There are still a few weeks left before the beginning of the new season of the Formula 1 World Championship. In fact, on March the 28th we will finally have the opportunity to watch the amazing supercars of the premier class of world motorsport back on track at the Bahrain International Circuit. And we cannot wait for that moment. F1 teams are presenting their new spectacular racing cars, and I must say that one is more beautiful than the other. Incredible machines, aesthetically perfect, technologically more and more advanced, and powerful, real beauties. Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull, Aston Martin, Williams, Alpha Tauri, Alfa Romeo, Alpine and Haas are presenting worldwide their new cars and their drivers, up and ready for the launch of the new season. Yes, because F1 is still one of the most followed and popular sport in the world.
Formula 1: the sport in which heritage, glamour and media exposure are still unreachable by most of the other sports.
If I think about myself for a moment, when I was a child on a Sunday afternoon, one of the memories that certainly comes straight to mind is the image of my father and my brother on the sofa in front of the television watching the Formula 1 race. Of course, I was there too. Sunday lunch and the Formula 1 race were a fixed combo for millions of families and not only in Italy. And this is still true today, even though the racing broadcast has undergone major changes since then. You will certainly say “yes ok, it’s true, but F1 is so boring, I watch it because it makes me fall asleep and take a nap”. Fair enough, I can understand what you are saying, but you are still there watching it and you know about it as well as many millions of viewers in the rest of the world. In fact, F1 is still at the top in the ranking of the sport with the largest global audience, together with football.
Since the 1960s, Formula 1 has been one of the most important sporting events on the planet.
Thanks to free-to-air television, F1 immediately entered our homes and became a settled show, a fixed moment of entertainment and unique glamor. The drivers were absolute idols, unattainable, probably the first real sports super stars (at that time without the support of all the social media platforms), who risked everything at every single corner, true and authentic heroes who are still in nowadays imagination. Just think that in Italy alone, in the 2000, Formula 1 recorded an average of 10 million and 650 thousand spectators per race: crazy numbers! For companies, F1 became straight away an excellent opportunity to promote their brands and reach millions of people around the world hard to reach in any other way; the first true sports marketing and communication platform.
Large TV followings on national television of course have been an extraordinary benefit not only for sponsors and partners, but for the sport itself. Thanks to its larger-than-life global coverage, Formula 1 became one of the first sporting event to enjoy transnational popularity and gathering attention -and money- from all over the planet. From the 70s to the early 2000s, when free to air TV was the driving force for marketeers, Formula 1 was the golden nugget.
That’s of course very different to what has happened to Formula E marketing in the past years. While Formula 1 could count on paramount, free TV broadcasting in its early days -and therefore building a colossal audience for the sport- Formula E had to struggle through social media channels, YouTube videos, and satellite television. Knowing this, Formula E marketing pivoted in a very clever way around the main values and propositions of the series, such as sustainability and a vision for the future. However, even though the pinnacle of electric racing is doing extremely well, Formula E has not yet obtained the status Formula 1 has, in the mind and hearts of racing fanatics and sports marketing operators.
F1 is not only one of the most followed sports in the world, but also a true landmark in motorsport sponsorship and sponsorships in general. When it comes to giving an idea of a perfect sport sponsorship program, I always take some examples from F1.
The way you watch it has changed but the numbers are still on their side: F1 is the most followed motorsport show in the world.
From the broadcasting of the races on free-to-air TV, we moved on to pay TV and on demand contents and at first, like all changes, it seemed very weird, and everyone was scared about losing the audience (we will see shortly that this is not the case, at all). Social media platforms have been then added to pay TV, and this has increased the opportunities for interaction and exposure and the numbers continue to reward the F1.
In the world of Motorsport specifically, Formula 1 is always the undisputed queen: the figures that have been recorded in 2019 are truly incredible. The sparkling racing cars have reached 1.9 billion people on TV, with an average of 245,000 viewers for each GP, and can count on over 405.5 million followers on various social media platforms; these figures are just incredible and mark the best result ever since 2012 – according to Liberty Media. Thanks to some new regulation and continuous engineering developments, F1 is undoubtedly a show that the public likes. Just think that in 2019 the most followed Grand Prix was that of Monza, which saw the young Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc crossing the finishing line in front of everyone, keeping 112 million total viewers stuck in front of the television.
This is one of the many reasons that lead some of the biggest brands in the world to associate themselves with this sport so to grow and improve their image and their business. F1 represents the highest level in sports marketing, the peak of motorsport sponsorship.
Red Bull: an example above all
Please, just name a brand of an energy drink. I am sure everyone will obviously think of Red Bull. When the then unknown energy drink Red Bull wanted to enter the market and became known to consumers and establish its brand, they thought that sport and sport sponsorships were a perfect combination. At the beginning they decided to invest and sponsor very particular and niche sports and in a few years the brand was perceived as the owner of a series of real extreme sports activities. Snowboarding or extreme mountain biking, crazy dives from the top of mountains in wingsuits, and even jumps from prohibitive heights: all to attract the attention of the public and position the product in a unique way. But then when the brand started to grow, that approach and strategy were no longer enough. To become popular, it was necessary to engage consumers in the most visible sports: enter F1, MotoGP and football. For Red Bull, sport sponsorship has become the real and most important means of promoting the brand, a proper tool to make the brand and the business grow all around the world.
F1 is a marketing platform for companies that want to increase visibility and improve their business.
When they ask me how a brand can grow by sponsoring F1, I usually answer with a list:
– A passionate global audience
– A unique number of countries hosting the races (even now in times of Covid)
– The values that it represents and that a brand can exploit: technology, innovation, speed, pursuit of performance and perfection, team spirit, passion, glamor, dynamism, internationality …
– B2B opportunities with some of the greatest companies in the world
– Activation and exploitation of social media
– B2b and B2C opportunities through the use of the Hospitality in the various countries of the world (when you can be able to travel again)
And so much more.
The first major sponsorship deal in the history of sports sponsorship were those related to F1 as well as the longest ones. F1 allowed us to talk about sports marketing in a serious and structured way.
That is a fact.