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F1 Festive Shopping Guide

29 Nov

Earlier in the year I wrote a couple of pieces on F1 merchandising. The first, a look at alternative merchandising, and the second, an assessment on whether teams have got their merchandising right. These went down well with fellow fans, so I’m now following up with a special festive edition. If you’re trying to write your list for Santa, or looking to buy a gift for an F1 obsessed friend/relative and are lacking inspiration, then I hope this piece helps you.

I’m sure many will have F1 race tickets on their Christmas list, and those would really be the ultimate gift….but what I’ve included here is a little more reasonably priced.

Fun stuff

I suspect there are very few F1 fans who haven’t enjoyed the McLaren ‘Tooned’ series on Sky Sports F1 (I don’t like McLaren but even I liked the cartoons). Great news for fans of the cartoon is that McLaren have brought out a range of merchandise for kids, including a DVD, for Tooned. It’s a shame for big kids that there aren’t adult clothing items…

Tooned Kids Socks £7.95, DVD £9.95

The other fun range I’m featuring here was created off the back of *the* radio messages and off-track excursions of the 2012 season (both courtesy of Mr Kimi Raikkonen) by the excellent Unlap. There are two ‘leave me alone’ designs, which are available on t-shirts (£10 kids, £14 adults) and mugs (£8).

‘Leave me alone’ designs from Unlap

Books

There’s a huge range of F1 related books available if you look on Amazon – biographies, annuals, memoirs…enough to fill many shelves. Here I’m picking one new book and one ‘classic’.

Through the Eyes of Formula 1, by Caroline Reid and Christian Sylt. Earlier in the year, Zoom organised a charity auction of photographs taken by a number of drivers and key personnel in the 2012 F1 paddock. These photographs have now been compiled in to a book – available on Amazon for £11.80.

 

The Grand Prix Saboteurs, by Joe Saward. This book was published in 2006 after meticulous research by the author (who is also a journalist in the F1 press pack) in to this amazing true story. It tells the story of F1 drivers in 1920’s and 1930’s who became secret agents during WW2. There have been plans to make a movie of these events but there are currently funding issues. Available new on Amazon for £12.99 (less for second-hand copies).

 

F1 experiences at Silverstone

Silverstone has an ever-increasing range of experiences available for petrol heads looking for an adrenaline rush, and they have some excellent Christmas offers available.

Their ‘Thrill Super Choice Voucher’ is £79 and allows the lucky recipient to take their pick from a range of seven cars and go for a spin around the track. The best deal, however, is to pay the higher rate of £99 and get two adult tickets for the Friday of the 2013 F1 Silverstone Grand Prix.

If you’re looking for something a little cheaper or less exhilarating, Silverstone also offer tours of the circuit for £15 and helicopter flights over it from £39.

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F1 Merchandising – Have The Teams Got It Right?

19 May

Like fans of any other sport, Formula 1 fans want to get their hands on official merchandising of the teams they support. Before the start of the season I decided to look at what teams released and when so that I could write about it here. I’ve never previously taken a look across all the teams in this way, and what I found surprised me to the extent that I questioned whether or not the teams in one of the most commercial sports in the world have got it right.

Timing of merchandise release

We’re now past race weekend 5 of 20 – a quarter of the way through the 2012 F1 season, and some teams have still not released their merchandising collections online through their websites. Those still in that category are Williams F1, Sahara Force India and HRT. The majority of teams had their merchandise available by the Malaysian race, although Mercedes (whom I was very impatiently waiting for) didn’t release theirs until mid-April.

With merchandising changing from one season to the next, the late timing of the releases does not represent good value for money for fans; F1 merchandising (like most sports) is not cheap. Why is it so late in some cases? It is hard to say for sure in each individual case, but waiting until sponsorship deals have been sealed can put production of the merchandising on hold. It is inevitable for the team that the income from the pending sponsor(s) will be worth more to the team than income from merchandising.

The contrast in timing of release of official F1 team ‘kit’ for supporters with football teams is striking. The 2011/12 football season is barely over, but the kit for 2012/13 season for many teams is either already available to buy or can at least be pre-ordered. Even those teams awaiting sponsorship deals to be agreed (or branding changes) are likely to release their kit in July, still ahead of the start of the season.

