Shifting gears: Formula 1’s evolution into a cultural phenomenon
Formula 1 has reinvented itself in the past five years, bringing a whole new generation of fans into its ecosystem. Traditionally, the luxury watch and premium drinks sector have led the way in lifestyle partnership activation in Formula 1. Now the door is open to a more wide-ranging set of consumer brands including music, fashion, FMCG and quick-service restaurants, each of whom not only have a role to play in moulding the future of the sport, but more freedom to shape the structure of their partnerships to suit specific goals.
To shed light on this revolution and its implications for potential partners, we assembled a panel of industry experts for a captivating discussion. The panel, hosted by Lawrence Barretto – Formula 1 Correspondent & Presenter, featured Greg Hall – CMO, MoneyGram International, Lucy Owen – Associate Director, CSM, Pedro Cebrian – Head of Social Media & Content, Scuderia Ferrari, and Natalia Kowalczyk – VP, Marketing Director, Europe at Jack Daniel’s.
That’s entertainment: the modern F1 experience
The conversation kicked off with a focus on the on-track race experience, with panellists agreeing that it has transcended far beyond mere racing action. Natalia aptly described it as “more like a music festival,” emphasising the importance of enhancing the fan experience.
The unanimous goal now is to elevate the fan experience both offline and online, with Greg highlighting, “everything today is down to fan experience.” Fan engagement and proximity to the teams is paramount, with digital platforms playing a significant role.
F1: A way of life
Formula 1’s success lies in its ability to weave itself into the broader cultural conversation. The sport has embraced social media, fashion, music, and even film to appeal to that vital Gen Z audience. Alongside that, the sport has welcomed a wealth of new partners into the sport.
Lucy acknowledged the challenge of standing out amidst the myriad of brands now in F1. “For brands coming into the space brand new, it’s quite an overwhelming opportunity. You have to analyse and assess where you can have a role, so the opportunity in that comes from diversification of properties and personalities and also the greater depth and breadth of audience to connect with”.
For MoneyGram, their approach focused on ’increasing accessibility for fans, as Greg noted: “We’ve centred our partnership around accessibility; how do we make it easier for fans to get closer?” Initiatives such as virtual book signings, interactive F1 hubs, and engaging competitions are just a few of the ways they’ve made that happen
The consensus emerged that Formula 1 is no longer just an industry; it has become a vital part of the broader entertainment landscape. Natalia added, “It’s about making the experience more memorable.”
Keep it contemporary: meeting the demands of the new F1 fan
The conversation soon moved into Formula 1’s industry-leading approach to digital communication, catering to the evolving habits of its new fanbase.
As the landscape of F1 has evolved, so has the way fans engage with the sport. Pedro addressed these shifts in content consumption, offering an insight into the digital demands of fans that teams are now responding to: “Only 40% of content is consumed with audio now so you have to consider how this effects engagement. The audience will only give you one second to decide if they’re interested in your content or whether they will keep scrolling”.
Part of the answer to that, he was keen to emphasise, is to build a greater understanding of your audience through data capture, which will allow you to ‘deliver relevant content.’
The digital transformation enjoyed by the sport has also democratised how the sport is both covered and followed. Lucy praised the sport’s efforts in creating a more inclusive ecosystem, including a significant rise in women followers and content creators. “There’s a broader set of fans coming through the sport through different routes.”
People and personalities: how brands find their voice in F1
The success of Drive to Survive highlighted the trend among younger audiences to hold favour towards individuals as opposed to teams. Greg acknowledged the popularity of Guenther Steiner, MoneyGram Haas F1 Team Principal, and the impact that has had for the MoneyGram brand, stating, “his personality and fame filter through the entire Haas organisation.”
Evidently there are ample opportunities out there for partners entering into this brave new world of F1, and the conversation returned to that critical question of how to find a unique narrative. It was Lucy who offered up a most compelling answer: “You have to be laser-focused on your business objectives and your audience. Always ask yourself, so what? And have fun with it – it’s easy to get caught up in formulaic activations but it’s good to have fun and push the drivers out of their comfort zone”.
As the panellists asserted, Formula 1’s journey is not just about racing; it’s about creating a memorable and entertaining experience for fans, partners, and the wider audience.
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