Every year, the release of the team’s new merchandise range is eagerly awaited by our fans who love to show their support and passion by wearing the official shirts and caps, in the grandstands or in front of the television! If the actual work behind the creation of the merchandise range is not quite as detailed as the development of the new car, it’s still an intense process.
We talked to Henri Lloyd’s Commercial Director Graham Allen, along with Caroline Moulin and Bastien Hibon, respectively Partner Services Director and Marketing Director at the team, to understand the fascinating steps behind the creation and launch of the 2011 team kit and merchandise range.
This will be the third season that the team has worked with our Official Clothing Partner Henri Lloyd on our team kit and merchandise range. Graham comments: “We work extremely closely with the MERCEDES GP PETRONAS marketing team to develop a merchandise range that reflects the values they are trying to create. At certain times of the development programme, we feel as if we are an extension of them. The best way to describe the relationship is… very special!”
Bastien explains in more detail: “We need to reflect our team’s brand values in the clothing that our team members and drivers wear, and in the merchandise range that we create for our fans. Working with our Daimler marketing colleagues back in Stuttgart, we put together a technical and design brief which needs to fulfil the requirements in terms of clothing and then we work with Henri Lloyd to adapt the technical materials we use to meet those needs.”
Another priority is to ensure that the team’s members feel comfortable in their kit. Caroline explains: “The clothing needs to look after the team whilst they are working at the track, considering that they will, during the course of a season, face extreme conditions. With 20 races all over the world, the working conditions can range from being very hot, very cold or very wet. We need to think about our guys who are working for long hours and very close to the cars on a daily basis. Their kit needs to be a perfect balance between functionality and comfort.”
The design of the team kit and merchandise from the first meetings with Henri Lloyd and the delivery of the first team kit will take around “6 to 7 months” Caroline estimates. Four words will always be in the team’s mind: “Quality, style, elegance and innovation. We focus on the small details as well, like nice trims of colours here and there. The team and the fans need to feel the quality, to feel the authenticity of the products.”
Graham explains that “Henri Lloyd’s core business is the sailing market which is all about protection and where the quality and attention to detail in our products can literally be life preserving. With that knowledge, we have to ensure that everything we produce is fit for purpose and at the same time, professional crews demand that the image that their gear reflects is also excellent.” Henri Lloyd has proved to be a perfect match to the team’s passion for excellence and elegance, as Bastien stresses, “They are in direct touch with what our fans want. We co-design our collections to match the expectation of our fans!”
On top of the production of the merchandise range, Henri Lloyd needs to ensure that all team members attending the Grand Prix are dressed to go racing for the whole season. The requirements are huge! “We probably need more than 1,000 products per year! If you keep in mind that every member of the team attending a Grand Prix will have 4 shirts, 3 pairs of trousers, a jacket, gilet and fleece, belt, socks and luggage… the actual logistical work required from the team and Henri Lloyd is colossal.”
“We’re driven by the fun and passion of going racing.”
A question that is often asked by the fans is the differences between what the team wear at the track and the merchandise available for fans. “There will be virtually no difference between the team kit and the merchandise. 2011 will be the closest year ever between the two. Fans will have the same material, the same logos, same quality… everything. We will have extra colours available for the fans though!”
Bastien is also very happy about the actual similarity between the two ranges: “We want to give the fans the closest thing as possible to what they see on our guys. Sometimes we have to think about the fans’ comfort and remove some purely technical features that our guys need at the track (like an extra pocket or ventilation), but the quality of the replica range will be identical!”
Talking about quality, the fans are in for a treat… thanks to the conditions our guys are facing at the track! “The kit is built for hard use” says Caroline. “Henri Lloyd use Gore-Tex and Primaloft technology… that’s one of the advantages of working with a brand with such a big marine technology experience. They only use the leading material in their products.”
That experience is what Henri Lloyd can build-on when it comes to working on the team’s products: Graham says: “We focus on developing a whole range of technologies for many different applications in sailing i.e. from long distance round the world race sailing to high intensity America’s Cup. Even on one boat, there are many different roles and so different clothing solutions are required. As with the production of a car, you need the very best materials but the real skill is then in how they are engineered, the quality of the construction and the design approach.”
Graham believes that working for the America’s Cup and Formula One is extremely similar: “Every design involved in the America’s Cup is about finding the balance between weight, strength and speed. Speed is of the essence and anything that can be done to improve speed is done. Budgets are huge, support teams stretch into the hundreds and results are everything. The most famous quote in America’s Cup history came in reply to a question from Queen Victoria when she asked who came second. The response was “Ah your Majesty, in the America’s Cup, there is no second”. It will sound familiar to every Formula One fan!
We tried to get an exclusive insight into this year’s merchandise range for you! For Bastien: “It will be an evolution from last year. We kept the best assets of the 2010 merchandise but have added some extra features… and many more!”
Caroline mentions as well that different ranges can be expected: ““We will have the replica range, the driver replica range and the lifestyle range. We will have more accessories, more kids items… look out for the teddy bear which is one of my favourite items!”
Finally the last word goes to Graham, who, when asked what he loves more about working with the team, replies without a second of hesitation: “The lack of compromise! Deadlines are tight, demands are high but it’s good fun! Like everyone at the team, we’re driven by the fun and passion of going racing.”