Senna, whose untimely death in 1994 led to a major overhaul of safety in F1 as well as in other sports, is in vogue again following the success of the eponymous documentary “Senna” and now his image rights holders are planning to build on the Brazilian’s legacy.
Although fans of the late Ayrton Senna can already purchase a range of polo and T-shirts with his signature or logo on (the ‘S’ in Senna is shaped like a racing track), the plan is to produce more “high-end” products, preferably with his signature instead.
Senna used to ride a Ducati motorbike and so the manufacturer, along with Kawasaki and Suzuki, is battling to win the contract to make a selection of limited edition bikes. Ducati is already in the process of making a fourth tribute bike dedicated to Senna.
Sports brands such as Diadora, Puma, Nike and Adidas are also in the running to make a new range of Senna sports products.
A number of focus groups have been taking place in London, where volunteers were asked which brands they would associate Senna with and which products would do him justice.
A source said: “We’ve looked at everything from motorbikes and speedboats, to travel bags, grooming products, shirts, sunglasses, jackets and pens. It looks like the plan is to go very big with the Senna name, yet make it more of a designer label.”
The source added that they, the contributors, were asked to compare Senna with a raft of other famous faces, mainly from the sporting world, so the researchers could get an idea of the “esteem” he was held in.
“They put up pictures of The Beatles, Michael Jordan, Roger Federer, George Clooney and David Beckham and then asked us to put them in categories, so we could ascertain who is closer to who in terms of style and reputation,” the source said. “Senna was right up the top. We also had to attach words to his character and so we came out with ones like flair, brave, fearless, champion, cultured and lots of others synonymous with him.
“Most of us suggested using Senna’s image to promote products, especially for things like racing jackets and sunglasses, instead of his actual signature. That’s because they are assuming he would want to promote this products. In actual fact, it looks better if you just show his face as an ambassador. “
The source continued, “We thought it cheapened his legacy by sticking his name on a product without him having a say. Just because he was involved in motor sport doesn’t mean he has a connection with speedboats.”
Once the focus groups are completed and plans to launch a new range of Senna products get the go-ahead, they are expected to be available for purchase in stores by the fall.
Senna died after crashing into a barrier while racing during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. Austrian Roland Ratzenberger had died the prior day, crashing his racing car during qualification for the race. At the time, Senna said he did not want to race in the main event out of respect for Ratzenberger.
Days of national mourning followed in Brazil after Senna’s death.
By Robert Shepherd
Source: In-person interview