Magazine article Marketing

Short Circuit

Magazine article Marketing

Short Circuit

Article excerpt

How the Internet is allowing far-flung Grand Prix fans to make a pit stop for their favourite merchandise

Grand Prix followers are known to be among the most passionate sports fans -- witness the crowd scenes at any British or Italian race. And they represent a massive worldwide audience.

"Around 370 million people watch Formula One races, but they didn't know where to get merchandise to go along with the sport they love," says Simon Dawes, head of buying and merchandise at Action Performance. "Once you expose products to people across the Internet the potential is absolutely phenomenal."

Action Performance owns many of the merchandising licences for the top Formula One Grand Prix teams, as well as with Carl Fogarty, world superbike champion, and Ducatti. "We set up as part of a business strategy to expose Formula One merchandise to a wider audience," says Dawes.

The website is developed and hosted by Eport Solutions, on servers managed by UUNET, located in a secure data centre. It was given a fairly quiet launch in the middle of 1999, as the company wanted to get everything right for the teams before it started mass marketing.

About three-quarters of its early traffic came through links from the Autosport and Sauber websites. Its core merchandise comprises fan-based products, such as T-shirts and caps. There are also polo shirts, umbrellas, sports bags and sweat shirts, as well as a range of rucksacks, technical jackets and fleeces.

Dawes says that people start out slightly nervous of the Internet and initially only place a very small order. As the company aims to develop customer loyalty through providing a high level of service, it is always delivered within three or four days. When it is received people usually come back and place a larger order.

The company has started to create a database of customers and currently has 10,000 people, of whom 2,500 have reordered. As well as turning things around quickly and efficiently, the company also provides telephone numbers so that people can call and receive support, which has been a great benefit.

"We are now building up to an extremely exciting level of business," says Dawes. "Including our sister site, www. …

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