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Ecclestone: F1 doesn't need young fans


The ever controversial Bernie Ecclestone claims that F1 doesn't need young fans as they don't have the money to buy sponsors products.

The Briton, known for his controversial comments, which most of the time are intended purely to cause mischief, is sure to succeed with his latest outburst.

At a time the sport is already facing a major financial crisis, with two teams seemingly lost and another three thought to be on the verge, and TV cameras pick up swathes of empty seats at races, the F1 boss has claimed that the sport doesn't need young fans.

"If you have a brand that you want to put in front of a few hundred million people, I can do that easily for you on television," he told Campaign Pacific-Asia. "Now, you're telling me I need to find a channel to get this 15-year-old to watch Formula One because somebody wants to put out a new brand in front of them? They are not going to be interested in the slightest bit.

"Young kids will see the Rolex brand, but are they going to go and buy one? They can't afford it," he continued. "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," he insisted. "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."

Whilst team and drivers finally caught on to the social media revolution, Ecclestone, who doesn't use email and is unsure how to work his mobile phone, had to be dragged kicking and screaming before he would allow the sport to officially indulge and interact with the fans.

"I'm not interested in tweeting, Facebook and whatever this nonsense is," he says. "I tried to find out but in any case I'm too old-fashioned. I couldn't see any value in it. And, I don't know what the so-called 'young generation' of today really wants. What is it? If you ask a 15 or 16-year-old kid, 'What do you want?' they don't know.

When it is pointed out the social media can create a relationship between fans and the sport, thereby enhancing the F1 experience, again Ecclestone showed his woeful lack of understanding.

"How are you going to get all the fans to meet these drivers, who don't even want to meet their girlfriends? You're right that we should use social media to promote Formula One. I just don't know how. They say the kids watch things on (tablets and phones), but it doesn't mean they're watching Formula One. And even if they are today, will they still watch it when they are 40? The world has changed so much in the last few years, and I doubt that's going to stop. But with all the technology out there are limits to what we can do and the amount of time people can watch something.

"So, I'm not a great supporter of social media and I think we'll find that a number of things will happen. Very shortly these companies like Twitter will be charging for anything that's put on there that looks vaguely commercial. Otherwise they can't stay in business. Their shares have suddenly dropped 10 per cent this week, and it's because people aren't using Twitter as much."

There is so much we could say, such as how many 70-year-olds drink Red Bull, but if Bernie really sees F1 and its fans this way what's the point?


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1. Posted by moonrover, 22/11/2014 5:02

"It's a very limited vision not to attract young people to a sport. Yes, if you like to sell only today, you don't need young watchers at the TV, but look who are driving F1 cars?, who are mechanics?, who are team leaders and engineers? -previous children playing with a wooden cricle immitating piloting an F1 car 10-30 years back!
Future of any sport depends on today's youth.

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2. Posted by flashpete, 18/11/2014 22:01

"At the risk of being labelled a Troglodyte, I have to say that BCE has a point, and that he shows consummate skill in gaining media exposure and stimulating discussion: just look at the number of comments in this thread, however bad the spelling and grammar, and however offensive and ill-informed some of the comments.

For the record, I have followed motor racing since seeing Moss, Behra, etc in action at Melbourne's "old" Albert Park circuit in the 'fifties, and attending my first F1 race at Brands Hatch in 1968. Since then, there have been many others at Spa, Monza, Hockenheim, Silverstone, etc.

As a former race team manager, when watching races on TV, I have also had my computer alongside so I could see and analyse live lap times, sector times, and so on. But the sector times are no longer available - for no apparent reason - so the attraction of this has diminished.

Certainly our sport needs to attract a young audience. After all, as has been pointed out, the impecunious youth of today may well be the affluent follower/sponsor of tomorrow. But, reading between Bernie's lines, I have to agree that the obsession with the "Yoof" market is of questionable value.

