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Brand’s Hatched: Formula One and its race for the toy aisle

If there’s something not many of us were expecting for 2020, it surely has to be that Formula One is looking to speed into the toy aisle with its first official toy line for kids and collectors alike.

Upon momentary reflection, however, it actually makes perfect sense. The F1 brand isn’t exactly new to the industry, having previously sat within its parameters, most notably via a successful partnership with the Scalextric brand in years gone by, while Formula One has been growing its presence in the consumer products space steadily.

Most recently, the racing franchise may have appeared to have put its foot on the brakes, maintaining only a couple of long- lasting licensing partnerships in the video games market and in part works. It wasn’t until 2018 that it decided to refocus.

A partnership with the licensing agency, CAA-GBG in tow, Formula One has been systematically extending its brand into a new consumer product categories such as merchandise, health and beauty, digital gaming, streetwear collaborations, and more, with a portfolio of new products and collaborations lined up for the year ahead.

Most interesting is that the brand now has its sights firmly locked on toys.

“Our licensing programme focuses on the F1 brand, and after doing a very thorough research and analysis, we believe there is a demand from our fans all over the world for a wide range of Formula One toys,” Joan Carrera López, senior manager, retail and CPG licensing at Formula One, tells Licensing.biz.

“In terms of assets, we have very recently announced the 2021 regulations and have an amazing 3D model of the 2021 car that can be fully customised and adapted to a number of categories and opportunities some 15 months before the teams actually unveil their cars.”

A recent history of the Formula One brand saw it acquired by Liberty Media at the start of 2017 and soon after announced the re-launch of its brand transformation with a fresh new-look logo hitting the world stage by 2018. It was a move that seems to have fuelled a drive for brand extension ever since.

“We are an entertainment and lifestyle brand whose DNA is all about innovation, technology, and performance,” continues López. “New and exciting licensing partnerships will be announced in the upcoming months, and we expect to keep growing the brand and serving our fans.

“We already have a successful educational programme called F1 in Schools that works with a significant number of schools and students worldwide. Formula One is therefore a very aspirational brand that is synonymous with technology, and our ambition is to extend our brand into new and innovative products that will allow kids to learn, play, and have fun.”

It will come as little surprise then that of the categories Formula One is targeting for its toy debut, include ride-ons, models, remote controlled toys and slot cars, construction toys, and of course the growing STEM toy sector.

Actually, it all couldn’t be better timing for the F1 brand. The coming years will mark the onset of a number of changes that will certainly reposition the brand, including big changes in 2021 to the rules that govern the sport itself; technical rules that will “create closer wheel to wheel racing and reduce the gap between the front and back of the grid,” states López.

Presumably, Formula One is looking to inject yet more adrenaline into the sport. And with these rules, come new look cars.

“As part of the creation of the rules, Formula One has designed a car that is both futuristic and more akin to the look of a traditional F1 car,” explains López. “The fan feedback so far has been very positive and we think it will really excite the fans.”

It’s also expected that among those fans, will be a new generation of youngsters looking to experience the Formula One brand through new consumer products, including a portfolio of toy products.

López adds: “Our data shows that F1 has a broad audience in terms of age and gender, and since the Liberty Media acquisition, it is not a surprise that the majority of our new F1 fans are younger than before. We want the sport to be closer to our fans, and toys is definitely a great platform to do so, allowing parents and kids to share their passion.

“That’s why we’re looking for leading and established toy brands that we can collaborate with, as well as best-in-class manufacturers to develop innovative and quality F1 mono-branded toys. For the time
being, we’re not looking to develop products in- house, but we’ll obviously guide licensees to create true to brand toys.”

When it comes to distribution, Formula One comes with its own tailored and curated retail platforms, underscoring the benefits of a brand that already has its own footprint and franchise model in the global marketing space.

“Being part of the F1 family comes with important benefits such as distribution through our owned trackside and online stores,” adds López, “as well as access to our digital channels and advertising.”

And at a time when franchising has become a core component to the success of a toy line and brand, it’s surely a rather appetising prospect.

About Robert Hutchins

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