As brand icons go, it really doesn't get much better than Top Gear's tamed racing driver, the Stig.
The BBC (or more specifically Jeremy Clarkson and producer Andy Wilman) probably didn't fully grasp the impact their masked racing driver would make, but there's little doubt the Stig's costume is burned onto the nation's consciousness with indelible ink.
Now the public relationship with the 'man' seems to have reached about the same level as the one Elvis achieved decades after his death – the Stig is being replicated outside of the BBC's careful control. The Telegraph (amongst others) has reported the case of a chap on the M6 who followed an imposter for 30 minutes before cornering him in Forton Service Station to have his picture taken.
There are several extraordinary elements to this story. The first is that the Telegraph considers this a story at all. Someone dresses up in a white suit and helmet and is mistaken for someone off the telly. The fact it has made national news is of course a reflection of the character's popularity, but it's still a pretty slim story.
The second point is the BBC's reaction. The fake Stig was seen moving between a Porsche and a Range Rover, and according to the fan was surrounded by bodyguards – surely this is the kind of image the corporation would love to project? In truth the Stig (and Autoblog has witnessed this) turns up at shoots in far less glamorous circumstances.
Also, the BBC are said to be 'investigating' the incident. Investigating what? Someone wearing a helmet in a petrol station? The biggest TV brand in the world would be better advised to spend a bit more time concentrating on the quality of their output rather than pursuing costumed imposters around the motorway network.
The third element of the ridiculousness is the apparent surprise at someone dressing up like the Stig for a bit of fun. Apparently the BBC need to be reminded that when you create an icon, people will inevitably copy it. The white race suit and helmet are now no different than a Superman or Spiderman costume. Except for one critical area – in the Stig suit there is a chance you might be mistaken for the real thing.
If that's not a brilliant idea for a stag party, we don't know what is. For the groom on his way to Blackpool, we salute you.