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Villeneuve Racing

THE rumors in the Brazilian Grand Prix paddock suggesting that Julian Jakobi and Craig Pollock - Jacques Villeneuve's agent and manager respectively - are planning to join forces to establish their own Formula 1 team appear to be rather more advanced than the project is itself. There is no doubt, however, that the intention exists for the two to be involved (with Villeneuve) in a team which will, if everything goes to plan, enter Grand Prix racing in the year 2000.

Their primary aim appears to be to use the team as a means of promoting a commercial empire around Jacques, by establishing a "Villeneuve" brand of merchandise, in much the same way as has been done in recent years with Senna.

Ayrton Senna Licensing, which was established in 1990, is expecting to have worldwide sales of $100m this year, despite the fact that Senna has been dead for three years. The success of the Senna brand - in which Jakobi was integrally-involved, makes it logical to try to do the same thing with other drivers. Michael Schumacher has adopted a similar strategy with his manager Willi Weber but while the German seems intent on merchandising anything and everything onto which the name Michael Schumacher is printed, the aim of the Senna - and presumably the future Villeneuve brand will be to concentrate on quality products to build up the brand image.

Ayrton Senna Licensing, for example, licenses the Senna trademark for luxury yachts, high-quality pens, expensive watches, fashionable sunglasses and even high-technology racing bicycles. Items are added only if they are considered to fit in with the image which the company wishes to promote. In addition hundreds of thousands of Senna hats and tee-shirts are sold but these are also tightly controlled.

The Villeneuve brand would be aimed at a slightly different market to Senna, and is likely to be aimed at a market which wants to associate itself with Jacques's youthfulness, rebelliousness, his cosmopolitan background, his speed and skill and his familiarity with high technology.

The initial phase of development will be to register the brand "Villeneuve" around the world to ensure that when products are launched they will be protected from counterfeiting. The second step will be to find licensees for products which fit the image that the brand wishes to create.

Given the success of the Senna brand it would be logical to suggest that Jakobi and Pollock are probably hoping to fund the setting up of a team with the money they raise through merchandising the Villeneuve brand and thereafter use the team as a promotional tool for the products.

Jakobi tried to do the same with the Senna brand but the Senna Family decided that it did not want to be involved in Grand Prix racing.

The year 2000 is a sensible target for the new team as it will mean that it will be in existence when negotiations begin for the membership for the 2002-2006 Concorde Agreement. This is expected to net signatories enough money from F1's TV and advertising revenues to make sponsorship largely irrelevant and may even be sufficient for the teams themselves to become profit-making enterprises.

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Stories: APRIL 30, 1997
VILLENEUVE RACING