Have you heard many examples of individuals fighting big brands for money? Probably yes, especially if you live in the US. This, however, is no ordinary case – there aren’t any dissatisfied consumers or damaged goods. Just a fan of the brand who was too naive and loyal to believe his dream could come true with their help. And this is not something we would usually write about, there aren’t any fancy watches or pretty pictures of cars, but the story here and the whole situation has moved us so much that we feel like it deserves to be shared. It’s a story about Sammy Wasem, a young Ferrari fan and a racer in the making. It’s also a story about Ferrari management taking away his dream and giving Sammy a reason to doubt his loyalty… I got to meet with the Wasem family, and now want to tell you that story.
At the age of 14 young Sammy Wasem was already a huge fan of racing, all things automotive and especially his favourite brand – Ferrari. As he was growing up in Switzerland, Sammy participated in many go-karting races, majority of which is was winning and following all the right steps to achieve his dream of becoming a Formula 1 racer. Of course he had people to look up to, but most of all he favoured the Ferrari team. His love for their cars, craftsmanship and racing got him to start a fan page on Facebook, which back then was not as famous and talked about as it is today. It barely had around 30 million users (compared to 1 billion+ today).
Sammy’s fan page was growing very fast, soon it got to hundreds of thousands of followers. Ferrari themselves could barely count a few thousand people on their official page. So they did the next best thing and contacted Sammy. He, and his father Olivier (helping Sammy to manage the page) were very excited about the call. The idea was for Ferrari to take over the page as the official group of the brand while keeping Sammy as the administration, manager, content creator, moderator and editor. It didn’t take long for him to agree, as he was thrilled to get their attention, and of course because it opened so many doors for him as a future racer. Here are some of the emails that were exchanged between Olivier Wasem and Ferrari:“2009/3/12 <***********@ferrari.com> Dear Olivier, thank you very much for your communication.You know that Ferrari is planning to create a huge community on Facebook and we need your help. As we told you, legal matters force us to take control of the page but as in other case we would like that you and your son still remain as admin. Our project is very easy: we would like to help you for the use of content, and on the other hand we would like to put a link to our website and online store. Moreover we would like talk about our community and merchandising. However any suggestion from you will be useful. We are going to roll out our new website at the end of march and we would like to put also a video teasing on the page. Can we plan a call today?”
And another one, after the call.“2009/3/12 <***********@ferrari.com>Dear Olivier, thank you for the talk. I think we can move forward quickly: - Your page could become the *Ferrari Official Page* and you could collaborate with us to manage it - You can start *NOW* to take content from our official page ( that we are going to switch off soon) and website - You could put as official website our www.ferrari.com and www.ferraristore.com , and we should change also the logo (do you need jpg?) - *Official videos*: I will let you know a ftp where you can download, however now we can upload for you the best video that we have (very beautiful) - We are going to present to the fan also a *very good promotion* for the www.ferraristore.com ( I will send to you asap an email with the content of the promotion) - Send to me a brief story of this Facebook adventure + some news about your son driver career - I confirm that you and your son are going to have a Scuderia Ferrari Club Online Life Membership. I miss something? Yes…we want to reach one million of fan! Thank you again for your collaboration.”
There are, of course, many more emails, with some of them promising to include Sammy and Olivier in the decision making processes for digital social media marketing, keeping in touch with them all the time, etc. You probably get the point by now. However, Ferrari somehow managed to merge Sammy’s Facebook page into their official one even before he agreed to it. But that was not even an issue for him, because the young guy was blinded by the opportunity to work with Ferrari. Even though throughout the 3 years he had been developing their official page (and ever since these emails) he wasn’t paid even once, yet it was never his issue – he was looking at the bigger picture, opportunities within the brand and possible partnership as a racer. None of this ever happened, simply because in 2012, when Sammy and Olivier had developed the entire Ferrari network on Facebook and grew it to 9 million followers they were just kicked out from the page management. First they lost their administrative rights, then they were ‘fired’ from the group. Along with this, 2 other pages that Sammy has developed, also supporting Ferrari’s racing branch were ‘hacked’ and then, as if by chance, official Ferrari posts started appearing on them.
Anyone, who has ever created and developed a social media page from scratch (hey, right here guys!:) knows how hard it is to get people to join you. Just having a big name is not enough. You need to be posting good quality content constantly, engage with your followers, sort out the spam, unwanted links, keep the audience updated with news, and of course keep the brand image at the highest possible level. Especially when it’s Ferrari. Sammy did all of this work flawlessly, and he valued it, and considered his baby. When it was taken from him without any explanation and no reward of course it was devastating, and of course he decided to set himself a goal of getting to the bottom of it, and being compensated by Ferrari.
As I said, this isn’t your average story of a man vs brand and compensation. With over 11.4 million followers at the point Sammy was dropped from the page statistics were looking extremely good, and various experts in social media valued each follower at around 100$! You do the math. 10’000’000 $ that Sammy is asking from Ferrari as compensation for what they did is honestly nothing compared to the money they made on him. With direct link to the Ferrari store they’ve officially sold over 40’000’000$ of merchandising in a year. None of the profit was ever given to Sammy, and this is just a figure from one online store. Potentially this page is worth millions. Some brands have already experienced a situation where the fans’ group is more popular than the official one. Coca-Cola just hired the 2 guys behind their page, gave them what to work with, paid them good money and kept them happy. Because it’s one thing to insult, ignore or fire an employee, but another to do it to a fan.
However, even with all the work and struggle that came after Sammy did not stop pursuing his dream of becoming a racer and entered the Formula 3. I actually know very little about racing, so I will not go in detail about it, but I heard that Sammy is very good :) Having said that, of course with the law suit that Sammy has issued in Switzerland against Ferrari (which they ignored by the way) and his ongoing fight with the brand there is no time for racing, but as he said when I spoke to him last week, whenever there will be an opportunity for him in F1 he will definitely take it, because as much as he wants to get back at Ferrari management for what they did, he wants to keep pursuing his dream even more. I say let’s get McLaren or Mercedes to put this guy in a race against Ferrari! :)
Now then… if you read this far you are up to date on the story and hopefully are on the same side as we are (Sammy Wasem that is). You can support him by joining the Support Sammy Wasem page on Facebook (oh the irony!) and we will make sure to keep you updated on the story!