Tuesday, July 03, 2007

A Le Mans marketing disaster

Look at all the people in this photograph. This is the pitwalk on the Friday afternoon at the Le Mans 24 Hours. Thousands of sportscar racing fans descended on the pitlane, as teams made their cars available for viewing (from behind the safety of prehensile barriers). This is the kind of thing sponsors live for. It's the perfect opportunity to hand out posters, collector cards, promotional materials and other swag, all emblazoned with the sponsor's logo.

So how many of the 54 teams do you think were doing this? Maybe 75%? 50%? 25%? Surely at least 10%? No. Only two teams had ANYTHING to hand out, and only one had a human being making direct contact with the public. As such, The Fastest Lap Blog's Award for Best PR Effort at Le Mans goes to the Flying Lizard team. More about them in a moment....

In the meantime, here's a message for all the teams at Le Mans that missed out on the award: WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU ALL DOING???? This is top-level racing, with many millions of dollars invested, and only one team is able to put together any semblance of a PR effort! European sportscar fans constantly complain about lack of promotion in FIA GT and the LMS, and I finally witnessed this in person. As a regular attendee of ALMS events, I'm used to mandatory autograph sessions, free posters from every team distributed all day long in front of the teams' rigs, scoreboards around the track and the excellent Radio Le Mans to keep me abreast of on-track developments. I'm also used to seeing tie-in promotional events in local cities, TV advertising, magazine and newspaper promotion, ticket giveaways on local radio stations, and a wealth of marketing campaigns from associate sponsors when the ALMS comes to town. Sponsors look for value, and one indicator of this is the number of people reached per dollar spent. At Le Mans, that number could have been dramatically higher for any team that wasn't the Flying Lizards, and what's even more infuriating is that this is a highly-targeted, pre-qualified audience. I KNOW that many of these teams have commercial directors or marketing individuals, and to them I say "do your job". It was a piss-poor performance, and they should all be ashamed of themselves.

As for the Lizards: they went to the trouble of hiring a marketing contractor specifically for Le Mans, a fellow by the name of Shane. He was out front of their garage during the pitwalk, handing out cards promoting all the Lizard merchandise that was available at a booth they were sharing with Radio Le Mans. A double-whammy then, since they got many, many mentions during the Radio Le Mans broadcast, and seemed to be doing a roaring trade in their new line of clothing that featured (guess what?) the fantastic (and newsworthy) new livery. They were in fact one of only a handful of teams who even had merch, the others being Audi, Pescarolo, Peugeot, Corvette and Aston Martin. That's some very impressive company to be in, and they were the only small team in that group.

Shane took the time to chat with us for a while, and he was pleased to meet up with other folks from the SF Bay Area. The Lizards are our "home team", based up at Infineon Raceway, a mere 35 miles from San Francisco. We got an invite to visit their workshop and were made to feel vested in the team's success. Guess who we cheered for in the GT2 battle?

Job done, Lizards - you may not have finished the race, but your other successes at Le Mans were in many ways even more notable.


patrick said...

So, lack of promotional freebies aside, how was Le Mans?

I've always meant to go see a race there, but never quite got round to it.

Nicebloke said...

It's an epic event, that must be seen at least once. And after going once, you'll want to go back again and again. Weather was a bit of a bummer this year, but it was still terrific fun.