The conclusion of this year’s American Le Mans Series on Saturday was, for many, the end of an era. With the ALMS taking part in a 15-year, fractious battle against the NASCAR-owned GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series, the already niche audience of professional sports car racing has endured a long-standing rivalry.
When both series announced their merger in September of 2012, the fan and media focus for the last 14 months has been on just that; how they’re merging.
How will they balance the technical specifications between both series? What staff will stay on, and who will go? What tracks will make the calendar?
In all of this, however, the debut of the 2014 United Sports Car Championship has had one point completely neglected:
This is a new series.
This is a new opportunity to brand and to market.
While the composition of the series is a marriage between two houses, the opportunity to create an entity that is completely new, and brand it accordingly, was not lost on one company.
We’re of course speaking of Rolex.
Rolex has been a long-time promoter of sportscar racing worldwide. Their logos and signature watches adorn the track at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, it has been the official timepiece of Sebring International Raceway for years, and of course “The Rolex” 24 at Daytona has held that distinction since 1992.
With involvement at an associate level in the American Le Mans Series, and as a title sponsor with the GRAND-AM “Rolex” Sports Car Series, it would have made sense to simply continue on with the merged series in a “Rolex” capacity.
However, Rolex has been in a re-branding process of its own. The Rolex owned Tudor brand of slightly more affordable watches was re-introduced to the United States in the summer of 2013 following a decade-long absence.
Knowing the opportunity to align their re-introduced brand with a new series, the announcement of the TUDOR United Sports Car Championship came on September 12.
It makes sense, and it’s a brand positioning decision that will hopefully cause others to follow suit. While the core audience of sportscar racing hasn’t changed, the bottom line is this is a new series, with a new opportunity to brand and introduce fresh thinking.
Rolex has clearly seen the opportunity to take advantage, and with that comes an activation and branding platform that will suit the company well, especially given it’s inherent understanding of the sport.
We can only hope that other OEM’s, retail products, and service industries follow suit.