Motorsport is one of man’s great gifts to the world. One of the most wonderful sporting products on the planet. Its danger, its technology and its money, is astonishing. It is one of the most frequently occurring global sports with a myriad of fans; from a casual viewer on a Sunday afternoon to a fanatical armchair engineer who takes great pleasure in chastising the fine detail of a new piece of front wing aero. I put myself somewhere in the middle when it comes to consuming races, however, I’m an avid follower of the business of motorsport and the commercial activity within it. I’m also increasingly fascinated by the trends towards everything digital and why motorsport needs to keep pace.
I’ve had the pleasure of working in Formula One, and many other forms of motor racing since 2005, almost exclusively on the commercial side. I’ve activated sponsorships including ING Bank’s mega-deal with the Renault F1 Team under the impressive leadership of Isabelle Conner, I’ve worked at Yas Marina Circuit under the watchful eye of former CEO Richard Cregan. I’ve managed the commercial activities of racing drivers from Formula One down and had the opportunity to work across sporting, sponsorship, PR, funding, logistics and digital. It is the latter that has captivated me of late.
As a keen attendee at various motorsport conferences, it is digital, or the lack of it, that often crops up as an interesting discussion area. Why doesn’t F1 engage its fans enough digitally and how can it do better? Who should be doing it? Sponsors? Rights holders? Drivers? Circuits? Promoters? In order to reach the start line with today’s hyper engaged (young & old) fans, all of us in the industry need to up our game. It’s not just F1, many forms of racing do not take advantage of the modern world and the technology available. We’ve got 3D Mapping, Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality, Virtual Reality and Social Media. There are new platforms being created every day and as a founder of a start-up, I speak to many creative young companies who are crying out for content to share with their communities. So why isn’t it happening?
We’ve got 400 million unique viewers, give or take, watching Formula One….that’s awful lot of people putting their feet up on a Sunday and watching on their televisions, the interest is huge, but there are people out there that want to have a deeper relationship with sport outside of the rigid confines of their box!
There are other ways to consume racing content of course. There is Twitter, where you can grab a snapshot of some key news or what your favourite driver had for tea. There is Facebook where you might get a team telling you about a product their new sponsor wants you to buy or if you’re really lucky you might see a Snapchat of Lewis Hamilton playing with lions. All credit to McLaren recently for launching their own App but it’s one team, among thousands of them, and while it’s a handy tool, it’s not ground-breaking stuff. We need, as a motorsport community, to do more. We must collaborate, discuss, share. Let’s go lateral instead of linear. We need to get creative and snap ourselves out of the traditional way of thinking. We’re all responsible. Sponsors and rights holders need to do more to engage a digital audience, (some) teams need to open their minds and come up with real digital strategies and take them seriously. A jovial tweet in the Paddock does not constitute creative digital marketing. Don’t get me wrong, there are glimpses. The likes of Red Bull and Formula E have made some lovely shareable and rich content but we need more. Furthermore, it needs to be in a place where it’s easy to access, without the clutter of football, Katy Perry or what Justin Bieber’s named his pet tarantula! Granted, after reading Liberty Media’s Investor Relations pack, digital is clearly a focus but this extends beyond Formula One. The people at the very top of global motorsport need to look at the success of other sports or even other industries and thrust themselves into the digital landscape and carve out a plan that engages fans; present and future. Stick with the status-quo and we’ll continue to engage with our sport at arms length and never capitalise on the potential to affect people, to monetize, to enthral, to grow and to excite.
MotorMouth has been built to fill this void. It’s early in our life-cycle but we’re driven and determined to build on the foundations we’ve put down to turn motorsport into the world’s most connected sport.
By Tim Silvey, Chief Strategy Officer & Podcaster, MotorMouth