Do motorsports rev up brands?
More than one-third of motor racing fans would be influenced by a manufacturer's success on the racing circuit when buying a car or motorcycle, according to a recent global study by Synovate.
Synovate surveyed 1,548 motorsport fans from the United States, Germany, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), China and Malaysia, asking which type of racing they followed and the brand perceptions formed by the sport.
Formula One is the most popular motorsport worldwide, followed most closely by 60 percent of motor racing fans. In the United States, however, NASCAR is the motorsport of choice for 84 percent of race fans. The World Rally Championship has a solid fan base in Saudi Arabia and the UAE (31 and 27 percent respectively), while 21 percent of Malaysians prefer the two-wheeled action of MotoGP.
Success on the racetrack had the greatest impact on fans' future vehicle purchases in Saudi Arabia (68 percent) and the UAE (59 percent). Synovate's Managing Director for the Middle East, Andreas Gregoriou, points out that people in those markets love cars and are able to indulge this passion, thanks to their high disposable income. "Add to this the fast-growing interest in motorsports, thanks to the Formula One race staged in Bahrain and the popular Dubai Autodrome circuit, and it's no surprise that local buyers want to live their dreams by driving a car whose brand has enjoyed racing success."
By contrast, only 15 percent of American and 17 percent of German motorsport fans would be influenced by results on the track when shopping for a car or motorcycle. Synovate Motoresearch CEO Scott Miller attributes this to the maturity and competitive landscape of these markets. "Buyers have so many product choices and so many sources of information which influence their purchases that racing success may not greatly affect them."
Sponsors spend heavily to support motorsports, and Synovate found that they are getting a return on their investment. Globally, 32 percent of racing fans would be more likely to buy a brand that sponsors motorsports, with the UAE (53 percent) and Saudi Arabia (49 percent) topping the list. By contrast, only 15 percent of Germans are swayed by a brand’s association with racing.
And which vehicle manufacturers are most associated with motorsports? Globally, Ferrari is in pole position, as shown in the table below. But local makes are top of mind in the United States, with Chevrolet and Ford, both major players in NASCAR, most strongly linked to racing by US fans.
Miller notes that the US auto market's hottest brands are some of the least associated with racing. "Chevrolet and Ford have been losing share for several years while Toyota and Honda have been gaining. As a result, many consumers who may be committed to purchasing a Toyota or Honda still associate motorsports with Chevrolet and Ford. While consumers may be impressed by the accomplishments of the brands that they associate most highly with motorsports, they may not be considering purchasing products from those brands anyway."
Interestingly, Ferrari's greatest share of mind came in Germany. Synovate's Managing Director for Germany, Harald Hasselmann, credits this to one man: "Seven-time Formula One champion Michael Schumacher is a sporting hero in Germany, and he is indelibly linked with Ferrari, the team with which he won most of those titles."
Surprisingly, Renault, whose driver Fernando Alonso was Formula One champion in 2005 and 2006, was cited by only 1 percent of respondents.
Synovate's Gregoriou says the strong association of Toyota and Mitsubishi with racing amongst Saudis (19 and 16 percent respectively) reflects the popularity of endurance racing. "Mitsubishu has a great record in the World Rally Championship and the Paris-Dakar rally, while Toyota has also enjoyed success in regional rallying."
In Malaysia, the popularity of MotoGP racing mirrors the brand association with Honda and Yamaha (21 and 16 percent respectively), two of the two most successful makes in that motorcycle championship.
The impact of racing success on vehicle purchase decisions revealed by Synovate's survey, coupled with these strong brand associations, suggest that the adage, 'Race on Sunday, sell on Monday' still holds true.