PMF speaks to Lucas Oil about the differences and similarities in sales strategies between the US and the UK.
People who know about engine oils and problem-solving additives know about Lucas Oil, the company claims. In the US and the UK, the brand is synonymous with success in motorsports. For example, the high profile nature of its presence at two of the UK’s temples of dragster racing – Shakespeare County Raceway and Santa Pod Raceway – often leaves visitors convinced that the venues are at least part-owned by Lucas Oil.
“Inside the arenas our distinctive Lucas Oil banners, flags, T-shirts and hats are highly visible. You get the same impression around the paddock. Teams proudly boast the Lucas Oil connection on their trailers and awnings,” says Mark Sromalla, the brand’s Director of Sales for the US.
At Santa Pod’s annual ‘Main Event’ in May, around 60 of the cars and bikes that burned up the strip were in full Lucas Oil colours or at least featured the famous badge-shaped logo somewhere prominently on the bodywork.
“They use the additives for sure, but they run on Lucas Oil’s engine oil because the high-zinc racing oils deliver high performance and because the association with winning is so strong. At retail level, on the other hand, the perception of the brand in the UK is not the same as in the US.”
In the US, the retail profile of the brand is far higher for many reasons.
For example, the Indianapolis Colts play their National Football League games at the Lucas Oil Stadium. Built in 2008, it seats 67,000 people, has a retractable roof and was named the ‘Sports Stadium of the Year’ by Street and Smith’s Sports Business Journal in 2009. It was the venue for Super Bowl XLVI.
In the US, Lucas Oil is associated with a great many sports. If your motorsport involves racing trucks, cars, bikes or boats, Lucas Oil is involved. It’s likely the highlights of your event will appear sometime in the week on MAV TV. That’s a 24-hour online channel owned by Lucas Oil.
If you play a game with a ball and use a bat or a stick, there will be a Lucas Oil sponsorship connection at local and national level. Even fans of the Professional Bull Riders’ national touring championship know all about Lucas Oil. Its riders try to stay aboard the feisty beasts for around eight seconds. Their exploits – successful or otherwise – are screened live, on prime time TV in every state.
Lucas Oil additives dominate the US automotive additives market, according to the company. Advance Auto Parts, Auto Zone Carquest, NAPA, Pep Boys, and O’Reilly are just a few of the national chains of distributors in partnership with Lucas Oil. Typically, their various sales agreements include rebates and marketing budgets that allow them to offer ‘Checkout Challenges’ to boost sales. The level of each challenge reflects both the volume of sales recorded by each distributor and the sheer scale of the overall North American market.
The structure of the US and UK engine oil change markets is similar. In both, the largest slice of the engine oil pie is in sales of budget priced oils. Around 70 of every 100 oil sales are of budget priced oils and to date, this has made things difficult for Lucas Oil. Its base oils are benchmarks for quality. It is a premium brand. It has sold budget oils. It has never targeted the budget end of the market.
That is, until now.
Mark Sromalla says Lucas Oil Products (LOP) Super Lube gives everyone the chance to run on Lucas Oil: “It bears the Lucas Oil logo. It’s designed to match the performances of any of the leading budget oil brands already sold in the UK. It comes at a budget price. It’s an ideal menu-service priced oil.”
Major buying groups agree. Many are said to be actively promoting the brand and the official trade launch to UK motor factors took place at the CAAR Show, in May. At the stand, Lucas Oil’s Matt Bennetto told visiting members:
“LOP Super Lube matches the specifications of all of the best budget priced oils, but in the UK we will be very aggressive on the price, especially on the 1L sizes. The advantage for retailers is that the profit margin is high. Add that to the Lucas Oil brand and the associations with racing success and the package is extremely attractive.”
Mark Sromalla adds that LOP Super Lube is blended here in the UK and packaged here, under licence: “That is a world’s first for Lucas Oil. This pilot programme is something we Americans are very excited about.”
There’s also a new catalogue. The trade launch is being supported with trade advertising to motor factors.
“We want to get to the counter guys. These are the guys influencing change. A campaign to promote LOP Super Lube to garages will begin later in the year.”
The indications are that the UK could be the start of a much wider international brand development programme from Lucas Oil.
A new US marketing team is already working on new strategies. The company says that one thing’s certain. If just a small proportion of the US marketing budget comes this way, significant changes are ahead.