Finding the right formula: Formula One’s marketing success

by | Feb 9, 2024 | Opinion

Speed kills. In this case, it has been killing it through Formula One’s recent inroads in the world of motorsports. 

When I was younger, my family and I gathered around the television and were engrossed with the extreme maneuvering skills displayed by former racing legends like Michael Schumacher, Mika Hakkinen, and David Coulthard. 

And just like us, the rumbling sounds of Formula One cars are music to the ears of many ardent fans across Asia and Europe. However, recent numbers suggest that it is rapidly gaining traction in America! 

According to ESPN, the 2021 Formula One season averaged 949,000 U.S. viewers, and the 2022 season thumped those numbers by 28 per cent, topping one million viewers on average per race for the first time. 

Seven-time world Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton once said that “In racing, there are always things you can learn, every single day.” Interestingly, a simple breakdown by the CBC Kids News program will teach you that Formula One races are more popular than NHL and NBA games in Canada.

A significant contribution to Formula One’s success in North America is the “Formula One: Drive to Survive Series.” This Netflix docu-series showcases explicit behind-the-scenes on and off the racing track. Drivers and their teams are put under the microscope in 40-minute-long episodes, captivating the audience by heightening the raw emotions of the strong personalities involved in this motorsport. Former two-time Formula One Championship winner Emerson Fittipaldi stated, “Formula One has always been the top racing in the world, but Americans did not know about It … what is happening now is magic!” 

And this magic has been converted into numbers, as season four of “Drive to Survive” became the most-watched Netflix series in 33 countries, including the United States, prompting Brandon Riegg of Netflix to say that “Once people started hitting play on the first episode, there was a very good rate of watching them all.” Subsequently, ESPN has enjoyed increasing ratings since it took over broadcasting Formula One in 2018, moving from an average of 554,000 to 927,000 in 2021. Its yearly increase in viewership has been tallying with the growth in popularity of each subsequent season of “Drive to Survive.” 

Another element that has helped elevate the popularity of Formula One is social media. Currently the fastest growing sports league on social media, Formula One, with the backing of its owners Liberty Media, has witnessed the average age of an F1 fan in 2017 drop from 36 years old to 32 years old in 2023. Liberty Media also states that one out of every three fans did not watch the sport four years ago.

I might not be a huge Formula One fan like I once was, but the strategies deployed to increase its dominance might drive me to watch Formula One more frequently once again! 

NASCAR may be the darling of Motorsports in America, but Formula One is catching up. Who knows, someday, it might blaze through the chequered flag and claim pole position not just on the tracks but in the hearts of the American and Canadian fanbase.

cover photo via Formula One

Latest Issue