Ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix this weekend and Formula 1 finding a way in the new normality, we look at how e-sports filled the lockdown gap for the motorsport series.

The lockdown period had forced the Formula 1 organisation into some significant re-evaluations that will have far-reaching consequences for the brand.

“Often with a crisis, there are things that are taken away from you that maybe have become a crutch over a period of time,” said Ellie Norman, marketing comms director at Formula 1, during a recent podcast from The Marketing Society and Havas. (For more, read How Formula 1 innovated during lockdown and For Formula 1, e-sports means expanding into totally new territory)

“You’re forced to try something different and I think that’s a really healthy place to be. Often, that’s where you see very powerful creativity come from – with innovations and solutions that haven’t been found before.”

Many of those took the form of virtual racing. Not only was this a way of bringing the professional drivers’ abilities to audiences via digital broadcast, it also brought new avenues for brand engagement.

“The ability for our drivers to perform digitally on track, to be able to have live conversations with their fan bases, [for fans] to see inside their homes and their family lives, has been eye-opening and has actually made the relationship much deeper from a brand and a fan perspective than we’ve ever seen before,” said Norman.

This has led to a renewed gaming strategy for the age of e-sports, and away from simply licencing its IP to a games publisher.

Formula 1 e-sports announced that its Virtual Grand Prix Series, in which it ran eight Virtual Grands Prix alongside exhibition races and events, brought in 30 million viewers across TV and digital platforms during the lockdown period.

Sourced from WARC, Formula 1