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Just 14% of F1 viewers are under 25

NEWS STORY
13/01/2019

"I don't know why people want to get to the so-called 'young generation'," said Bernie Ecclestone in 2014. "Why do they want to do that? Is it to sell them something?

"Most of these kids haven't got any money," he added. "I'd rather get to the 70-year-old guy who's got plenty of cash."

On buying the sport at the beginning of 2017, as its new owners quickly shuffled its former supremo off the stage, along with claiming that his management of the sport was "dictatorial", they pointed to comments like that and said the sport was missing out, vowing to target younger viewers and fans.

However, two years down the line, despite all manner of initiatives aimed at attracting a younger audience - including streaming races, the introduction of an eSports series, the sport's first ever dedicated marketing campaign and seriously upping its social media presence - it appears to have failed.

As Forbes reveals, in an AMA (ask me anything) slot on Reddit, F1's global research director Matt Roberts, reveals that: "The average age of a global F1 viewer is 40. 14% are under 25, 30% are 25-34, 20% are 35-44, 20% are 45-54 and 17% are over 55.

"The average age is higher in more established markets like the UK, Italy and Germany," he adds, "whilst it is youngest in newer F1 markets like USA and China."

Roberts, who has a ten-year career in sports research which began in 2008 when he joined Eurosport as head of research, was recruited by Liberty in June 2017, just a few months after it purchased F1.

While the likes of Chase Carey and (commercial boss) Sean Bratches talk a lot but say little, Roberts gives great insight, so much so that fans participating in the AMA thank him for his candour at a time his bosses appear to rely solely on marketing-speak soundbites.

Of course, his openness, while delighting fans, may not be so well received at F1 HQ, as he gives the lowdown on a couple of initiatives that appear to have failed spectacularly.

Referring to the 'Engineered Insanity' marketing video for the sport, he reveals that the response to it "was actually positive and above the industry norm.

"The one problem was that not many people saw the ad which we need to improve next year," he admits. "The reality is that outside of avid fans, not many casual or non F1 fans saw the ad."

This will come as a blow to the much-hyped marketing department, which was put in place shortly after Liberty's purchase of the sport, and is headed by Ellie Norman. Norman, who was hired in 2017, was formerly head of advertising and sponsorship at Virgin Media having previously spent seven years in marketing and communications roles at Honda.

In an interview with Reuters in March last year, she said the aim of the Engineered Insanity campaign was to develop it over the course of the season in order to make it more relevant.

"One example would be that in-between every race there is a new edit," she said, "a 30-second piece of film that is created that starts to take the key moments from the race before and plays that back almost as a snapshot. It's literally to keep people engaged with Formula One."

In another interview, having claimed that the campaign had got off to a successful start, when asked what type of content gets the most engagement with F1 fans, she said: "Some standout pieces are always the team radio best bits edit after the race, the Engineered Insanity marketing campaign, and the race wrap up in 60 seconds".

As for the sport's much-hyped ramping up of its social media presence, Roberts reveals that too may have slightly misfired.

"The most discussed thing about the Austin GP last year was Taylor Swift's concert!" he reveals. "I know it's worrying!" he adds.

Despite the worrying demographic, Roberts also reveals that the sport hasn't given up on attracting younger fans. Asked "can you release toys [merchandise]? Like die cast, [radio controlled] car, figurine, track, of F1 team/car? Or you can't do that because its team exclusive right?" He responds: "funny you should say this. This is being looked at for 2019."

"We are about to embark on a strategy to try and appeal to younger fans (and the fans of the future)," he says. "We know that digital, social and things like eSports and fantasy are going to play a big role in appealing to this generation. We feel we are moving in the right direction but we still have a long way to go.

"Of course it is important that we don't alienate our older viewers in pursuit of these younger fans as they will have been fans for many years and are more likely to sit through the 2 hours race," he adds.

On purchasing the sport, F1's new bosses wasted no time in criticising Ecclestone, stunned not only at the lack of a dedicated marketing department, but that almost all of the sport's deals were done by the man himself, often on a handshake.

In January 2017, Chase Carey, when asked about key revenue streams, said: "Probably the one to grow the fastest is sponsorships. Realistically today we have a one-man sponsorship operation. There are many categories we are not selling into. We have signage at tracks we're not selling. Putting an organisation in place that enables us to execute on that probably is the most immediate impact."