Which leads on to so-called social media, perhaps more accurately described as "anti-social". While acknowledging that the internet has changed the world vastly for the better, notwithstanding its negative side, I do not believe the same can be said of Facebook, Twitter, etc. Like some other correspondents I believe that these will eventually fade away, probably to the betterment of all except those who today find an outlet for extreme views, despite being "nobodies".

So, let's respect Bernie for his incredible achievements in motor sport, and take his more outrageous statements with the pinch of salt that I suspect is his intention in the first place.

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3. Posted by Hondawho?, 17/11/2014 9:03

"One thing for everyone to remember; we do not know the full story on why Mr E said "F1 does not need young fans". However one thing is for sure, you must never do away with experience. Getting on in years he may be, opinionated, very; but, what he has done in the past 30/40 years is amazing. "to be able to "talk with kings nor loose the common touch" is just one sentence in the poem "IF" by kipling. I think everyone on here should realise this fact and unless you could do better.

I am not saying F1 is not perfect at the moment and F1 will "come out of its current phase" but this time its not going to be achieved in the same way(s) as before. The world has indeed changed even in the past ten-fifteen years and as good as he is, Mr E does needs to realise that (I suspect he does but as he says "he stays away from it".

Let him deliver 400-600 million viewers to F1 and let F1 now get on with its development and of course entertainment. IMHO."

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4. Posted by VC10-1103, 16/11/2014 18:45

"As another 'old fart' that that has been following F1 for 45 yrs or so I fully support the comments of ScottC & Paul RB. I long for the return of the F1 racing of the 70's and the approachability of the 'stars'. In '73 Tyrrell was my 'local' team - a bike ride from home. I had a tour round the 'factory' - two old wooden ex-army barrack huts - and saw 006 being assembled. Later in the year I wrote to the team asking if it would be possible to get some close up pictures of the finished article at Silverstone. I received a reply from Ken himself saying to make myself known to him at Siverstone and he would show me round the car himself. Sure enough on race morning I saw him in the paddock, introduced myself and I was soon in the Tyrrell -World Championship contenders - enclosure taking photo's. Imagine that taking place with Big Ron today.

This story also illustrates the ludicrousness of Bernie statement about how he successfully managed his budget, compared to today's junior teams, when he was a team owner. Back then you could become World Championship winners, drivers & constructors, working from a couple of wooden huts.

I also hate all the hype the BBC out out before the race starts. The discussions with Eddie & David are good, it is just the rest of the BS. "

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5. Posted by mavra-j, 16/11/2014 13:15

"the last word is new money. sorry."

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6. Posted by mavra-j, 16/11/2014 13:10

"CVC has a program to their acquisitions , they stay with a company for five years and then they sell their shares to go to the next scheduled acquisition. Their five year program with F1 has passed since 2011 and they are still here because they still make a lot of money for their investors, but they have decreased their ownership into the company by more than 30%. Since 2006 they have more than doubled the money they put to F1 and they still make a large profit every year they stay. CVC needs mr Ecclestone because he is the face of F1 - whether we like it or not - and he has a credibility with the marketing people .
Mr Ecclestone might not like Twitter or Fasebook but he knows that Twitter shares went down last week after their Q3 earnings report, that means that he follows the news around those companies and he knows exactly what is going on ,having so many people working for him and update him .
On the other hand the social media companies are the future of mobile advertising and they have already made a vast movement towards pricing and availability of commercials at the internet. Mobile advertising is the core source of income for these companies and the price war that is happening ( pricing an advertisment, how many hits each one has ,how many times you see it on the site etc.) is enormous.
So, does F1 need young fans - or as they called nowadays the millennials - ? of course it needs them , they are the next generation of F1 income , they are the movers of F1 to the next level with their likes and their posts and their twitts. The advetisment companies know that and they will turn to them for new money. And believe me when i say that F1 needs nwe money."

