Gulf was a pioneer in fuel retail. The tradition continues, with an ever expanding network of service stations providing high quality service and fuel under the Gulf brand.
The Gulf brand has a strong association with fuel retail that stretches back over a hundred years. In 1913, Gulf created the world’s first drive through service station in Pittsburgh USA with the aim of creating a value addition service for the growing number of motorists on the road. This pioneering spirit then continued for the Gulf brand and soon moved to the concept of branding sites with the distinctive orange disc that forms part of the Gulf logo today. In the 1960’s this innovative approach to the industry continued in the form of high profile marketing campaigns and associations that centred on popular culture. These included sponsorships of NBC News, Walt Disney’s ‘Wonderful World of Color’ programme and most notably the Apollo moon landings.
Gulf Oil International Group’s service station network today has grown to over 1100 sites in 25 countries, spreading across Europe, the Middle East and South America. All Gulf sites are independently owned and managed but licensed by Gulf and thus united under the distinctive orange disc logo. The licensing process is on the basis of becoming an official Gulf retail distributor for a geographical territory, with the right to use the Gulf brand for networks and retail related activity.
Unlike many of the other major oil brands, Gulf includes a degree of local flexibility in their proposition by offering licensees the opportunity to run their business the best way that they see fit. Visual brand guidelines have to be respected and the fuels must be of a suitable quality but other than that, distributors are free to manage and market their sites in the best way that they see fit (including setting their own pricing).
Official licensees are also free to expand their operations on their site to cover a convenience store, where profit margins are often bigger than the sale of fuel and help to increase footfall to the sites. In the UK, Certas (the official Gulf fuel retail licensees), has entered into a preferred supplier agreement with the well-known convenience brand Londis and in Luxembourg many of the Gulf retail sites include Cactus Shoppi stores, considered to be one of the premium food brands in the country.
Several Gulf fuel retailers also use Gulf customer fuel cards to promote sales and customer loyalty via discounts and rewards.
Another opportunity, that has been taken up by some of the current licensees is to combine the retail site with a service workshop. Partnering with a workshop provider forms a natural link with Gulf’s other core lubricants products and ads to the value creation concept of the site. As such many licensees stock Gulf branded lubricants in their convenience stores further enhancing the Gulf products available on site.
Marketing & Sponsorships
In addition to the use of the Gulf brand, licensees also often use the global sponsorships that come with it. Gulf distributors have used the assets of these sponsorships for their local promotions to great effect. Historical examples of this include the official distributors in Georgia raffling an Aston Martin road car in combination with the sale of fuel and the Slovakian licensees using Aston Martin Racing imagery on sites for banners, posters and POS materials in shops.
However such is the flexibility of the agreement with Gulf that many distributors carry out local marketing activity that is more applicable in that specific market. Examples of this include a promotional campaign based around the film Mr Peabody & Sherman in UK sites and the ‘scratch and win’ promotion running in Georgia sites and in Turkey with a local telecoms provider.