Price Comparison

The price of merchandising across F1 teams varies significantly. I took a look at the cost of a team replica ladies shirt for each team who has released merchandising to date. Replica kit is always more expensive than other ranges offered by teams so it should be noted that there are cheaper alternatives available. Here are the prices, in descending order:

Caterham £60

Mercedes £58.50

Lotus £53

Sauber (unisex) £52 (Conversion based on current £/€ exchange rate)

Red Bull £44.19 (Conversion based on current £/€ exchange rate)

Marussia £39.99

McLaren £39.95

Toro Rosso – no official shirt

Ferrari – not available online

This list shows a significant range in price across the teams. The McLaren shirt is a relative bargain(!) for one of the ‘big teams’ but is a t-shirt rather than a polo or shirt. By contrast the prices of the Mercedes and Caterham shirts are somewhat eyewatering.

Gender balance

Being a female F1 fan, I was particularly interested by the merchandising available to women. It was striking, and disappointing, that some teams only sell a fraction of items to women compared to the menswear range. If my twitter feed (@schuvettelainen) is anything to go by, the gender balance amongst F1 fans is pretty equal. Shots of the grandstands on race weekends also support this – there are always plenty of women at races.

Red Bull, Lotus, Marussia and McLaren all have full ranges for women, while Sauber’s official team line is unisex.  By comparison, Mercedes has 2 items (plus  a unisex jacket) for women compared to 11 for men.

Even more depressing is that some teams don’t even have menu filters for women on some parts of their website. The Ferrari store has a women’s section in their general range, but in the Scuderia section containing the F1 merchandise there are filters for men and kids, but not for women. It is possible to buy Ferrari women’s clothing in shops but it is really odd that it isn’t available online. (Interestingly in the Ferrari Scuderia section there is a filter for Fernando Alonso, but not for Felipe Massa – there is Felipe gear on there, but you have to trawl through everything to find it).

The Scuderia section of Ferrari’s online shop

Caterham have women’s team replica kit, but not a lifestyle range. I contacted their e-shop to ask why this was, and I was assured that the items are on their way (and that Caterham value their female fans as much as their male fans), but if they are able to produce men’s lifestyle products from the start, why not women’s?

The Caterham e-shop. See menu on left hand side.

With some teams having full lines for their female fans it seems that some recognise that women are massive F1 fans too, but others apparently haven’t got it right and have some way to go to catch up.

Accessories and other items

One thing all teams are good at is producing accessories and other assorted items. Here’s a selection of what is out there.

Red Bull have a massive range of items:

Seb Jigsaw (£10.41), Bandana (£9.61) and RB7 nosecone (£80,38) from the Red Bull Racing Shop

Mugs and USB sticks are a popular choice with teams. McLaren and Lotus have the nicest, although the Lotus USB is frankly extortionate.

Lotus USB stick (£40), Lotus mug (£14) and McLaren Tea-Lemetery Mug (£9.95)

Belts and notebooks are also popular choices. I like these ones from Caterham F1:

Caterham Belt (£24) and Leather Notebook (£18)

Have the teams got it right?

In some cases it seems the teams are spot on – a good choice for all, while others seem to have got it wrong (from a fan’s perspective) in terms of timing and/or gender inequality. I don’t know how teams plan their merchandising ranges, but they don’t seem to be drawing on consistent data. It will be interesting to see what the remaining teams offer when their collections are released.

Fan Focus – Team Sponsorship

12 Feb

One of the things that really interests me about F1 is the connection between teams and fans. Over the next few weeks I’ll be doing a series of ‘Fan Focus’ articles which will look at the different ways in which teams connect with or appeal to F1 fans.

This first article will look specifically at team sponsorship. After a winter break which has been dominated by talk of ‘pay drivers’ and the sponsors they bring to a team, I have been giving thought to what sponsorship means to us fans who are, theoretically, the end-targets of the high speed billboards that we love watching so much. But what does sponsorship really mean to fans these days? Is it always aimed at us, and do we even care who sponsors teams and drivers?

I recently ran a brief fan survey on twitter about sponsorship, the outcomes of which will be outlined here (many thanks to those who completed the survey for me).

Team and driver sponsorship

One of the questions I asked fans was whether they considered themselves a supporter of a team or a driver or both. Only 10% considered themselves a team supporter as opposed to a driver or a driver and team supporter. As drivers tend to move between teams several times during their career, our exposure to sponsors associated with our favourite drivers will inevitably change over time.

