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Investing in F1? Is it a Good Idea?

by Michael Orduna

A few days ago I had an interesting conversation with a journalist specialized in motors and one of the first things he asked me was: if you happened to be the head of marketing and sponsorship of a big company and you could choose anything to invest in, which sports sponsorship you would go for? A Formula 1 sponsorshipa Formula E marketing activity or a MotoGP partnership deal?

Clearly it is a question that cannot be answered straight away, it’s not a gut choice, as often happens, otherwise we would choose without thinking about it in terms of marketing but just driven by passions, by the fan we are at heart. As we have already said several times, sports sponsorships are a proper marketing tool that allows us to communicate and engage with our target in a moment of leisure and fun. Sponsorships are not invasive like classic advertising that interrupts the show we are watching and therefore annoys us, but they are an active part of, they are embedded in the action and by dint of seeing the same brands, for weeks, months, years, consumers recognize those brands, they remember them, and they are more willing to buy them too.

The choice of the sports discipline in which to invest must therefore be based on the target and objectives of the individual company, the markets in which they are more interested in, the values ​​they want to be linked to.

What do the numbers tell us.

The starting point for any sponsorship program must always be dictated by the numbers; you can’t just approach a sponsorship deal without knowing who the spectators are, how many they are, where they are watching from. If I had to think only in numerical terms, Formula 1 would probably be one of the first sports I would think about investing in and I will tell you why.

Formula 1 published the official audience figures of the 2020 season at the beginning of February 2021, numbers that have been heavily influenced by the ongoing pandemic. Despite everything, however, the overall figures are decidedly positive especially when compared to other sports on a global level, equally affected by the restrictions and closures.

The 2020 season had four races less than the 2019, 17 instead of 21, with an average audience of 87.4 million spectators per Grand Prix. Slightly down, -4.5% compared to 2019, but if we look at the average audience of the previous years, things did not go that badly considering all the events: 87 million in 2016, 2017 and 2018, 80 million in 2015 and 83 million in 2014 and therefore the 2020 performance was very much in line with the average of the last seven years. The season was forced to take place only in Europe and in the Gulf and could not touch a series of continents that usually follow the races assiduously and the start time of the races certainly determined the absence of an audience of a whole part of crucial markets.

Despite everything, however, excellent results were recorded in several important markets: + 71% year-on-year in Russia, + 43% in China, + 28% year-on-year in the Netherlands, + 10% in the United Kingdom and + 5% in Germany. The US also saw a slight + 1% increase considering there were no local time zone races and no US Grand Prix that would clearly have benefited from ABC’s audience presence.

The unique spectators of the 2020 season were 433 million (-8% on an annual basis).

The cumulative 2020 television audience was 1.5 billion, slightly lower than the 1.9 billion in 2019; the reduction, as already specified, was probably influenced by the 17 races of last season compared to 21 in 2019. *

There is not just the tv audience, there is also the digital world that is growing more and more.

Formula 1 is the second fastest growing major sports league on the planet through the four major social platforms. In 2020, followers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Tiktok, Snapchat, Twitch and Chinese social platforms increased by 36% to 35 million; video views increased 47% to 4.9 billion and total engagement increased 99% to 810 million overall. Total video views on F1.com, the F1 app and social media increased by + 46% compared to 2019 to hit 4.9 billion, unique users on F1.com and the F1 app increased by + 26% reaching 70.5 million and page views increased by + 13% to 1.3 billion.

Beyond The Grid was the most listened motorsports podcast in the US, UK, Australia and Canada with over 14 million subscribers.

The overall results therefore indicate that Formula 1 is far surpassing other major sports in the digital arena, including La Liga, NBA, PGA Tour and Premier League. *

I numeri che abbiamo appena visto sono di certo una prova evidente che la le F1 sponsorship continuano ad essere un ottimo investimento in termini di marketing: F1 is still one of the most followed and popular sport in the world.

And what about values linked to every sport discipline: we cannot forget about them.

But let’s be clear about that, it is not just a question of numbers and audience, which must always be consulted and considered, there are also all the values related to each sport that a company must look at and try to make its own; the values linked to sport are unique and they must be exploited in the activation of sponsorship and in all the communication activities that a company will schedule. Formula 1 has a vast list of values to choose from: technology, innovation, speed, pursuit of performance and perfection, precision, team spirit, passion, glamor, dynamism, internationality … so we must be inspired by these values to build the contents to share with your audience. 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.

A traveling circus that allows a unique global coverage

The F1 calendar has clearly undergone major changes and may be revised at any time based on the progress of global events, but it secures excellent territorial coverage. Both the American and Asian continents are back on track and will guarantee that slice of audience that was lost in 2020. The prerequisites are all there, the public is ready to watch and maybe in some cases to attend the races, the teams are increasingly competitive, and the show will not fail, that is for sure!

So if we go back to the initial question, surely if I were a company that wants international brand awareness and that has a fairly large budget, I would certainly think of Formula 1 as one of the first platforms to invest in and I think this is definitely a good time to do it: people are just starving for live sports and events, they need to be entertain, they just want to have fun.

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