Liberty Media will improve F1 but it’s a fresh viewpoint that really matters
The changing hands of Formula 1 in its recent sale to Liberty Media for $4.4 billion (£3.3billion) got us thinking… what do we really want to come out of this change in hands and how might it change the world’s most expensive sport for the better? If one thing’s for certain, it’s about everyone involved in F1 embracing a fresh viewpoint and challenging what’s been done in the past.
Like its American brothers Indycar, Nascar and the increasingly popular little sister Formula E, we hope F1 will start giving better access for fans on race weekends. This won’t just benefit the physical and emotional relationship of the sport and the fans, it will also continue those digital conversations we know are so important in the mobile-first era we live in. There has been recent talk of F1 embracing VR headsets for broadcasting in a bid to attract more viewers and commercial opportunities by actually putting the audience in the driving seat! Sir Martin Sorrell, The King of the advertising and PR empire WPP recently said to Autosport: “The technology is already incredible and will improve massively in the next few years. Think about what you could do.”
- MORE DIGITAL, LESS BILLBOARDS
Those digital conversations are something that, like it or not, the kids and grownups of today are having more and more of. It’s remarkable then, that so much advertising budget is spent on track billboards by the biggest brands in F1. Beyond being viewed on TV (by viewers that may or may not see them / notice them / engage with them) it’s tough to see the value of these bits of painted cardboard; it’s brandelism!
Why don’t these brands spend more on making their social channels the hottest things in sport? Places to be inspired, informed, engaged and excited by a sport that’s all of these things. A common theme that comes across when asking brands to spend more on social media, is that it’s difficult to prove value. But looking at these billboards, it’s tricky to see how a branded piece of cardboard across the finish line is valuable. Surely dynamic media that people can engage with and react to is a much better investment, with always-improving paid promotion and native analytics options that give you the ability to see exactly how many people saw it and the value that brings.
We hope F1’s changing hands will embrace more dynamic platforms than bits of cardboard, and this exciting area of development is something we intend to be firmly part of.
Along with these dynamic channels comes a whole lot of fun to be had in delivering key brand messages. Working on the social channels of F1 driver Kevin Magnussen and the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS F1 Team’s major sponsor Pure Pit Wall, we know how much audiences appreciate a sharp sense of humour. When producing content for these channels we constantly ask ourselves, would we share that? If the answer’s no, then it’s back to the drawing board. If there’s one thing we don’t like to see, it’s a corporate channel that pumps out corporate content to their social channels. It’s about telling those key brand messages in a relatable way with a cheeky grin and a few emojis.
Formula E’s social channels have taken advantage of the fact that they’re new to the motorsport party and they’re doing humour very well indeed. With a thriving Snapchat channel run by Nelson Piquet’s daughter, access to the drivers and teams is unparalleled, face swaps and all. We know how much F1 fans love predicting the outcome of each race and there is talk of incorporating this fantasy football-style element to the sport to heighten engagement. Ultimately, our hope is that the takeover will encourage more drivers, teams and sponsors to be interested in regularly experimenting with different content styles on their channels.
- CITY RACES
Judging how crazy the social media sphere went for the latest new street race in Baku and most recently the announcement of the New York ePrix, it’s safe to say, we love a street race. We’re hoping Liberty Media push for some more hair-raising street races; think Tokyo, Rome, Paris, Rio, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Barcelona, St. Petersberg, Sydney, when we think of a street race, we think culture and excitement, surely a recipe for success.
- CLOSER BATTLES
Excitement and close racing go hand in hand. The regulations for next year will include larger wheels and wider cars and will certainly mean cars take up more of the track and look a bit meaner, but will it improve racing? Like in any sport, what fans want to see is athlete performance and talent; we love those moments of sheer skill, clever thinking and focus. Right now, we do get moments like this, but with large gaps at the front and rear of the grid, they often seem like they’re lapping in formation. It would be interesting to see Liberty Media influence the equality of budgets between all teams to enhance the ability for the smaller teams to mount a serious challenge at the top.
- CHEAPER TICKETS
Last but not least, there have been rumours already that there will be cheaper tickets for everyone in 2017. We’re no cheapskates, but we hope the rumours are true; it would be nice to see a new era of fans regularly attending because of cheaper tickets.
Ultimately, even some of these changes will be welcomed by teams, partners, drivers and fans with open arms. Hopefully we will see a new structure and flexibility with the way things are done to bring F1 into the digital age with a bang.
For further discussion, listen to Dan McLaren’s chat with Fifty Digital co-founder James Campbell on the Digital Sport Leaders podcast:
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