F1 merchandise: why?

Bernie Ecclestone’s official Formula 1 store has opened for business. The consensus from the F1 websites seems to be something like, “At last! Finally F1 has realised what MotoGP / Nascar / ChampCar / Qatari Formula Bum have known for ages.”

Well I’m sorry, but I don’t see the point of it. I answered a survey on Formula1.com last year. One of the questions asked if I would buy Formula 1 branded merchandise (if not, why not?). I answered, “No, why would I?” I would look like one of those gormless people who wear shirts that say “No. 1 Footy Fan!!!!” For me, wearing a polo shirt with ‘Formula 1’ written on it is about as pointless as it gets.

I am a fairly neutral F1 fan (if I have a favourite team at the moment it’s McLaren, but I take the piss out of them all the time so I don’t think I actually like them that much). Yet I am not particularly loyal to Formula 1 itself. I am indeed a loyal fan of top-flight Grand Prix motor racing. But I wouldn’t be shedding any tears if Formula 1 were to disappear tomorrow to be replaced by another championship that showcased the world’s best drivers in the world’s best racing cars at the world’s best circuits (as could have happened if the GPMA threat was real).

I sometimes buy the annual season review DVD, which is of course official F1 merchandise. But apart from that, if I ever buy any Formula 1 merchandise — which isn’t often — it is for a particular team or driver. In the past I have bought Jordan and Stewart badges, a Jordan baseball cap and a Ferrari t-shirt. But it would have to be a really good deal to persuade me to buy anything with Bernie’s logo on it.

F1 baseball cap Which brings us neatly on to the prices. GrandPrix.com said, “The items on offer are aimed at the high-end of the market,” which I think is the polite way of putting it. The F1 store is selling baseball caps priced at £125. Apparently the F1 logo on these caps is made up of over 300 “Swarovski® Crystals”, which I assume is meant to be a good thing. But it looks really ugly.

Carbon fibre mousemats (£250 a pop) and watches (£390) are all very nice. But for a sport that’s often criticised by some as being too much of a rich playboy’s sport, shouldn’t they be trying to sell merchandise that will appeal more to the man on the street? As F1 Fantatic points out, this is a difficult balance to strike. It could lead into the territory of Nascar Meats.

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