In Sport Sponsorship, Sports Marketing

The recent victory of Scuderia Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans has been nothing short of seismic. Ferrari has been a household name in the world of motorsport for almost a century, but their impressive triumph at the Circuit de la Sarthe, after nearly 50 years since their last victory, is a testament to their tenacity, engineering excellence, and unmatched racing pedigree. This win, especially in the newly introduced hypercar category of the World Endurance Championship (WEC), is not only an achievement on track but is of significant importance to Ferrari’s marketing efforts and brand positioning.

Some History

Scuderia Ferrari’s endurance racing history began in 1949, with their first Le Mans victory coming only a year later in 1950. After a golden era, which witnessed the Prancing Horse secure a historic nine victories between 1960 and 1965, Ferrari became synonymous with endurance racing. Yet, the legendary marque hasn’t taken top honors at the world’s oldest active sports car race in endurance racing since 1965 – until now.

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Why Le Mans

Winning at Le Mans is a marketing coup in itself. The event, often referred to as the “Grand Prix of Endurance and Efficiency,” is watched by millions worldwide. In 2022, it attracted an audience of over 9,1 Million cumulated spectators and was broadcast to 196 countries. Le Mans is not just a race, but a spectacle, a 24-hour testament to the spirit of competition and technological prowess.

Returning to endurance racing and winning in the hypercar category also allowed Ferrari to showcase their high-performance, ultra-luxury production vehicles – the core of Ferrari’s road car business. The hypercar category, being more closely linked to road-going models, offers a superb platform for manufacturers to demonstrate their technological capabilities. It’s a strong message for customers and enthusiasts, reinforcing the image of the brand’s supremacy in terms of speed, innovation, and reliability.

The Outcome

Ferrari’s win has already brought an avalanche of media attention, not only from motorsport outlets but from mainstream media as well, further amplifying their marketing efforts. This win also adds to the allure of Ferrari’s brand story. Nothing sells better than a comeback, and the narrative of Ferrari returning to dominate at Le Mans after five decades serves as an exceptional story, enhancing brand value and emotional connection with fans.

Now, while the victory at Le Mans is a major boost for Ferrari’s marketing, it is also a strategic shift in their racing focus. Given their lackluster performance in Formula 1 in recent years, this could be seen as a re-alignment of efforts towards a racing series where they could compete more successfully. This is not to downplay the importance of F1. The sport remains the pinnacle of motor racing and boasts an enormous fan base, with an estimated 1.9 billion viewers in 2019.

However, Le Mans and endurance racing offer something different. Where F1 is a sprint, Le Mans is a marathon, testing not only speed but reliability, durability, and efficiency. It’s about teamwork, strategic planning, and overcoming the odds. It showcases different aspects of a brand’s strength, which can sometimes be lost in the high-octane, rapid-fire world of F1.

Moreover, the shift toward endurance racing aligns well with the auto industry’s overall move towards sustainability and efficiency. The hypercar class that Ferrari has entered emphasizes hybrid technology, reflecting the trends in the broader auto industry and echoing Ferrari’s own push towards more sustainable road cars.

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In comparison, F1 is still grappling with its place in a world increasingly conscious of environmental issues. Although the sport has made efforts towards hybrid power units and biofuels, its reputation as a gas-guzzling spectacle remains. Endurance racing, on the other hand, has traditionally placed a greater emphasis on efficiency and now sustainability, which makes it more appealing to an increasingly environmentally-aware audience.

From a sports marketing perspective, both F1 and endurance racing offer unique opportunities and challenges. F1 is all about speed, technology, and glamour. It’s often seen as the apex of motorsports and has a certain cachet that’s hard to replicate. Le Mans and endurance racing, however, are more about resilience, innovation, and the human element of motorsport. The allure lies in the story of a team battling the odds to keep a car running for 24 hours straight.

In my opinion, Ferrari’s triumph at Le Mans is a masterstroke. Not only does it rejuvenate their motorsport credentials, but it also affords them a platform to showcase their technical prowess in a way that is increasingly resonating with today’s market trends. While the Scuderia might currently lag in F1, their success in Le Mans might just be the key to unlock a whole new vista of marketing opportunities.

Ferrari’s win at Le Mans proves that it’s not just about being fast, but also about being resilient, adaptable, and forward-thinking. These are qualities that resonate with today’s consumers and enthusiasts alike. Regardless of their performance in F1, the prancing horse gallops ahead in other forms of racing and continues to maintain its legendary status in the annals of motorsport. This victory at Le Mans is not just a win; it’s a statement – Ferrari is back, and they’re here to stay.

Furthermore, the narrative of resurgence enhances Ferrari’s brand appeal. It injects fresh vigor into their marketing campaigns, enabling them to depict a story of revival and resilience – that Ferrari can rise to any challenge, a message that resonates with their passionate fanbase and appeals to potential new followers.

The victory at Le Mans not only reinforces Ferrari’s prestige in the automotive industry but also exposes the brand to a different demographic of motorsport enthusiasts who value endurance, reliability, and technical innovation.

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Riccardo Tafà
Riccardo Tafà
Managing Director for RTR Sports, Riccardo graduated in law at the University of Bologna. He began his career in London in PR, then started working in two and four-wheelers. A brief move to Monaco followed before returning to Italy. There he founded RTR, first a consulting firm and then a sports marketing company which, eventually, he moved back to London.
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