It is not surprising that Lewis Hamilton absolutely revels in the social media spotlight. It is also well-established that former F1 supremo, Bernie Ecclestone absolutely detested it. Interestingly, prior to his departure and Liberty Media’s takeover, he decided to send Hamilton a parting gift.
The unamused Lewis Hamilton handed Liberty Media a “stack” of the letters sent by the octogenarian. Hamilton was always highly vocal about restrictions that Ecclestone placed on drivers using social media. So,F1’s head of digital, Frank Arthofer presented the letters to managing director of commercial operations Sean Bratches.
“A great story that Sean Branches, who’s my boss and runs the business at F1 tells, is [about] when Liberty bought the business [and] one of his first meetings was a lunch with Lewis Hamilton,” said Arthofer.
“Lewis brought with him to that lunch a stack of ‘cease and desist’ letters from Bernie Ecclestone because Lewis was taking clips of his onboards and posting them on his Instagram channel. And Lewis Hamilton, as I’m sure most of the audience knows, is arguably the biggest star in the history of the sport and has a huge crossover potential across urban culture, music, lifestyle.”
Fortunately for the 6-time world champion, Liberty Media has eased up on the restrictions. This was especially with reference to drivers using broadcast footage in their social media posts. According to Arthofer, they need to work in tandem with the drivers and the teams, in order to build the sport.
Since Bernie Ecclestone stubbornly refused to invest in digital marketing, Liberty Media had no qualms in jumping in to raise the sport’s profile.
Arthofer noted that Liberty had focused on three main areas in terms of managing F1. First and foremost, the sport a global asset and there were certain untapped opportunity to exploit.
Secondly, Liberty Media had to deal with the increasing value of live sport in the market. Since Formula One has expanded to 21 grands prix, the sport’s value is increasing with every live experience.
Finally, he concluded, “The third component was to a degree the areas of focus that Bernie had. I think he did a terrific job monetising the businesses – it’s a $2 billion dollar revenue business – but equally, didn’t invest for the future. He probably didn’t invest in areas like digital, which aren’t necessarily as creative from a pure profit potential in the near-term, but have long-term potential.”