Yesterday, the 12th of March 2015, was something of a landmark in terms of Formula 1.
Something small that hopefully marked a change in how Formula 1 looks to promote the sports contents and archive footage. Rather than looking purely for monitised media content.
A simple tweet:
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 12, 2015
Gold dust for Formula 1 fans. Here was the official account finally putting video footage online. What a choice Bernie. The devastating moment that Massa thought he had won, but ultimately lost the title at home. The hysteria from the McLaren garage as Hamilton claimed the title on the last corner of the last lap. Brazil 2008.
For years Formula One has resisted the change in how media is consumed. While other sports live streamed events and added extensive YouTube footage to On-Demand coverage, Formula 1 closed off avenues for casual fans to access the sport. Only recently it was taken a step further, with many twitter accounts having a reference to F1, Formula 1, or a variant of such being shut down.
Audiences haven’t looked as impressive since 2008 saw viewing figures hit 600 Million. In 2014 that figure had dropped to 425 Million. Some blamed a dominant Red Bull team for much of the decline, but a Pay TV strategy has seen revenues increase while overall viewing numbers steadily declined. Casual and younger viewers are being priced out of Formula 1.
Bernie Ecclestone’s comments on marketing to a younger generation and in particular a generation raised on social media was pretty stark:
“If you have a brand that you want to put in front of a few hundred million people, I can do that easily for you on television,”
“Now, you’re telling me I need to find a channel to get this 15-year-old to watch Formula One because somebody wants to put out a new brand in front of them? They are not going to be interested in the slightest bit.”
“Young kids will see the Rolex brand, but are they going to go and buy one? They can’t afford it. Or our other sponsor, UBS – these kids don’t care about banking. They haven’t got enough money to put in the bloody banks anyway. That’s what I think. I don’t know why people want to get to the so-called ‘young generation’. Why do they want to do that? Is it to sell them something? Most of these kids haven’t got any money.”
“I’d rather get to the 70-year-old guy who’s got plenty of cash. So, there’s no point trying to reach these kids because they won’t buy any of the products here and if marketers are aiming at this audience, then maybe they should advertise with Disney.”
“I’m not interested in tweeting, Facebook and whatever this nonsense is. I tried to find out but in any case I’m too old-fashioned. I couldn’t see any value in it. And, I don’t know what the so-called ‘young generation’ of today really wants. What is it? If you ask a 15 or 16-year-old kid, ‘What do you want?’ they don’t know.”
“How are you going to get all the fans to meet these drivers, who don’t even want to meet their girlfriends? You are right that we should use social media to promote Formula One. I just don’t know how.”
It’s easy to understand Bernie’s reluctance to engage in Digital media. He attempted it before with Digital F1 and it failed. Back then he was ahead of the curve. Now, Formula 1 has fallen behind.
Niki Lauda however seemed more aware of some of the modern problems facing Formula 1:
“It is logical that the young people of today have other priorities,”
“Everything in the world is changing, but only Formula 1 is staying where it was.”
“Young people do not want to stay at home on Sunday when the sun is shining to sit in the lounge with their father for two hours,”
“The problem is that today, there is no alternative. You can’t just sit on the beach and watch the race highlights on your smartphone.”
“We have a generation of drivers that, if they were not wearing their racing overalls, you would simply walk past some of them and not notice,”
“The ‘formula one system’ is to supervise, monitor, regulate. But we must again have the drivers, not the bureaucrats, in the foreground.”
“If we continue like this, no one will be bothered about formula one anymore. It’s five minutes to twelve,” he concluded.
On its own, Formula 1’s actions were that of a dying brand. Failing to adapt as the world changed around it. If you wanted to see a perfect illustration of that you needed only to look at YouTube.
The Official Formula 1 YouTube Channel was set up 28th December 2005. It has no posts.
Ferrariworld was set up on 21st November 2006. It has 50 Million Views.
RedBullRacing was set up on 16th March 2006. It has 23 Million Views.
Here is a media, made for trailer type video snippets to promote the sport and it would appear that Formula 1s only action was to prevent anyone else from taking the name. Hopefully we see that change in the future. Small clips of highlights, sometime after the Pay-TV channels have aired their footage, would be perfect for the YouTube platform. Ferrari and Red Bull see the massive benefit to this. Surely the media teams can put plans in place to help Formula 1 adapt in the same way the teams have. Perhaps the biggest stumbling block to this is increasing TV rights deals. Any move towards on-line footage could be seen as devaluing the product. Aligning their on-line packages would be a start. Formula 1 already have an App. There is an opportunity for them to make more content available on the go. Even if it ultimately costs the fans an increase in the yearly subscription, but the content would have to justify the cost. Post occasional free content, linked to the @F1 twitter feed, and show the clips available if fans sign up. Let them view Formula 1 on phones, tablets, and computers.
Maybe the first video tweet from @F1 is just the start. Like it or not Bernie, Formula 1 needs young fans, new fans. They are the future- if the sport is to have one. It’s easy to forget that when the sport is focused on following the money. Eventually though, if the dwindling viewership and sponsorship is anything to go by, Formula 1 will need to take an active role in how the teams and drivers approach Social Media.
While the official YouTube channel posts no videos and the official twitter account only follows teams, the teams and drivers work tirelessly to interact with the fans. It is the teams, big and small, that have dragged the sport into social media.
|Mercedes||9.45 Million||1 Million|
|Ferrari||16.7/3.4 Million||980 Thousand|
|McLaren||2.9 Million||856 Thousand|
|Lewis hamilton||3 Million||2.6 Million|
|Fernando Alonso||1.56 Million||2.2 Million|
|Jenson Button||740 Thousand||2 Million|
Looking at the tables above, there is currently more value in a sponsor having Hamilton, Alonso or Button tweet about them post-race or at an event than there is to sponsoring any of the teams. Right now the big name drivers, with the big followers, are worth more for their exposure than the biggest teams in F1.
It is something that certainly ties in with the lack of sponsors further down the grid. As recently as this week Bose announced they would sponsor Mercedes, but they would only appear on drivers’ helmets and overalls. Immediately Mercedes tweeted pictures of the new sponsor on Hamilton and Rosberg’s Arai/Schuberth Helmets. Hamilton struck a pose with a pair of Bose headphones for his tweet. (No I am not angling for a new pair of headphones) The coverage received more attention than if they had been announced on the sidepod of the Mercedes.
How sponsors view Formula One has changed. Teams and the sport need to adapt.
Going back to the @F1 video tweet. If we’re giving our opinions on our greatest memories from Formula 1 then I’m going to have to disappoint Eddie Jordan and some other Irish fans who might be anti-McLaren. My favourite memories were Vintage 88-91 McLaren. Although I’d imagine that alarm bells would have gone off at FIA HQ at the thought of Senna and Prost using Social Media to manipulate events as they unfolded post Suzuka.
If Formula 1 is to reverse the trend of diminishing sponsorship then it needs to be pro-active in interacting with fans, and giving the teams and drivers the tools to do so. Give them some content and let them develop a brand identity and loyalty with the millions of fans that follow them across Social media.
Bernie could do worse than sit down with Ferrari and Red Bull to put together a strategy for Brand development on Social Media, and while they’re at it get Sebastian and Kimi to register on Twitter.