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7. Posted by Paul RB, 16/11/2014 7:39

"I couldn't agree more with the summary from ScottC. I'm also an old git (no offence Scott, but you are at least "oldish" from the history you cover) and, at the risk of sounding like the archetypal 'things ain't what they used to be', merchant, after 50 years or so of closely following F1, I'm losing interest. Missing out on a race weekend, even if only by TV, used to be a major crisis. Now I wonder why I bother - I can't quite let go but often find myself thinking, "What am I watching this for?" And the hype, glitz and razzamatazz associated with each race becomes positively vomitworthy.

I originate from Cheshire so my local circuit was Oulton Park. It never aspired to GP status, but the Gold Cup attracted F1 teams for years. The great thing about those events was to see the likes of Jim Clark and Graham Hill, not only competing in the F1 race but also in the saloon events (Lotus Cortinas being a speciality). But more than that, you could go into the paddock and actually approach and speak to these guys which they seemed to welcome and enjoy as much as the public. Now you'd need an appointment booked via God to get within a mile of them. Even if you did you'd only get the standard preset sponsor orientated buzz lines, so why bother? Perhaps it's just me but F1 isn't the same and it seems to be consuming itself in politics, hype and celebrity, to the detriment of the sport itself and especially the smaller teams (probaly soon to be collective history). I do agree with Scott about WEC racing. I first went to Le Mans donkey's years ago - back in the days of Pescarolo in the Matra Simca and Van Lennep in the Carrera RSR - now that was a spectacle and WEC seems to have maintained that sense of spectacle and motor sport tradition."

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8. Posted by sjo328ci, 16/11/2014 7:06

"God save Formula 1 from this senile old man."

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9. Posted by Paul C, 16/11/2014 5:44

"Bernie needs to be in assisted living, not motorsports management."

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10. Posted by TokyoAussie, 16/11/2014 4:42

"Make that brain fart."

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11. Posted by TokyoAussie, 16/11/2014 4:41

"It's just another bum fart in a stream of them from Bernie. Good luck focusing on the future of the sport by targeting those 70-year olds."

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12. Posted by ScottC, 15/11/2014 10:38

"My parents tell me I used to bang on about Jim Clark long before I knew what F1 was - this was no doubt being Scottish and born in the year he won his first championship so it would have been absorbed from the discussions of my parents and their friends. Then as a teen I had a massive poster of Jackie Stewart in his 73 winning Tyrell on my wall. I eventually discovered F1 for myself in the mid-late 70s and up until the mid 2000s I would say I was reasonably passionate about it. So I was a young fan who eventually got serious enough that I started going to GPs in the mid-80s and was obsessive about watching as much as was available on TV in those days - usually just the race with about 20 minutes of build-up. But I was also interested enough to buy the Motoring News so I could keep up with developments that would never be known about from the TV of the time.

So fast forward to now. Had I not been interested in F1 as a youngster, would I be getting into it now ? I've thought long and hard about that and it is impossible to know for sure BUT I seriously doubt it. I'm not someone who cares about celebrity for the sake of it and I know that with the noise of today's engines it's not something that grabs you by the throat and shakes you like it used to be with the free-revving V12, V10, V8 of the past. We lived in Australia between 1996 and 2009 (attending 2 races at Melbourne in that time) but in my first year back I couldn't get tickets for even the Saturday at Silverstone for F1. Later in the year I went to the precursor of what is now the FIA WEC at Silverstone and was blown away by it. I've been going ever since and really enjoy it and this year went to Spa for the race there. Fantastic stuff. I wonder if this series is possibly a bit like F1 used to be ? Perhaps someone who has been to this and was around in the 60s/70s F1 days could comment on that but

- there isn's so much (if any) tv coverage so you have to make a bit of an effort to follow it
- the operators don't appear to be celebrity obsessed
- the drivers range from a kid who started out by being a Playstation champion and never having driven a real car to veteran F1 guys
- at Silverstone & Spa (& probably most races) you get free access to (most of) the grandstands on all days and it is only 30 for the whole weekend and, may I remind you, the race is 6 hours long so you definitely get your money's worth. Unlike F1 where if it rains on Fridays you get to see en empty track for 1.5 hours because of the arcane rules about how many tyres they are allowed to use - never mind the 80 odd thousand people who have taken time off work and paid a lot of their own money to get there.