Fast forward to November 2018, and the American admits: "The perception was just there are sponsors waiting... They were lined up out there and as soon as we had somebody to go call on them, they were just going to sign up. The world's not that simple."

"We hope with all the investment and the change in management, this will help encourage advertisers back to the sport," says Roberts, though, following his revelation in terms of the sport's demographic, this will surely have the opposite impact on advertisers.

Though it is claimed TV viewing figures in the UK could crash by 5 million next year when Sky has the sole rights to live broadcasting of the sport - other than the British GP - Roberts disagrees.

"Channel 4 will have the highlights next year and we have worked with them to ensure they show the races in a favourable prime time slot. We estimate that we will actually have more viewers next year in the UK (thanks to this prime time slot) than we had this year. We do appreciate that many of these viewers will be watching only highlights though."

However, he thoughtfully adds: "The problem with podium interviews are that 70% of viewers have switched over by then."

And for those hoping for coverage of pre-season testing, he admits that this "will not be shown on TV is because broadcasters have not expressed interest in showing it as many feel they can get bigger audiences in the slot with other content. Sky used to show it but hardly anyone watched it so they stopped broadcasting it."

And as Liberty insists on making the sport appear more 'trendy', it's worth noting that in the first year under its management the sport's sponsorship haul only increased by 8.5m ($11m) - less that any year in the previous decade - while over that same decade the total number of viewers crashed by 41.3% to 352.3 million as F1 signed more Pay TV contracts.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by imejl99, 15/01/2019 10:35

"It only took Panini F1 sticker album, a John Player Special F1 Diecast Car and free-to-air TV, and I was hooked. And in 40 years since it was never level playing field. There always were dominant, chasing and all the others. More often than not I was asked "how you can watch cars doing circles nothing happening?" "I don`t want to miss if something happens".

And that is it. Possibility of Fisichella winning with yellow Jordan, Maldonado win, Schumacher pit lane win...
Possibility that something could happen. Just that."

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2. Posted by Bill Hopgood, 14/01/2019 17:55

"I have a 15 year old son who I've tried to get interested in F1 from his outset (we've even visited the MTC when he was 11) and he won't watch a race as there is "nothing happening" for long points.
He will watch the start, a decent shunt and a couple of cars battling it out and will ask what the result of the race was. That's about it.
He'd rather race on his computer or iPad than watch as @Pete said, the same six cars following each other.
I can't say he is typical of the youngin's today or 10 or so years ago however I can see why F1 is not appealing. It can be, as Tony Quinn (owner of Highlands Motorsport Park and Hampton Downs and a racer too) has said, boring as bat s*!t.
This isn't just an F1 issue as other series can have this problem too, F1 just has less cars and the cars can't follow each other closely in order to then overtake.
The two main feeder series have a lot of cars and action and said son actually watches F2 with interest because the races are shorter and the drivers have more on track fights.
I don't know why the F1 bosses just don't save a bucket of cash and just look at how to put the best of F2 into F1 (ground effect?)."

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3. Posted by Spartacus, 14/01/2019 17:53

"I agree with Spindoctor's post. I think that most of the viewers under 40 are mostly in Europe. Here in the USA people don't know what Formula One is. Many of the "Millennials" don't drive until they are in their mid 20s and in the urban environment don't own cars. The children are holding a smart phone in their hands at age 5 instead of playing with a Tonka Truck or Jacks. Since Europe has the roots F1 appeals to families and friends that have been interested/spectators for decades which yields a strong base. In the USA, a strong base is harder to establish and hold viewership, especially with the major portion more interested in burying their faces in a smart phone and ordering food via an app. Not sure how F1 is going to gain viewers here."

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4. Posted by Spindoctor, 14/01/2019 15:16

"'...The average age is higher in more established markets like the UK, Italy and Germany," he adds, "whilst it is youngest in newer F1 markets like USA and China"...'
Excuse me if I consider that to be stating the blindingly bleedin' obvious. In any market, the longer you're in it the more likely your customer profile is to be biased towards older people (assuming the product is OK).

