McLaren wants to distance its brand from its racing roots?

Recently, at the Luxury Retail Summit 2013 in New York, McLaren spoke at a conference and discussed their strategy to distance the brand a bit from its racing roots to appeal to a larger audience. I’m wondering if the reverse should be practiced by some brands.

  • Should racing activities be distinct from a brand’s mainstream image?
  • Can a brand’s racing success attract new consumers?


“In my opinion . . .”

Given that I am a dyed-in-the-wool car enthusiast, raised around Ferrari, Aston Martin and Porsche, I thought maybe you were pulling my leg. I cannot understand why a famous racing car company started by the mechanical genius Bruce McLaren would even consider such a thing. McLaren has a famous racing heritage and pedigree earned over many decades. There is a saying: “Racing improves the breed.” Innovations in the sport have been employed to benefit road cars.

The only reason I can think of is because in America, Formula One racing is not very popular although it’s HUGE in the rest of the world. However perhaps that may change. You see, in the new Ron Howard movie titled Rush—which focuses on two famous race car drivers during the 1976 Formula One season—one of the main character races what else? A McLaren. Would an association with motorsports hurt an image especially if they win? I can’t see how. If it actually does, boy has this world changed.

But the questions are:

1.) Should racing activities be distinct from a brand’s mainstream image?
Ans: Only if their best efforts are not good enough to make them competitive.

2.) Can a brand’s racing success attract new consumers?
Ans: Personally I would never consider owning a car that does not have a racing heritage.

mclaren-honda-senna-1991

1991: McLaren / Honda – Ayrton Senna Driving

That said, the answer obviously depends on that particular consumer and if they appreciate and can identify with a sports image associated with their brand of car. However it’s not that simple, e.g., I am sure that a soccer mom who drives a Honda minivan probably does not know or care about Honda’s famous Formula One efforts over the decades.

And I am sure that she does not know that Honda will return to the sport in 2015 as an engine supplier to a famous Formula One chassis manufacturer. Who is that? McLaren!

Image credit: McLaren

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