Traditional marketing - and consequently its most recent and specific emanations - has developed a series of strategies aimed at younger audiences for decades. This is for a series of reasons, ranging from the most intuitive to the more "subterranean" ones.
It is evident that at an early age the messages received are not processed by experience or other factors but directly affect the attention. For this reason, the young spectators/readers/listeners/navigators themselves become vectors of communication within the family. In support of these dynamics, it should be underlined that it is at school age that one has more free time to dedicate to the use of audio-visual content and that there is more intense interaction both on and off line.
Undoubtedly, a racing vehicle, whether it has 2 or 4 wheels, tends to be noisy (at least the conventional ones), fast and colourful, represents a magnet for attention, especially for the curious and "hungry" senses with which one is equipped during childhood and adolescence. .
It is essential for a company to start creating recognition that allows people to form a bond from the early years of life and which can transform into future loyalty as consumers. Hence the use of childish or playful elements in many commercials and campaigns: jingles, colours, mascots, animations which can often perplex an adult viewer but which are absolutely persuasive on a younger observer.
The world of communication applied to sport obviously follows the same principles, declined on the basis of the prerogatives of the disciplines. As often happens, it was and is the United States that has implemented the most structured and targeted initiatives. The very formula of the championships organized by NASCAR places great importance on the definition of budgets, as there is no division into manufacturers and customers as in many other scenarios of this sport. This requires the development of a much more aggressive approach in acquiring and maintaining the means necessary to ensure the survival and success of a team. A result that can be achieved by establishing long-lasting and productive relationships with sponsors. This involves close collaboration between drivers, track activities and companies in order to provide consumers with an effective image. Certainly using the "Trojan horse" of attracting the attention of younger people and thus influencing the consumption habits of the entire family is a functional way to generate a considerable return on image and investment.
The fact that many companies involved in sponsorships have long offered merchandising, toys and memorabilia in special packages or during dedicated campaigns is a simple path but one that has always brought great affection and relationship between consumer and brand.
In Europe and in other situations closer to us this type of dynamic has always remained a little more linked to collecting, modeling and in general to the passionate relationship with certain drivers or teams.
Toy cars, stickers and everything else have long been coveted by young people (and not only) all over the world to feel a little closer to their favorites. What has been done overseas is to try to link this involvement with a commercial and loyalty aspect.
Since Liberty Media has been involved in the management and promotion of the Formula 1 World Championship, this modus operandi system has been exported on a global scale.
Just this year, on the occasion of the Hungarian and Singapore Grands Prix, F1 and Sky created the first channel specifically dedicated to children with specific programming so as to adapt the contents to their understanding. There are 9 global channels that have joined this initiative: Supersport (Pan Africa), beIN Sports (Pan Asia), Kayo Sports (Australia), Bell (Canada), SportTV (Portugal), ESPN (Latin America, Caribbean and United States ), Sky (Great Britain and Ireland) and Viaplay (Europe). An effective system to further expand the already large Formula 1 fan base and reduce the average age of spectators.
In the past it was the Fox Kids channel that proposed a format strongly inspired by the world of racing, in this case American. NASCAR Racers was in fact an animated television series from Saban Entertainment that featured two rival NASCAR racing teams, Team Fastex and Team Rexcor, racing against each other in the futuristic NASCAR Unlimited Division. The series aired from 1999 to 2001.
The racing scenes were animated in 3D thanks to computer graphics while the characters were drawn in traditional two-dimensional animation.
In total, 26 episodes of half an hour each were created for the project. Before actually airing in 2000, NASCAR Racers premiered as a three-part special TV movie on November 11, 1999. The broadcast ended in 2001. The show was produced before Fox began producing broadcast the NASCAR races and for a month the live broadcast and the cartoon overlapped, so as to launch an ideal "relay". To create an even more evident link between the cartoon and racing, some cars wore dedicated liveries for the Pennzoil 400 on the Miami track in November 2000, just a few days before the release of the first episode.
It was a while ago cartoon network to seek to further extend its audience through a partnership with NASCAR. It was 1996 and the newborn thematic station - the first to offer content dedicated to children and teenagers full time - created by Turner Broadcasting decided to link its name to a team from the series on the basis of a multi-year agreement. Cars with cartoon-themed livery have been a constant for several seasons, brought to races by different teams but always with a clearly recognizable image. Cartoons that children in the United States and beyond were used to seeing on TV and which they now recognized in the races followed perhaps by their parents or older siblings. The challenge was to break the mold and gain awareness by introducing children and families to sport. In 2004 the channel chose to change its strategy by sponsoring some races during which it would also guarantee a more massive presence of branded cars. Specifically, NASCAR and Cartoon Network have teamed up to develop the NASCARtoon Racing brand, a campaign sponsored by Kellogg's and designed to engage young fans in the excitement of NASCAR racing through the familiarity of their favorite Cartoon Network characters. The program featured an on-air and online ad presence with a national contest as well as the NASCARtoon Racing Garage game, where kids could design their own Cartoon Network race car using familiar elements from Scooby-Doo, Dexter's Laboratory, The Powerpuff Girls and many others.
