Formula One gained a high profile around the world under the stewardship of Bernie Ecclestone, but since he sold the motorsport franchise to Liberty Media in 2016 the new owner has been taking a look under the hood and making some changes.
At the time of the sale, it remained very successful but “perceptions had taken a little bit of a downturn, particularly amongst casual fans,” according to Greg Morris. “There was a feeling that there was a lot of untapped potential still in the sport,” he told the IIeX conference (Amsterdam, February 2019).
An early statement of intent was the creation of the sport brand’s first-ever research team, which Morris joined as senior research manager in 2017. And he identified four main ways in which F1 is attempting to tap that potential:
- Being culturally relevant: moving away from just being a sport about cars for petrol-heads and trying to make more of the human narratives, stories about the drivers that a wider audience can appreciate.
- Growing on the fan base: not just in terms of the numbers of fans but also the engagement of those fans. “If you’re a casual fan that watches two races a season we’d like you to watch four races a season. If you just check the results in the newspaper, we’d like you to try and watch one race.”
- New media opportunities: There is huge potential in the digital audience. “In the old days, digital was pretty much disregarded, it was seen as something that would take audience away from TV.”
- Untapped markets: there are huge markets like the USA and China where sport is very popular, “but maybe F1 has not yet made the inroads we would like it to make in the long run”.