Before I delve into the matter, let me give you a brief background into what essentially necessitated writing this article and would clarify the solutions proposed thereby.
You see I live in India and we Indians love two things very much, Cars and Racing and therefore it pains me very much to see little to no knowledge about the sport that is considered to be the pinnacle of four wheel racing. The university where I study which boasts of students of the utmost caliber in all fields of life from all over the country, only a few know about Formula One as a Sport despite the fact that the country for 3 years hosted the Grand Prix.
The reason, any average person here in my country knows about Formula One is because they are aware of the name Schumacher or Vettel. While the former is the original record breaker and hence became synonymous with the name Ferrari and a brand in himself, advertising the sport in the process and Vettel popped up in the news because of the youngster’s record breaking spree that made him a name to reckon with and news channels to broadcast the German’s achievement again and again and it also helped that he sealed his 4th world title here in India.
Yet these two names are bigger as a brand and name than the sport itself, the sport that allowed them to scale such heights. At first, I dismissed the thought as a problem peculiar to my own country but as snooping through the news and audience figures I found that this generally is the case with almost every region outside the sport’s forte i.e. Europe although with variations.
And that made me wonder how much the sport is struggling and how narrow its vision is in terms of focusing only on causing an arrest of the declining interest of the current pool of fans while being unable to see the bigger picture of the potential number of fans that are out there and nothing has been done to lure these people into the sport.
We have been so limited in our thinking of addressing the falling numbers that we have not given a thought about tapping the vast potential and increasing the numbers.
Now I don’t suggest bringing changes into the sport itself because put simply that’s easier said than done. What I’m talking about is the way the sport markets itself. Beyond the now highly lucrative markets of Europe and America, the sport rarely finds any mention and advertising for the potential audience to take notice except a few billboards and the top driver’s cutouts placed at showrooms of highly expensive brands.
The sport needs to take advantage of the digital platforms to reach more and more number of people, which to be fair it is doing under the leadership of new owners Liberty Media. But right now it is limited to only a portion of the seemingly expansive universe of digital media, its limited only to Facebook and Youtube and to be able to grow, Liberty Media needs to widen its gaze.
And fortunately, it need not look beyond its own garden. How? Well that requires a brief look into the conglomerate that Liberty Media is. Liberty is an American mass media giant that has dozens of top notch Channels under its portfolio but its biggest gem and the one that concerns us is Liberty’s close nexus with Discovery Communications LLC which in turn owns the famous Discovery Channel.
Liberty can use Discovery Channel to provide an insight into the world of Formula One and its technical feats the same way Discovery does it with its shows Mega Factories and Supercars Superbuild. With such shows, it can help an average joe understand the complex technologies of an F1 car taking away the long term held criticism that F1 is too technical to understand completely. And also it can induce young ones into following the sport by presenting the feats that an F1 team performs every racing weekend.
Another aspect could be an F1 show which follows an F1 driver over the course of a racing weekend showcasing the Driver’s personal emotions and preparations for the race, how he tackles each obstacle and take on the challenge.
With most of the drivers being ultra secretive of their personal lives from the Media, Liberty
will be in a better position to influence the drivers to allow a tailor made show to capture the personal lives of these drivers while the drivers having the say on how much they want to show to the outside world. Imagine a show that gives you a peek of what Sebastian Vettel does on an average day during the winter break in one episode while in the other episode you get to follow Lewis Hamilton as the Brit parties in exotic locations.
With Amazon working with McLaren to show the inside out of the team, it gives us the evidence that the above said ideas are not completely impossible to execute.
In an age of Social Media, Liberty being a mass media powerhouse is in a prime position to promote the sport which in turn will boost its own revenues. What is required of Liberty is that it turns its focus from stopping the decline in the viewer’s figures to adding to that base and inducing more and more people to tune-in to the sport.