Someone once asked me, “Dre, what would you do if you were in charge of F1?”. I had to take some time out to think about this. Because as much as many F1 fans love to (And I’ve mentioned this before), destroy Bernie’s F1 regime, I’d wager half of said people wouldn’t know the first place to start if they actually were put in charge. So I had a think, and then it hit me like a lightning bolt. This sport HAS to come out of the dark ages when it comes to marketing.
What first triggered this moment of enlightenment was taking my mind back to two things. The first, was when Bernie said he couldn’t understand social media and mentioned that F1 was more for the older fans, mentioning sponsors like UPS,
Johnnie Walker and Rolex. The other time, was when Red Bull Racing posted this video of Daniel Ricciardo’s first F1 victory in Canada back in August 2014. Notice anything strange about it? If you said: “It doesn’t contain any video footage of the action”, well played, you’re spot on. Red Bull couldn’t use their own footage of Daniel’s win in a video, because the FIA would have blocked it on copyright grounds. That’s not what I call a healthy state of affairs, as much as it was a clever way of getting around said problem.
For me, I think the biggest problem F1 faces in the next decade or so, is appealing to a new audience. The sport’s steadily declining in viewers, and the F1 audience isn’t just guys in their 40+’s like an old boys club any more, debating Senna vs Prost. I’ve seen it, I’ve witnessed it, and I’ve experienced it live, the game is changing.
For those unaware, I’m a self-confessed Twitter addict. 173,000 at last count. I’m also fortunate enough to have nearly
1,800 followers, and I constantly interact with fans my age. And I’m 22. The biggest demographic on my Formula 1/MotoGP YouTube channel? Male 18-24’s. Nearly 80% of my viewers are under the age of 35.
We’re the next generation. And in a sense, we’re fortunate to have what we have now. 10-15 years ago, when F1 was arguably at its prime for speed, aero, lap-times, engines and
new stars coming through, there was the occasional message board and forum, but now,through the open Internet, there’s a dozen other platforms that could be explored.
This generation need protecting. We’re blessed. We have the carry the mantle for the next load. My Dad got me into F1 in 1999, and I’ve not looked back 16 years later. The sport isn’t doing that at the moment. If anything, F1 still thinks its 1995. Formula 1, needs to get with the times, an embrace the media world we have around it now.
Formula 1’s Twitter page, until the Singapore GP of 2014, was essentially a glorified news site. It was too busy sending calendar updates, and following
pornstars on the sly. Then it suddenly leapt into life with screenshots, stats, and even had hashtags promoted during the race! We’ve made some progress! It’s a start, but it could be doing a heck of a lot better. The promised YouTube and Facebook accounts don’t exist yet, and are still in the pipeline.
Just look at Mercedes official Twitter page. They just hit 1,000,000 followers, the first F1 team to do so, and they are incredibly generous with following fans, a ton of give-aways, and are aguably F1’s most likeable team due to embracing the fans they have on here, not shying away from them.
Do I even need to tell you how LIMITLESS the potential in an official F1 YouTube account could be? It’s a shame the FOM’s view on YouTube is so archaic, because the things you could do with it and video coverage could be insane. You’ve got a ridiculously large database of all the old races, an F1 field where 16 of the field’s 18 drivers have a strong social media following, and all the talented videographers you could find… You could have exclusive coverage at race weekends, a home for all the official race edits, the Season Reviews, etc. Throw some creative ideas in the pot, and the growth could be insane.
I compare it to one of my favourite YouTube sporting accounts, the Bundesliga YouTube Channel, which now has over 500,000 Subscribers, and got me into the German game itself, through incredibly entertaining coverage and creativity, such as Top 10 countdowns, behind the scenes clips, funny moments, and, get this…FAN INTERACTION. What a novel concept! If you’re a football fan, I highly recommend their channel, it’s fantastic, and I guarantee if F1 had that kind of model, they would flourish on the Internet.
Look at their counterparts over at Formula E. They get it. They launched with official Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube pages, and immediately filled them with content, to reach out to the people. Exactly the right approach for an up and coming series. The teams are incredibly social media savvy, and are incredibly generous with their time with the fans. Amlin Aguri deserve particular praise, they are EXTREMELY generous and are a must follow if you’re into the series. When a series has fan interaction and satisfaction so high on the agenda, it’s hard not to be impressed and it feels a little bit more special. Hell, with the fan boost system, you could argue the fans have TOO much influence!
Their YouTube page has extensive coverage, it’s fresh, its original, and they don’t mind their full races going viral on the Internet. They get that the internet provides FREE PROMOTION. Why wouldn’t you want as many eyes as possible focusing on your new product?
MotoGP are similar. They may not be as generous with the freebies, but they still have essentially, a network package via the Internet, and all the social media avenues covered, especially on Instagram and YouTube, where they embrace some of the incredible photography and video work they pick up. NASCAR has free YouTube replays of ALL their races on their channel. The list goes on and on, and Formula 1, the pinnacle flag bearer of Motorsport, is by equivalent in the stone ages.
If this sport wants to keep itself in the public eye, and maybe, just maybe shake off some of their stigmas regarding themselves, they need to embrace the Internet and the potential that it has. Media is important. In 2015, more than ever before. FIA, let’s get it right. This is the last audience on earth you want to alienate.