Earlier this month Ferrari Chairman Luca di Montezemolo allowed the international press access to Ferrari World – the Abu Dhabi Theme Park which the company hopes will become a mecca for Tifosi the world over.
Ferrari don’t tend to do things by halves, so this is not just a motoring museum with a couple of F1 simulators, it’s the worlds largest indoor theme park, stretching out over 200,000 square metres and subtly blending into the landscape like a giant red Ferrari jump suit. It boasts 20 rides including the worlds fastest rollercoaster and features “Bell’Italia” – not a pasta restaurant (it has one though) but miniature recreations of Italy’s most famous locations including Rome’s Collosseum and Ferrari’s home in Maranello. The attractions are aimed at all the family – there are shops and restaurants, a “Junior GT” driving school where budding Lewis can get behind the wheel of a scaled down F430, and “Galleria Ferrari” – the largest collection of classic and contemporary Ferarris outside Maranello. So it’s part Disney-fied, part serious attraction for the genuine Ferrari fan, perhaps a good compromise if the whole family doesn’t want to gawp at cars and discuss compression ratios.
Is Ferrari World a tasteful extension of the Ferrari brand or a crass over-commercialisation of their rich heritage? Well that is open to debate, but the rationale of locating this leviathan in Abu Dhabi is clear – oil barons and playboys in the Middle East are avid supercar consumers and form a vital market for Ferrari. Montezemolo puts it more eloquently, citing a cultural angle to the new venture -
We like to think that this Ferrari Theme park can be a small contribution to reinforcing the bridge between our two cultures.
Merchandising is hardly a new concept for the universally evocative marque. Their logo is as recognisable as Marlboro, Coca-Cola and Sony – even amongst the rare pockets of humanity who are not car fans – meaning it is highly marketable. Not surprisingly then, Ferrari have long since been branding a myriad of non-vehicular trinkets. Cufflinks, laptop computers, stationary, watches, clothing and even road cars, wear the famous prancing horse badge.
But just how far can you stretch the goodwill of the brand before you dilute that vital ingredient – exclusivity? At some point, owners of £200k road cars may begin to resent ordinary folk besporting themselves in Scuderia baseball caps. Yet however it may go down with the lucky few that have the car to match the key ring, I don’t think those sat around the Ferrari Boardroom table will be unduly concerned. Why? - because the company recently released their third quarter results showing a 46% rise in trading profit compared to the same period last year. The Ferrari online store, which sells branded Ferrari merchandise over the web, saw a 55% increase. Of course they still think about their core customers, but that is a very healthy set of accounts by anyone’s recession-blinkered standards.
It seems that as long as the road cars retain their mystique of unassailability, and Scuderia Ferrari perform on the race track, brand credibility will survive. More to the point, the horse will be prancing all the way to the bank.