By Samuel Ee
SINGAPORE - There are clear benefits to brand positioning for those makes involved in Formula One racing and these generally result in improved car sales, though the link is not always a direct one for everyone involved.
For Ferrari at least, the trickle-down effect from F1 is understood to be enormous.
Ital Auto, which distributes the super sports car here, declined to be interviewed, but the prancing horse's long participation in the racing series is generally seen as being extremely valuable.
"As the oldest surviving team in Formula One, the Ferrari brand is naturally associated with speed and glamour and all those things that boys and men alike dream about and desire," said the sales manager of a competing dealership. "You need more than sales and marketing dollars to be able to buy that kind of heritage and cachet."
More importantly, it is understood that the high visibility of the Ferrari brand in F1 leads to strong interest in its road cars, which translates directly to better sales. That is perhaps one reason why the Ferrari Challenge support race will be held for the first time at next weekend's Singapore Grand Prix 2012.
The Asia-Pacific leg of this championship will feature 32 drivers in their Ferrari 458 Challenge cars racing around the Marina Bay Street Circuit before the actual F1 race.
Another marque in F1 with a long heritage is Mercedes-Benz. In addition to the Mercedes AMG F1 team, the brand with the three-pointed star has provided the safety and medical cars for Formula One since 1996.
"The prominent exposure of this unique involvement globally and locally definitely accentuates the brand's ethos further," said a Mercedes spokeswoman.
But she said that there was no clear correlation between purchases of Mercedes models and Singapore's F1 race.
"Short-term car purchases in Singapore are mainly impacted by COE prices, new product launches, car retailers' promotions or other factors that will impact car prices," the spokeswoman explained.
The benefits to branding are clearer, however.
"Although F1 does not have an immediate impact on retail momentum, we believe it does create a longer-term positive perception on the brand as it portrays the brand to be at the forefront of automotive innovation and technological advancement."
But the company that possibly reaps the biggest windfall from F1 is Wearnes Automotive, which has three brands - McLaren, Infiniti and Renault - that are associated with Formula One.
"The general publicity and festivities surrounding the brands during the Singapore season naturally contribute to heightened interest in the cars, particularly in the faster, sportier models," said group managing director Andre Roy. "They inspire more customers to visit Wearnes showrooms."
According to Mr Roy, the biggest benefit is Wearnes' ability to "access the race teams and drivers and do special appearances for our owners and for our marketing activities".
He continued: "McLaren's sterling F1 reputation preceded its road cars' entry in Singapore and we have had phenomenal success when we launched the MP4-12C last year."
With the F1 branding boost, interest in the MP4-12C supercar during its launch last year was high despite not having the permanent availability of a physical unit then.
At the same time, Mr Roy said Infiniti's association with F1 through its Red Bull sponsorship gave the brand immediate credibility and awareness.
"That has been especially helpful in establishing the Infiniti brand in Singapore. Renault's success in F1 has also helped define the brand in terms of reliability and brand positioning by virtue of the star power of the racers."
All in, the association with F1 has "strengthened Wearnes' reputation as a leading premium car marques distributor and retailer in the region".
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