A few years later it was Nickelodeon to link to the series to promote their contents. The channel owned by Paramount sponsored some races of the season - for example the SpongeBob SquarePants 400 held at the Kansas Speedway on May 9, 2018. For the occasion, 6 cars on the grid wore liveries dedicated to the main characters of the cartoon.
In 2016 it was the turn of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Also in this case Danica Patrick and other drivers have signed a special agreement to race with special dedicated liveries. In 2012, Jeff Gordon drove his Chevrolet Impala adorned with popular mutant characters.
Also in NASCAR, a historic sponsorship, continuously active between 1990 and 2022, was that of Mars with the brand M & Ms. the iconic yellow background graphics with cute full-sized candy characters have been a constant on US racetracks for over 3 decades.
Staying on the theme of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, this year the cute green heroes made their appearance in the Australian V8 Supercars championship. In this case they were the protagonists of a joint venture with Pizza Hut (the characters' passion for pizza is famous). The car of Macauley Jones, of Brad Jones Racing, wore a special black-green livery to promote the upcoming release of the new film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem.
The most obvious connection between motorsport and childhood is certainly the playful one. Toy cars, whether static or mobile, in various scales, are often the "Trojan horse" that introduces children to the world of racing. If all the various manufacturers stipulate agreements with manufacturers and teams to reproduce in miniature the vehicles featured in the various championships, there are also companies that place their own brand on the vehicles themselves to further emphasize the connection.
For example, Tonka, Tamiya and Hot Wheels have at various stages sponsored racing vehicles.
Tonka made its appearance in NASCAR on Kenny Irwin's car in 1997/1998. The presence on the race fields was accompanied by the sale of some toys themed with the most popular cars of the series.
In 2010 the very popular brand Hot Wheels sponsored Alex Tagliani's Honda car for 2 events: Toronto and Edmonton.
Tamiya, which has always been a point of reference in all-round modeling and collecting, has a rich section dedicated to motor sports. So that the iconic 360-star logo has appeared on racing vehicles on several occasions. One of the largest variations in terms of dimensions was the one on the Toyota Land Cruiser involved in the 2 Paris Dakar.
In 2010 even the Barbie brand became linked to the world of racing. The crew composed of Ramona Karlsson and Miriam Walfridsson took part in the Swedish Rally on board a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 whose front part was characterized by the iconic pink of the world-famous doll.
Lego has undertaken a reverse path, linking up with several leading brands on the international motorsport scene. The relationship foresees the release on the market of ever new models in different scales and assembly complexity of the most popular racing cars of the moment and in history. Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes F1, Peugeot and Porsche WEC, Audi Group B etc.
The sponsor of Team KCMG which races in the SuperFormula, the most important championship for Japanese open-wheel cars, acts on a completely different level. Kids Com is in fact a community for the education of children based on a collective family/experiential concept. The idea behind this company is to offer families events and situations that can provide them with enriching and educational experiences in a sharing environment. Kids Com's support of this Hong Kong-based team is already in its second year. The race weekends are therefore conceived as an experience for families and Kids Com customers can access the paddock, photo and autograph sessions with the drivers (Yuji Kunimoto and old F1 acquaintance, Kamui Kobayashi), collective moments with the team and other dedicated content.
Even perhaps the most famous and best-selling comic magazine (at least before the advent of online) has a stable next to it, albeit for a short period. In 1984 Mickey mouse appeared on the bodywork, on the sides of the cockpit, of the Spirit Hart of Formula 1. A non-competitive car which had an unfortunate career from its debut: in fact, at the first test in Brazil the returning Emerson Fittipaldi left the team due to insufficient performances while the The other driver, Fulvio Maria Ballabio, did not obtain the super license to race due to the lack of results in the preparatory series.
The newspaper's writing remained visible only for those few days. However, in issue 1501 there was a highly appreciated story written by Giorgio Pezzin and drawn by Giorgio Cavazzano which essentially presented the 1984 World Championship season in cartoon form.
The meaning of this overview is to show that there is essentially a niche - which is not a niche given the achievable numbers - which is currently little considered except by a few realities. The hyper-specialization and professionalism of the top leagues have certainly contributed to at least partially excluding the possibility of acting as entertainment for the little ones. There is also the not negligible idea of risk and danger associated with racing which dissuades it from being associated with childhood. However, it would be wrong to think that there is no room for maneuver to create well-thought-out projects. Let's think, for example, of the entire universe of e-sports and video games in general.
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