57% of those who responded didn’t feel that they were influenced by sponsorship of teams and drivers. This response felt about right to me, as many aren’t influenced by branding. Conversely though, the same proportion of people felt influenced by advertisements featuring an F1 driver. Seeing a particular product being advertised by a driver will get a better response than just a brand name on the side of a car. Mind you, given the quality of some adverts featuring F1 drivers recently (here’s looking at you Jenson Button) you have to wonder…

I also decided to ask fans whether sponsorship of teams (and their drivers) that they *didn’t* like had any negative effect on them. For every driver that we like, there’s usually at least one that we dislike equally strongly. I have to confess that I do get put off by sponsorship of a team I’m “less keen” on. Over a quarter of you agreed with me on that – glad I’m not alone!

Accessibility of sponsors

With some ‘pay drivers’ bringing big company sponsorship, or even national funding (Pastor Maldonado will you please stand up), I was starting to feel like some of the names appearing on the cars were completely unreachable to me. 37% of people who responded to the survey felt that companies sponsoring teams were irrelevant or unaffordable to them. Even in a time of economic difficulty that is quite a high number.

It was interesting to see some of the new brand names on the Lotus F1 team after they formed a partnership with mega-corporation Unilever. They have a huge number of household brand names which are accessible to fans, and have opted to put on two brands which relate to performance and endurance – Clear Anti-Dandruff shampoo and Rexona (the global name for Sure Deodorant). If Unilever are getting in on the act then others may possibly follow.

Team approaches to sponsorship

Different teams inevitably have different approaches to sponsorship. Those who are privately funded or who are at least very successful attract a lot of sponsors and can afford to create a branding ethos or philosophy with their “partners”. If you haven’t read it before, Red Bull’s page about their partners shows how a big, financially strong team can approach its sponsorship: http://www.redbullracing.com/cs/Satellite/en_INT/Red-Bull-Racing-Partners/001242811070589 Most of Red Bull’s sponsors are “reachable” to fans in one country or another (inevitably not everything is available everywhere e.g. it is very hard to get Rauch Juices in the UK).

Other financially strong teams like McLaren, Mercedes GP and Caterham F1 also have pages outlining their partners and describe how they work together.

By contrast, a team like Williams F1 who are clearly a little strapped for cash (two heavily sponsored drivers) have a page aimed at their investors (including a share price) and just a flicking ticker of sponsors across the bottom of the page. The brands associated with them are more about what the drivers can bring rather than creating an ethos or a philosophy. If they’re lucky it’ll be a brand name which connects with fans, but teams who need money will take cash from whoever is prepared to stump up the cash that they need. Keeping your place on the grid has to be a priority before developing an ethos to appeal to fans.

Other thoughts

The nature of F1 sponsorship was changed radically by the tobacco advertising ban. Before that, F1 sponsorship was heavily dominated by tobacco companies. Almost every team had a major tobacco sponsor. Tobacco advertising, whatever your views on smoking, was aimed at individual fans and since the ban was brought in teams have had to seek out sponsors in different industries. Some have had to ‘go big’ and look for larger companies e.g. telecoms to support them, while others can support themselves and aim for brands which are more in touch with fans. Only 17% responded that they felt sponsorship was less targeted at fans since the tobacco ban was brought in, so teams have managed to stay in touch with fans fairly successfully.

One off-putting thing for me as a fan is too much sponsorship from one brand. The worst offender right now is probably Santander. They sponsor two of the top four teams (McLaren and Ferrari), as well as a significant proportion of the races. I really dislike that so many trophies are now in the shape of their logo. I wouldn’t bank with them anyway because of the financial issues they’ve had recently, but I’d certainly be otherwise put off by seeing their logo everywhere at races. Everyone is different though, and it clearly wins them customers otherwise they wouldn’t sponsor races.

Whatever your view on sponsorship in F1, whether you resent it or feel inspired by it, it is an integral part of the sport we love. Global sports are nothing without their fans though, and there’s a risk that teams will lose sight of that when it comes to their finances. Having said that, what interests us die-hard fans most is the racing; I’m not sure we really care what logos happen to appear on the cars as long as they are there on the track.

Do let me know your thoughts using the comments feature below.