When people ask me if this is the right time to invest in F1, I usually answer like this: it is always the right time to invest in Formula 1 and now probably more than ever.
There is little to do or say, if you’re considering international sports marketing, Formula 1 is one of the most important sporting events on the planet of the last fifty and more years; the roaring engines of the marvelous four-wheelers entered the spectators’ homes thanks to the free-to-air TV and from that moment the races have become a fixed moment of fun and entertainment. Speed, noise, overtaking, glamor, exclusivity, technology, innovation, adrenaline, fun, internationality, passion: these are just some of the many values associated with Formula 1, at a global level. Which company would not like to join and be part of it? The show has changed over time, it has become a little more boring and too long at times but still the numbers continue to prove it right.
The numbers speak for themselves, despite the unprecedented events of the 2020.
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 very 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. *
And the digital platforms, can they keep up with other major international sporting events?
Formula 1 is often seen and perceived as a sport followed by a more mature audience and therefore probably less attentive and in line with the times in digital terms. On the contrary, we can say that there has been great progress in this area, making Formula 1 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. *
To invest in motorsport today more than ever, why?
If a company or a brand seeks global visibility through sport, F1 today is certainly one of the right platforms to invest in, even more so than before. The recent pandemic has made us understand that unfortunately there are a whole series of activities and sectors that forcibly have had to stop more than others. People have had to start working from home, doing fitness at home using dedicated apps and channels; live entertainment, as we used to live it, has disappeared for over a year. No cinema, no concerts, no theater, no live shows, nothing at all. Fortunately, a part of sport has partially managed to go back live thanks to television or video transmission; no spectators in the stands, all races behind closed doors but at least we were able to watch the games, competitions and races live from our home screen. In this sense, the most popular global motorsport events managed to resist – and the increasing number of companies that sponsor Formula E for example are there to prove it- and they were forced to stop just at the beginning of the first lockdown. However, the possibility of being able to organize a Grand Prix safely and the certainty of being able to watch it live from home is a great plus that only a series of sporting events have managed to maintain. For sponsors and partners and companies that are willing to invest in Formula 1 this is certainly a great, huge advantage and now it is definitively the right time to invest. The public at home needs and wants to be entertained with live events waiting to be able to return to cheer their idols in person at the grand prix. Having an almost defined and safe racing calendar is a huge plus for scheduling and fulfilling the communication and commercial plans of companies and brands. The safety protocols in Formula 1 and MotoGP are very, very strict; the riders, teams and organizers had the opportunity to get vaccinated last month making the circus even safer and more secure.
A calendar that sees the 23 scheduled races back
The program 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 you are a company that wants to invest in a sport sponsorship, this is the best moment ever; people are just starving for live sports and events, they need to be entertain.
* all numbers shown are Source F1 ™