SBJ/19980525/This Week's Issue

Action speaks loud about world market

Action Performance, the top-selling die-cast collectibles company in motorsports, was trying to fan flames in international markets when it mentioned worldwide licensing rights as part of Jeff Gordon's contract extension last week.

All of Action's contracts with its drivers include worldwide rights, said John Bickford, vice president for strategic alliances. But the phrase "worldwide" was mentioned in the announcement of Gordon's deal as a way to draw attention to Action's push abroad.

"It's a matter of setting the stage for the future," said Bickford, who is Gordon's stepfather. "Hopefully, this will help draw attention to the rest of the world as a viable market. It's sort of a stage-setter."

Action, which designs, licenses and markets motorsports merchandise, began selling its products in Japan in 1996. NASCAR will run two Winston Cup series dates there this season, though neither counts in the points race.

Gordon's extension runs through 2005.

"The next place for this sport to go is international — Europe, specifically," said Fred Wagenhals, CEO of Action Performance, which sold $123 million in collectibles, apparel and souvenirs last year. "When NASCAR gets there, we want to be there — waiting."

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