and more.

Of course, some might say that many of these prices are well outside the financial range of your average F1 fan, indeed some might say that your average F1 fan wouldn't be seen dead in a cap encrusted with "300 Swarovski crystals", and would rather put the £260 towards a weekend at the Spanish GP, then splash out on a carbon fibre and leather mousemat.

However, the range, and prices, clearly indicate that F1 appears to have a pretty good idea of who its customer is, and clearly said customer is at the upper end of the feeding chain.

Perish the though that we might once again incur the wrath of BCE, but one might almost suppose that much of the merchandise is targeted at those some might term VIP fan, rather than your average burger-munching flag-waver.

However, at a time when CVC is slipping its feet under the table, it's worth noting how successful NASCAR's strategy has been in terms of branding.

Sales of NASCAR-branded products have increased 250% over the past decade totalling $2.1 billion in 2004 and according to a NASCAR study 72% of fans are more likely to buy a product if it has the logo on it.

According to The Business of Formula One: One of NASCAR's unique selling points for sponsors is the fierce loyalty of its fans. The breadth and volume of NASCAR licensed gods is phenomenal. They come in over 3,500 categories ranging from typical T-shirts, baseballs caps to unusual items such as shower curtains, toothbrushes and vegetables. It is an incredibly broad range but the value of bearing the brand cuts across it.

According to Jack Bertagna, head of sales and marketing for the Castellini Group, one of the largest distributors of fresh tomatoes and vegetables, which sells NASCAR branded potatoes, apples, tomatoes and lettuce; "apples to apples, our sales are up 20 percent".

Speaking in October 2005, Toyota boss John Howett admitted that F1 can learn from NASCAR. "All we need is one clear vision for the next four to five years," said the Englishman. "We could perhaps look at NASCAR and see how they have developed the size of their total audience and support for the sport by, I believe, having an organisation leading and developing the whole business in a unified, professional manner.

"That is, to some extent, what's really lacking at the moment," he added, "a clear future vision for the sport over the next five or ten years."

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