How motor racing influences car buyer loyalties

WM Circle Logo

By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on January 17, 2007

More than one-third of motor racing fans around the world would be influenced by a manufacturer's success on the racing circuit when buying a car or motorcycle, according to a global study by Synovate.

Synovate surveyed more than 1,500 motor sport 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 wins
Formula One is the most popular motor sport worldwide, followed most closely by 60% of motor racing fans. In the United States, however, NASCAR is the motor sport of choice for 84% of fans. The World Rally Championship has a solid fan base in Saudi Arabia and the UAE (31% and 27% respectively), while 21% of Malaysians prefer the two-wheeled action of MotoGP.

Purchase decision drivers
Success on the racetrack had the greatest impact on fans' future vehicle purchases in Saudi Arabia (68%) and the UAE (59%). According to Synovate's managing director for the Middle East, Andreas Gregoriou, "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 motor sports, 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% of American and 17% of German motor sport fans would be influenced by results on the track when shopping for a car or motorcycle. Synovate Motoresearch's 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."

Sponsorship still works
Sponsors spend heavily to support motor sports, and Synovate found that they are getting a return on their investment. Globally, 32% of racing fans would be more likely to buy a brand that sponsors motor sports, with the UAE (53%) and Saudi Arabia (49%) topping the list. By contrast, only 15% of Germans are swayed by a brand's association with racing.

But which vehicle manufacturers are most readily associated with motor sports? Globally, Ferrari is in first position but local makes are top of mind in the United States, with Chevrolet and Ford (both major players in NASCAR) being most strongly associated with racing.

Interestingly, the US automotive market's hottest brands are some of the least associated with racing. According to Miller, "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 motor sports with Chevrolet and Ford. While consumers may be impressed by the accomplishments of the brands that they associate most highly with motor sports, they may not be considering purchasing products from those brands anyway."

European ideal
Ferrari's greatest share of mind was observed 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% of respondents.

Endurance racing's effect
Gregoriou believes that the strong association of Toyota and Mitsubishi with racing amongst Saudis (19% and 16% respectively) reflects the popularity of endurance racing: "Mitsubishi 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% respectively) - the two most successful makes in that motorcycle championship.

Strange but true
The study also found that 84% of respondents worldwide said they follow motor sports on television, while only 2% actually go to the racetrack. Newspapers and magazines were the next most popular media for UAE motor sport fans (20%), while the Chinese are the most avid web surfers (14%) for their racing results. And, even though the Champ Car World Series is mainly based in North America, fewer than 1% of US fans follow that championship, which is actually more popular in China and the UAE (2% each).

More Info: