The sporting industry goes through cycles of obsessing over a buzzword or phrase that drives commercial and marketing strategy, but what happens when the buzzword of our time is in fact an entire sport?
Formula 1 has attained that status. From its hit Netflix series Drive to Survive to its growing roster of global partners, F1 has led the way in capturing new audiences from emerging markets to deliver booming growth.
“Formula 1 is strides ahead on accessing new audiences,” a paddock insider told City A.M. “What Netflix has triggered by opening up the sport with the stories and personalities inside it, Liberty Media and the forward-thinking brands within the sport have picked up and taken to the next level.
“This is the new model for growth that football, rugby and more are demonstrably following.”
F1’s circuit is global by nature, incomparable to domestic leagues with international reach – such as Premier League football – helping it transcend sports fans and reach casual onlookers.
“The unique global nature of F1 gives it huge potential, and F1 can respond to fan and advertiser needs by adding or moving race locations,” added Simon Thorne of advertising technology platform Flashtalking by Mediaocean.
“The agility of the sport means that it can solidify and grow the fanbase, while individual teams’ use of digital media channels accelerate and amplify the impact.”
Since Liberty Media took control of the sport in 2017, there has been an increased focus on US growth and digital media.
Last year the US Grand Prix in Austin saw 400,000 fans attend across the weekend, and F1 will also stage races in Miami this term and Las Vegas in 2023.
“Creating a genuinely interesting series about the sport brought the drama to the mainstream, especially in America,” said Ged Colleypriest of Underdog sports marketing.
“The access that Drive to Survive got for making the first couple of series made it so popular that even the teams that didn’t want to initially participate couldn’t ignore it any longer.
“ESPN also made the races advert-free around this time too, something that the Americans won’t have seen very often before, which helps make it more accessible.”
So F1 is accessible, exciting and global – an advertiser’s dream – and that’s reflected in the sport’s finances.
In 2021 it reported revenues in excess of £1.6bn while profits touched £68m in the first season post-Covid-19.
Team pay-outs increased nearly 50 per cent to £800m, too, recognising the brand recognition involved in the sport.
But the constant evolution of Formula 1 has seen it follow other motorsports, cricket and football in tapping into the Middle East’s financial strength.
“The problem it has is that it will always be a super expensive sport, and therefore be somewhat reliant on the oil states to survive,” Colleypriest added.
“But as long as it continues to grow in popularity, I doubt Liberty will care too much.”