Despite its studiedly 'yoof-ful' stance most of Apple's customers are now at the least middle-aged. This is only partially because only wrinklies can afford iPhones (see B.Ecclestone quoted above), but mainly because they've been around forever.

The point is (and again Apple is relevant) that irrespective of your target demographic it helps if you have a good product and\or which is unique or better than the rest. Apple can, at present, hang-on to its loyal (but ageing) followers, though as they drop-off the perch, numbers may likewise fall.
F1 is, on the other-hand, has a diminishingly desirable product, and appears determined to alienate its existing user-base, without having a strategy to develop a likely to develop a new one. This has very little to do with the allegedly goldfish-like attention spans of generations x,y,z etc, everything to do with trying to charge them for a mediocre product.

'Millennials' are used to getting good stuff for 'free'. Google Search & Maps for instance. The Interweb itself is mainly 'free' (significant caveats applied) and people only want to pay for really good stuff - Netflix, or Spotify, or iTunes for example. Trying to flog F1 to this group is a bit like. well, trying to flog a dead horse. Marketing 101 (as our US cousins might say) is having something that if not actually worth buying, can be made sufficiently attractive to sell to the great unwashed. The note about young Taylor Swift being most discussed on SM is pretty telling...

Like all the other old gits who post here, my solution is 'MAKE F1 A BETTER RACE', but I'm also like all those ageing iPhone owners comfy inside the Walled Garden -irrelevant to the issue of tarting-up F1 to appeal to the under 50's.
One thing 'for sure' is that F1 is simply an unattractive product, poorly marketed by people who don't understand it sufficiently to monetise either older fans, nor attract younger ones. Bummer!"

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5. Posted by FQITW, 14/01/2019 14:08

"Looking at that short clip above isn’t it ironic that a goodly proportion of the footage is historic reaching back to the eighties.
That’s not very ‘now’ is it?

With the fast cut editing, as so often happens, blurring into just a mess by the end leaving people watching thinking ‘glad that’s over’.
Why must we batter peoples’ senses with endless loud music and rapid fire images? This clip could just as easily be advertising a theme park or an energy drink etc.

Regarding the lack of new F1 sponsorship the answer is luckily much simpler.
Just ask Zak if he has a ‘window’ of a couple of hours per week and you will see the money rolling in. After all he is a sponsorship Guru.
Isn’t he?
"

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6. Posted by Kico28n, 14/01/2019 10:59

"GrahamG..... I trust I am of similar age & agree with everything you say...."

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7. Posted by GrahamG, 14/01/2019 10:24

"This is scary and a reflection on the current strategy of placing everything behind a pay wall. It pretty well eliminates the casual viewer who becomes an enthusiast. I started watching F1 at the age of about 12 ( a long time ago) when you could chat to the drivers, read about the technology after every race and feel your enthusiasm and commitment build.
What is there to attract my grandsons to the sport ... absolutely nothing, no live free to air races, virtually no details about the cars and technology and Lewis Hamilton acting like another remote movie star.
The attention span point is well made, but if the races were truly competitive with people able to support a driver or team which had a real chance of upsetting the order then people would watch. "

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8. Posted by YuppieScum, 13/01/2019 21:18

"Pete, the problem is that under-25s have barely enough attention span to watch a whole music video.

I've been in a cinema and seen, as soon as there's any plot exposition or extended dialogue, this same demographic pulling out their phones... which is why we now have so many movies nowadays which are just running and explosions.

Cricket introduced 20-20 matches for the same reason - to try and increase appeal to people interest or ability to cope with a one-day match (let alone a five-day test match), which then makes it more appealing to broadcasters and advertisers.

What *didn't* happen was for 20-20 matches to *replace* the one or five-day matches.

Perhaps if F2 and F3 were available free-to-air and appropriately positioned and promoted, it could grow a new audience for motor-sport generally, and ultimately for F1.

But there's no chance for the current 18-25s - any attempt to appeal to them now will ruin F1 forever.

(Much more about inheriting our interest in sport from our parents and peers while growing up, no time now)"

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9. Posted by Pete, 13/01/2019 20:24

"Why are they surprised that the under 25's are not interested in cars following each other round a track with the same 6 cars always in front???? "

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