Insight Mark Walker July 12, 2022 (Comments off) (602)

INSIGHT: Supercars on Bluey: Yes Please

Supercars needs to pitch itself to appear in an episode of Bluey – and it’s the tip of the iceberg to ensuring a lasting future for the sport.

If you are unfamiliar with Bluey, it’s a kid’s animated series that focuses on the Heeler family, Bluey and her sister Bingo, Dad Bandit and Mum Chilli.

It’s somehow an Australian-made cross between The Simpsons and the Family Guy – there are plenty of laughs and hot takes from real life for parents to get a giggle out of, all packaged up into a show that is aimed fairly and squarely at youngsters.

And preschool kids are absolutely all about it.

It’s a smash hit throughout Australia, dominating multichannel ratings for the ABC with a peak audience for one of the shows making number three for that day out of everything, while on-demand, it has garnered for ABC iView over half a billion program views.

That is a lot of little eyeballs getting their seven-minute fix of TV time.

The 141 shows produced to date have been blasted around the world via the BBC and Disney+ in the States, with the merchandise a hot commodity in daycare, kindy and preschool playgrounds across the nation.

The most recent portion of the third series of Bluey was capped with an episode entitled “The Decider”, based on Rugby League State of Origin, with Ray Warren brilliantly coming in off the bench to add an incredible level of authenticity to the production.

One of the beauties of the program is that it is incredibly wholesome, with the storylines emanating from the supportive family base, with the football-themed episode exploring household divisions along sporting lines.

There’s no reason why a Supercars Bluey couldn’t delve into the teamwork space – a reasonably important subject in motorsport and life in general.

Bluey is produced in Brisbane, with the Bluey-verse subsequently based in the Queensland capital with many local features translated to animation, with multiple online sources tracking down a selection of scenes in real life.

Take the city council buses and ferries, the library and Chinese takeaway shop in Ashgrove, Southbank Parklands, and many more landmarks popping up for eagle-eyed Brisvegans to find.

Such as “Hammerbarn”, which is absolutely the Bunnings Warehouse at Keperra in Brisbane’s west.

On a side note, the “Hammerbarn Powerpass Power Play” has a nice ring to it.

So where does Supercars Bluey take place? By virtue of keeping it local, it has to be Queensland Raceway, which has the added bonus of not being overly complicated for the animators to render.

But let’s face it, if the show could do justice to the AU Falcon Ute in the header picture from the episode entitled “Tradies”, they would have no problem reproducing a Supercar.

While a movie franchise like Cars has been great for attracting young minds to the automotive space, it is predominantly aimed at boys, whereas Bluey has a more inclusive vibe about it for everyone.

Why does it matter?

Forever one of the goals of motorsport promoters is to attract the next generation of fans to the sport.

Supercars has a program called Students on Track – and it’s the sort of thing that I wish was around when I was a kid.

It’s educational – Supercars draws together facets of the school curriculum for different age levels, and take them behind the scenes, close to the cars, and often into specially convened press conferences with drivers, which often feature better lines of questioning than the post-race real deals!

For the kids, it’s a free Friday out at a racetrack, while for Supercars, it is hoped that the participants return on the weekend with a full-paying family in tow.

Looking at last weekend and the next two events, younger kids are well looked after at the gate – for Townsville and Sandown, kids 12 and under are free, with the same deal applying for those 14 and under at The Bend.

However, things ramp up for families with kids above those thresholds through to full-paying adult tickets.

For individual general admission passes, with no paddock access, grid walks, park and view or other bells and whistles attached, weekend Saturday and Sunday tickets at Townsville are $119 for adults, and $103 for concessions, while at Sandown, the breakdown is $95/$85.

For The Bend, the weekend pass covers all three days, and the pricing is set at $109 for an adult and $99 for a concession.

The prices come down slightly for single-day tickets, but for a family with teens to attend, especially with the current economy, it’s a reasonable ask of those with tight budgets.

One subject that has irritated me since my own kid came onto the scene is the current merchandise selection aimed at smaller children.

As direct from the websites of the 11 full-time teams in the series, there are nine products in total aimed at “kids”, and about 13 products in youth sizes, in other words, precious few options, especially if you wanted to support a particular team or driver in a certain size.

As far as kids are concerned, t-shirt prices start at $33 up to $80 for one youth polo at an average of $53, while youth jumpers and hoodies range between $70-95, averaging at $82.50.

It’s clearly been a tough couple of years on team merchandise divisions with on-track sales taking a pummeling, and the teams have moved away from catering to kids as a key focus.

And therein lies a conundrum – is there any value to teams in shifting more units at a lower margin, and getting youngsters on board from the beginning?

I would love to get my kid some merch, and I’m sure he would park his Bluey shirts in favour of some race car kit, but I would not love the tear-up from mum when she discovers $50-60 has been deducted from the bank balance.

Our household is jam-packed with Hotwheels, typically to be found in areas where my shoeless feet walk.

Mattel is obviously engaged with the Supercars audience (look no further than Matt Mingay’s stunt show and off-track activations), but at the same time, there are no current products stemming from the local scene – if they were, I’m sure we wouldn’t be the only ones upgrading our fleet with a range of Mustangs and Camaros.

I know I’m in a fantasy land with my dream of a Bluey episode, but as the sport is re-engaging with an audience trackside, I’m sure we can do more when it comes to connecting with our smallest fans.

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