As to sponsorship products. Have I ever bought any stuff - just because it sponsors a team/race in F1 ? No. Would I ever ? Doubt it. Have I ever bought any of these products anyway ? Sure. I drive a car and I fill it up from mostly the same fuel company - but that's because my Dad worked for them for his entire life and so I like to think it's topping up my Mum's pension NOT because they work with Ferrari. I have a DSLR camera - is it because of their association with Williams in the mid-80s ? No, it's because they make good cameras with a massive range of lenses. One of my other loves is music and the company brand on my HiFi is not something from the far-east but from Salisbury in the south-west of England and I don't think they've ever had anything to do with motor racing. Until this year. And that is with a non-F1 related team.

So Bernie. Who am I to comment on what you think about F1 ? Well I'm an ageing F1 who is losing more interest in it as the years go by. Sure I still watch the race on the BBC, but only if it's live AND only if I don't have anything better to do. This year I didn't even bother going to Friday practice ... and I live in Buckingham so it's only a 10 minute drive away. That's the first time I've missed it since 2010. Will I go back next year ? Hmm that remains to be seen but with a dwindling grid and ever less track time I think probably not.

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13. Posted by Robert Gemini, 15/11/2014 2:17

"The sooner that CVC (whoever they might be) get rid of Mr Ecclestone and put in a better manager the better. His outbursts are becoming more bizarre by the day. Supposedly the "pinnacle" of motor sport, F1 looks like its managed by idiots. Ecclestone is smart in the sense that a used-car salesman is smart, which is not surprising because that is his background. Clearly his grasp of demographics is weak. The 70 year-olds with money, like myself, did not suddenly become interested in F1 overnight, but most likely became interested in the sport in their 20s or 30s. If social media had been around in those days we would have used it to follow Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham, Bruce McLaren, Aryton Senna, etc. and the cars they drove and built. If F1 is to continue, it needs to encourage a new generation of "followers", especially now that the "sport" has become a massive money game. Ecclestone is not even right about 70 year-olds (after all we are half a generation younger than him!): I suspect many of us are losing interest in the sport, mainly because of the way it is run and its extreme commercialization. Watching the horrible Mr Ecclestone strut about the grid on race day is enough to make me reach for the off button on my remote. Advertising Rolex watches at F1 events is beyond my understanding. Back in the day I used to put Bridgestone tyres on my own car but I cannot relate to the Pirellis used today. Aside from that I don't find the hybrid-powered cars very interesting. For me, F1 peaked in the V10 era. That's simply a matter of taste. But F1's problem is that the new cars, teams and drivers may not have the appeal for young followers that the earlier ones did for me. If that continues in the long run then F1 will run into financial problems and CVC will see the capital value of their holdings decline. Presumably as business people they can see that even if their manager cannot."

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14. Posted by Tony Soprano, 15/11/2014 1:35

"So Mr Magoo doesn't believe in social media and he doesn't need young people? Maybe it's time for young people to use social media to tell Red Bull and Puma and Verizon Wireless and Casio and Hugo Boss and ..... (you know, all those companies who focus on the 70 year old guys) that if Formula 1 doesn't need them, they don't need to sponsors. Let young fans show CVC and Ecclestone and all his sponsors who don't care about young people just how powerful social media can be and how a boycott of sponsors by young people might actually rid us all of Ecclestone once and for all."

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15. Posted by Bender6, 14/11/2014 23:04

"VC 10, I understand why you don't smoke free ciggies, but you really should try having an Alfa, it'll change your life ;)"

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