Two for the Road is a hangout for mystery writers Tammy Kaehler and Simon Wood to chat, reminisce, gossip, speculate and argue about all things motorsport.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Does Racing Influence Your Buying?

TAMMY: Steve posed the question: what impact, if any, does racing have on brand loyalty these days? I say it depends on the series. I don't think anyone makes buying decisions based on the engine in a Grand-Am prototype (does anyone remember that Ganassi used to run Lexus and now they run BMW?). I'd also question how much "sell on Monday" Honda gets from being the single-engine sponsor of IndyCar. But I think it can make a difference in NASCAR, and maybe that's because that's where we see the big American rivalry of Ford vs. Chevrolet. And yes, Steve, I'm betting that in the case of Dale Junior, people do buy Chevys because he buys them. Of course, NASCAR is its own ball of wax anyway, when it comes to product sponsorship....

SIMON: I’m not sure if it has that big an influence in the UK and Europe per se. Obviously, Formula One is the most followed in Europe, but the teams don’t have a car most people can afford, when manufacturers include Ferrari and Mercedes. They're just out of people’s price range. Combine that with the fact teams like Williams, Red Bull, etc. don’t make a car of any kind. McLaren is the exception, but again, only millionaires could buy one. I think it influences brand loyalty, but not purchasing decisions. Touring cars are the closest thing Europe has to Nascar where you'll see production-based cars racing. I think that influences buying decisions to a certain extent.

STEVE: I think you’re right about the series, to an extent. I also think brand alliance is more subtle than many realize.

NASCAR fans are quite knowledgeable about their racing; nobody believes the Taurus they commute in has anything to do with Carl Edwards’s 750-horsepower tube-frame race car. And yet, and yet, and yet … as a brand-loyal fan, you DO want your favorite marque to win. You DO get a savage little rush of joy from it. You DO rub your Toyota-loving pal’s nose in it the following Monday at work. It’s hard to say exactly why.

You can liken this type of loyalty to that found in other sports. In today’s free-agent-driven sporting world, with players changing teams nearly at will, when you’re a fan of a given team you are – as my brother memorably puts it – rooting for laundry. And yet root you do! In NASCAR, you’re rooting for stickers that look like headlights.

One more note: For my money, the outfit that’s doing the best job pitting various carmakers against one another is Grand-Am’s Continental Tire Series. These are true production-based cars from BMW, Mazda, Kia, VW, Honda, Porsche, Ford, GM, Mini Cooper, Subaru, and others. The competition is hot and heavy, and when your favorite marque takes the checkers, your pride is legitimate. (Of course, I may be biased: my company, Flatout Motorsports, built Mazda MX-5s that are racing in this series right now!)

TAMMY: We'll forgive Steve his bias, and we'll welcome Simon back from injury! I know I've read studies done where NASCAR fans in particular say they buy the products that sponsor their drivers because they feel doing so will support the team and help them win. But I can't say I've switched to AFLAC because they sponsor Carl Edwards. Nor have I bought a Corvette or Porsche though those are my favorite teams in the American Le Mans Series, though as Simon points out, that's a matter of economics more than preference!

But we want to know what you all think: do you buy based on what or who sponsors your favorite driver? Do you drive what your favorite team drives, because they do? Do you think it's all ridiculous?


  1. I was thinking: I definitely support brands that sponsor racers by buying their stuff. I won't buy something I don't need, or an inferior product - but all other things being equal, yes, I'll go out of my way to support the company that supports the sport I love.

  2. I realize that I'd do something similar: if I had no previous experience or loyalty to a brand, I might also choose one that sponsors racing. I know of friends who will do the same, given a choice (supporting Lowe's over Home Depot, because Lowe's supports sportscar racing in the Grand-Am series, for instance). So I'm not immune, but it's a different case, in that I'm not buying because Jimmie or Tony endorses the brand, but because the brand supports the series. Splitting hairs, probably!