Formula 1 is a global sport with fans around the world. It seems like the sport has forgotten this or doesn’t care because its digital strategy is from the stone ages. It is a sport that has some of the world’s top engineers, information technology professionals, and other business professionals but the digital assets that Formula 1 has are so user unfriendly, have more performance related issues, billing issues, and are more unreliable than Bugs Bunny’s navigation system. In order for Formula 1 to maintain its popularity and grow its fan base, the digital strategy must change and modernize along with the views from people within the sport on social media and Formula 1.
“People blame Bernie for not moving into social media. I don’t blame him at all because he can’t monetise it. You have TV stations and media partners who pay you for exclusive content so why do you want anything to do with social media making it for free.” -Toto Wolff, Mercedes AMG Petronas Executive Director
In my opinion, this is the wrong thought process when it comes to Formula 1 and social media. It is an archaic viewpoint and makes it seem that the sport is turning its nose up at people who don’t have the means to pay the high asking prices for access. The opinion above illustrates the fact that Formula 1 is still in the stone ages when it comes to the effective use of social media. As television ratings, race attendance, and the sport’s popularity are on the decline, social media should be embraced and maximized even if it can’t always be monetised and, right now, given the decline the Formula 1 is experiencing in a very crowded sports marketplace; not everything should be monetised. One day, the TV stations and the media partners are going to stop paying Formula 1 for the exclusive content because the demand will no longer be there. If the sport’s numbers keep shrinking, pretty soon there won’t be much left of the sport and its global brand and social media will be a necessity just to help it raise from the ashes.
Social media can be used to grow the sport worldwide, sell race tickets, provide behind the scenes access, position the sport effectively in a crowded sports marketplace, and other exclusive content that maintains the exclusivity that Formula 1 was built while still making it accessible to fans of all ages and income levels. Given that Formula 1 has such a global fan base, the sport should really put as much content online as it can. Rather than put as much content as it can online in order to make the sport as accessible to its fans as it can, the sport puts a small selection of articles and videos online and charges a monthly subscription fee for the content that they think the fans will be the most interested in. The amount of content keeps shrinking every week instead of getting larger and, many times during a race weekend, only race edits from the previous year’s grand prix, a weekend introductory video, videos of accidents or car retirements, and short press conference videos are available and some of the content requires a subscription. Unless a person is at the grand prix or has access to television coverage, their experience of the weekend is very limited. This is not good. Formula 1 must attempt to put forth different, cutting edge content that is as diverse as its fan base and reflects the innovative, technological mindset of the sport.
One of the current problems facing Formula 1 and its fan base is that increasingly Formula 1 grands prix are not shown on free to air television. Many people around the world can’t afford the high prices that the different pay sports channels charge in order to watch the races or even have access to TV stations that broadcast Formula 1’s content. This excludes many people from following the sport because of their income level. One of the reasons football/soccer is so popular on a global level is that anyone from anywhere in the world, regardless of their background or economic level can follow or watch the games on social media. The sport has a plethora of intelligent, forward thinking people involved in it that they should be able to figure out a way that Formula 1 can stream the grands prix on Formula 1 so that people using only a mobile phone, tablet, or other mobile device and a data connection can get the grands prix and other related content for a fixed, affordable price no matter where a person is in the world.
In order for Formula 1 to get itself out of the crisis that it’s in, all forms of social media need to be effectively utilized and maximized to help the sport grow and thrive because the hard times are not over yet for the sport. People within the sport like Toto Wolff need to shed their archaic views recognize that sometimes during the difficult times things need to be given away for free in order to get the possibility of revenue later on during the good times. The people have made Formula 1 a global sport…sometimes I think that Formula 1 takes these people for granted and they shouldn’t because, one day, the people might move on to other sports.