Formula 1 racing is many things to many people. It is at once the most international, technologically advanced and glamorous sport in the world. For years, there has been a push to bring the sport of Formula One to the U.S in a major way. Now, this may finally come to pass. The European-dominated sport has recently been purchased by Liberty Media, a large company owned by U.S. cable T.V. mogul John Malone. Liberty Global is the largest international TV and Broadband company in the world. So what will happen now that the Liberty Media deal has occurred? And how will Formula One be incorporated into the mainstream media of the United States?
In addition to increasing the number of places where Formula One is watched, this change may also accelerate the exit of Bernie Ecclestone.While in charge of the sport, Ecclestone has built up a business with annual turnover of about $1.9 billion. For now, Ecclestone will remain the CEO of Formula One’s parent company, while media mogul Chase Carey will take over as chairman of the board. Carey is the executive vice-chairman of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, and he is also the director of Sky Plc, the company that owns Sky News.
This transfer will likely lead to an in-depth look at Formula One. The parent company will likely analyze what needs to change and what needs to the stay the same. One thing that is destined to change is the marketing techniques. Bernie Ecclestone has been a controversial figure in the past. Many feel that he has held back the sport of F1 because he hasn’t fully embraced new media and the digital marketplace. Liberty is expected to make digital marketing a much larger priority. Toto Wolff, a Mercedes motorsport head, expressed that an American company buying Formula One might be a good thing. He feels there is a lot that Formula One’s parent company can learn from the U.S. in terms of digital marketing.
So how exactly can the parent company draw Americans to Formula One? And can F1 possibly overtake Nascar? Just a few years ago, young people in the U.S. who liked to race felt discouraged from racing in Formula One. It was an unrealistic dream for many, as you’d need to move overseas. If a young person didn’t have the financial means to do so, there was little no chance of them succeeding in the world of Formula One.
ESPN quotes an unnamed exec: “There’s no marketing, no research, no data, no digital platforms. This sport has unique global content and hasn’t done enough to take advantage of that. We need to build the rivalries and enable people to understand the technology that goes into the sport.”
F1 should treat each race like its own Super Bowl- a week-long shindig, full of sponsored activities and musical performances. Because for every race, the teams arrive in a new country and descend on a new track. And every host city has its own unique fan experience. It’s not just about the race. It’s about the full mix of mix of racing, cars, food, drink, fashion, art, design, music, technology, travel.etc.
Promoting rivalries between teams (like Mercedes AMG and Red Bull Racing) and top drivers (like Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg) would give American sports fans the type of wall-to-wall coverage they get from other sports, and leverage media platforms in the vein of http://www.revgrandprixjournal.com/ to give fans the full experience.
Of course, we begin to wonder why exactly Formula One isn’t as popular in the U.S. as it is in other countries. One large reason for this is that Formula One isn’t friendly to the first-time viewer. Formula One is largely about engineering. If anything, it is sometimes known as a sport that appeals to engineers who don’t necessarily care for other sports.
Nascar, on the other hand, is largely about the spectacle. You don’t need to know much about the mechanical aspects of the cars to understand the sport when cars are constantly passing one another and crashing.
In order to make Formula 1 appeal to the American viewers, it may be important to take a marketing approach that focuses more on the spectacle than the engineering. Focus on making each race a week-long shindig, full of sponsored activities and musical performances. Of course, there are engineers in America who would likely find the engineering aspect of F1 interesting, but it is important that we find a balance when it comes to the marketing of the sport.