It is a well-known fact in North America, that historically speaking, winning on Sunday used to translate into sales on Monday. Or so some would have you believe. It was actually a slogan used often by several marketing minds in the not so distant past in NASCAR media circles.
So does this theory (still) hold true today? Unlikely really. There are die hard race fans that stick with their loyalties over all else, however the truth is that economic impact dictates the consumer market. You will always have race fans that stick with Ford over GM for instance, if we take the general consumer's brand loyalty out of the equation.
If we look at racing disciplines other than NASCAR, we can certainly see the influence in consumer behaviour. Subaru benefited greatly from its WRC championships. Sales figures of the Impreza WRC were a direct result, I believe (of course the impressive performance numbers didn't hurt.) Not even the questionable styling wasn't enough to discourage some buyers (that's personal opinion of course).
What about moving up to F1 levels? Has Red Bull Renault done much for the sales of Renault, or Infiniti? The Renault group reported sales volumes for 2011 increased by 3.6% over 2010 with 2,7 million vehicles sold. It's hard to say if there is any direct relation to F1, doubtful but always possible.
What of Mercedes Benz? We know Mercedes did not win a single race in 2011, however the German manufacturer reported an increase in sales of 8% from the previous year. So that shoots a rather gaping hole in the theory.
McLaren is relatively new to the automotive market. They have been competitive in Formula One with victories if not titles lately. Their marketing power has increased by leaps and bounds since former champions and fellow Brits Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button have been on the team. Even in times of recession and tough economic climate, they have done well with their automotive venture. They launched their supercar during a global economic slowdown yet, succeeded in selling 1000 MP4-12C units to date and 25 GT race cars all while opening 40 dealerships worldwide. Impressive.
It turns out however, that one of the winners in 2011, has been FIAT. FIAT? What do they race? What have they won on Sunday to sell on Monday? Sit down; the news may disturb some readers.
FIAT, by virtue of the massive debt that Chrysler found themselves in, swept in and picked up a sizable chunk of one of America's largest auto manufacturers. In January of this year, they picked up another 5%. Fiat now owns 58.5 percent of Chrysler. It just so happens that Chrysler sales went up over 27% in 2011. Globally, they have done well with their 500 Cinque-Cento model if not as well as they had hoped. Using Chrysler's North American dealer network helped, I'm certain.
Closer to home in the racing world, FIAT also owns Ferrari S.p.A, which had an absolutely dreadful year on the F1 circuit in 2011 despite a strong challenge in 2010. That being said however, Ferrari recorded revenue of 2.251 billion euros, which is an increase of 17.3 percent over 2010. Keep in mind that 2010 was a record year for Ferrari sales despite the turbulent economic situation.
While these numbers are great news for FIAT, one must realize that in 2011 terms, FIAT was still 7th overall in sales worldwide, behind giants like General Motors, Toyota and VW.
So can we conclude anything on the theory of race wins translating to cars sold? If we take everything into consideration, I believe the slogan was a great marketing approach which still gets used today, but with little if any effect or impact to the overall picture in terms of sales.