Formula One clothing craze sweeps retailers ahead of Vegas debut

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Formula One race comes to Las Vegas
by Katherine Masters

By Katherine Masters

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Formula One motor sports, which routinely draws top-tier luxury sponsors like Rolex, is expanding its roster of partners to retailers whose core business is selling clothing at American shopping malls.

Teen clothing chains Abercrombie & Fitch and PacSun are among the U.S. retail chains seeking to turn Americans’ budding love affair with Formula One into sales of F1-inspired clothing lines, building partly on excitement for this weekend’s inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix, the retailers said.

At the start of the year, the average ticket price for the three-day race weekend was $1,667 — more than triple that for some European races, such as the Belgian Grand Prix. Rolex paid $35 million in 2023 for a deal that includes title naming rights at two Grand Prix, according to research firm GlobalData.

The retail newcomers are targeting a broader base of young Americans — those tracking the sport and its drivers on social media, said Jay Prasad, CEO of sponsorship analytics platform Relo Metrics.

Ahead of the Vegas race, PacSun is selling a collection that includes a pair of $69 women’s cargo jeans and a $600 men’s leather jacket.

“We recognized that this is a global sport with a huge following that’s starting to creep into the U.S. in a big way,” said Richard Cox, PacSun’s vice president of men’s and global partnerships.

Other major U.S. players have already staked out a position in F1, including PVH Corp’s Tommy Hilfiger, a sponsor of Mercedes-AMG Petronas that began designing motor sports team kits in the 1990s. This year, the retailer released a clothing collection ahead of the Miami Grand Prix in collaboration with Mercedes and streetwear brand Awake NY, which included a $275 baseball jersey and a $130 long-sleeved logo T-shirt.

Sponsor Puma, which has made F1-inspired clothing since the 1980s, will sell a shredded ski mask and graphic T-shirts designed by rapper A$AP Rocky starting Friday, ahead of Saturday’s race in Vegas.

EXPANDING U.S. FAN BASE

The new circuit is the second U.S. racetrack to open in two years since Miami was added to the F1 calendar in 2022. The race on Vegas’s famed Strip is being framed by some as the United States’ answer to F1’s iconic Monaco Grand Prix, another street circuit known for its star-studded attendance, said Conrad Wiacek, GlobalData’s head of sports analysis.

Fueled by the hit Netflix docuseries “Drive to Survive,” American viewership of the 2022 season on ESPN grew 28% compared with 2021, according to the sports network. However, the average number of viewers per race has fallen by 7% this season, which saw Red Bull driver Max Verstappen easily defend the world championship.

Other retailers and teams are seeking to capitalize on the Vegas pageantry by debuting special collections that can be shopped by high-rolling race attendees before they’re released more broadly. That includes the Alpine F1 team, which will sell pieces made by Italian sportswear retailer Kappa and London skate brand Palace at The Venetian resort in Las Vegas.

At Abercrombie, a spokesperson said the company launched McLaren-licensed T-shirts and sweatshirts earlier this year and that its success led the retailer “to explore licensing opportunities with additional F1 entities.”

The company now also carries graphic T’s and sweatshirts for the Williams and Alfa Romeo teams, which are priced between $40 and $90 and available in men’s and women’s sizes.

(Reporting by Katherine Masters; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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