Formula 1 has been named the fastest-growing sport on social media, while the sport also saw rising viewing figures across the globe.
Figures show the cumulative TV audience across the top twenty regions grew 6.2% to a staggering 1.4 billion for all broadcasts last year, with live viewers increasing by 1%.
The four most-watched regions of Italy, Brazil, the UK and Germany all experienced an increase in figures, though it was Italy who grew the most. A competitive Ferrari got Italy’s attention, as TV audiences galloped up 19.1% to watch the prancing horse. Brazil saw a 13.4% growth, the UK was at 3.9% and, despite not having a Grand Prix this year, Germany’s numbers grew by 0.9%.
Social media saw the largest increase, with followers across different platforms shooting up 54.9% in a year. Instagram followers increased 93%, video content on Twitter was up 165%, and minutes viewed on Facebook was up a staggering 1,600%. This almost overnight growth is thanks to one thing – Liberty Media.
Liberty took over Formula 1 in early 2017, and made some immediate changes to the sport. An increased social presence, along with a decreased number of decision makers named Bernie, were both received with open arms by the fans, and led to some of the massive changes seen above.
Bernie Ecclestone was vehemently against the sport even interacting on social media, and had spoken previously about how he didn’t see the point in attracting younger viewers. Speaking to Campaign Asia-Specific in 2014, Ecclestone made his views on social media – and younger fans – abundantly clear.
“Young kids will see the Rolex brand, but are they going to go and buy one? They can’t afford it. Or our other sponsor, UBS — these kids don’t care about banking. They haven’t got enough money to put in the bloody banks anyway.
“That’s what I think. I don’t know why people want to get to the so-called ‘young generation’. Why do they want to do that? Is it to sell them something? Most of these kids haven’t got any money.
“I’d rather get to the 70-year-old guy who’s got plenty of cash. So, there’s no point trying to reach these kids because they won’t buy any of the products here and if marketers are aiming at this audience, then maybe they should advertise with Disney.”
Liberty’s refreshing acceptance of, and fervour for, posting content on social media has helped bring in a new wave of fans, and given them the type of 24/7 content that help make the sport grow. This is undoubtedly good for everyone involved with Formula 1 but, what’re more, is actually helping other series as well.
Whilst Fernando Alonso faced his fair share of detractors for his IndyCar excursion last year, the excitement of seeing a legendary, two-time World Champion transcend disciplines and participate mid-season in another race couldn’t be denied. More than two million fans watched Alonso’s Indianapolis 500 rookie orientation program alone and, interestingly, it was watched by more fans in the United Kingdom than anywhere else. The UK also saw IndyCar viewing figures rise to a six-year high, thanks to one F. Alonso, showing how desperate fans (particularly in the UK) are for a more digital approach – one that seems to be coming.
Amid all this though it would be fair to say that whilst it’s fantastic that Formula 1 is the fastest-growing sport on social media, it never should have been. Formula 1 is a massive, global sport with hundreds of millions of fans around the world that was being held back by a lack of social, rather than a sport that has experienced an overnight boom. These figures represent a sport that only now is starting to enter the 21st century, and that Formula 1’s social presence is just starting to get to where it always should have been. The numbers show a changing of the guard, and are good for not only the sport, but for the teams and, importantly, the fans. It’s a readjustment rather than a reawakening, but it’s a start.