F1 Takes A Winning Social Ride…
An overnight success decades in the making in the U.S. is Formula One. After so many fits and starts, and becuase of the infusion of focus into the social space (let alone a runaway hit series on Netflix that has engaged a younger audince for the first time, F1’s presence, and its impact, is really growing in the U.S. especially with a new race heading to Miami. Now there are still major hurdles to climb…the lack of a star American driver, deep competition in racing in the U.S., the high cost of entry for brand etc., but as our Columbia student Rohan Shastri outlined in this guest post below, the case for F1 growth using the social space especially, is both interesting and noteworthy. Rohan take it away…
For many years, F1 was a niche sport and was not followed by a large or diverse demographic. However, through its increased use of social media and fan engagement, F1 has grown and widened its fan and viewer demographic. And, because of this, the business is pushing through a narrative that it is no longer a niche sport but one that is accessible to all ages, people, and demographics.
Through some traditional digital platforms, including, but not limited to, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, F1 has made noteworthy improvements. For the year 2020, “followers…were up 36% to 35m, video views up 47% to 4.9bn and total engagement up 99% to 810m” (F1, 2021). Due to big driving personalities, new races throughout the revised calendar, and excitement during races, digital growth and social media engagement have increased and led to the overall growth of the business. Through its drivers’ worldwide reach and social engagement with fans, F1 states that it is one of the fastest-growing sports on social media. In fact, in 2018, the 19 confirmed drivers had a combined following of 37.5 million fans on various traditional social media platforms (Morlidge, 2020). Because F1’s reach is growing so fast, it is continuing to cultivate a narrative of becoming universally reachable. F1 has also leveraged the social media platform Twitch to gain viewership and market directly to the younger generation. The content of races provided on the platform will “impact a new younger audience” and “is another essential step in the sport’s target of reaching a younger audience” (Canada NewsWire, 2019).
This partnership and use of Twitch also has significant connections to the Esports world: Lando Norris, an F1 driver for McLaren, has gained more than one million followers on Twitch through his streams of virtual racing (Smith, 2021). Again, F1, through its drivers and emphasis on digital growth, is actively trying to reach new audiences. By leveraging Twitch, F1 adds a completely new and youthful generation to its fan base.
Lastly, F1 also utilizes its podcast, “Beyond The Grid,” to further retain its passionate fans. According to its website, the podcast garnered 14 million listeners in 2020 and “is the most- listened-to motorsport podcast in the USA, UK, Australia and Canada, amongst other territories” (F1, 2021). With this podcast, F1 continues to keep its already passionate fans and devoted supporters entertained. Although the goal of this podcast is probably not to entice new viewers to become avid fans of the sport, it keeps loyal fans interested and invested.
Once more, F1 utilizes this platform to widen its accessibility and promote the sport as one that is universal.