Full throttle for Formula One as its kids’ fan engagement outpaces football, says The Insights Family

More children are tuning in to the Formula One brand than ever before, with numbers rising by 2.85 million in key European markets alone, and outpacing the growth rate of fans flocking to football, new research from The Insights Family has revealed.

The global motorsport brand has witnessed a 17 per cent year on year increase, from 17.3 million to 20.1 million, representing a faster growth rate than football, which, according to the company, only grew by six per cent.

Finding from a recent study commissioned by Formula One will now go on to help shape the brand’s approach in engaging with the generation of fans as it continues to build on a digital infrastructure it has created since Liberty Media took over back in 2017.

Working with The Insights Family, F1 ran a combination of qualitative and quantitative research across seven markets with a total sample size of 162,774 kids aged 12-18 with the objective of understanding what the ‘fan of the future’ looks like. Key findings from the research uncovered a varying shift in interests of the younger generation.

These findings include that:

  • Generation Z now has a greater level of interest in esports than traditional sports.
  • Instagram and TikTok are where young people are consuming content now, rather than Twitter and Facebook.
  • Content on the official F1 social media channels was very well received by the group.
  • Having behind the scenes access helps them understand more about the sports participants and their back stories. Those interested in the engineering and innovation of F1 cars are particularly attracted to documentaries too.
  • ‘Drive To Survive’ viewers tended to enjoy it thoroughly and valued the additional insight it gave them.
  • There was strong interest in hearing about the history of F1, including the evolution of the cars and icons of the sport.
  • Interest in engineering and technology was more often spoken about as an entry point than races themselves, with UK 10-18s who aspire to be an engineer being 86% more likely than average to watch F1.

Despite sport in general fiercely competing with music, video games, film and TV, technology, and fashion for the attention of the younger generation, the efforts of F1 to put its own stamp on these areas of modern culture have already reaped rewards.

F1 is currently the second fastest growing sport on social media with a year-on-year growth of 36 per cent, as fans continue to flock to the platforms for race highlights, driver content and behind the scenes clips, with Instagram and TikTok especially crucial for the 15-18 age range. YouTube also continues to be a prominent channel for young fans – an area F1 has already explored, streaming the 2020 Eifel Grand Prix free on the platform in selected markets.

“Whilst there is no surprise that the binging of TV shows is now a huge part of people’s lives, there has never been more demand for sports documentaries, recounting iconic moments or giving insight into the personal lives of sporting heroes,” says The Insights Family. “That notion was evident within these focus groups as they crave behind the scenes access and more information on the lives and back stories of the F1 drivers.

“The popularity of Emmy-nominated docuseries ‘Drive to Survive’ on Netflix is undeniable as the production provides insight from the drivers at the heart of the action through dramatic storytelling. Additionally, the history and engineering of the sport also captured the attention of the participants. As part of the sport’s 70th Anniversary celebrations in 2020, F1 produced ‘Race to Perfection’ with Sky Sports detailing the innovation and pioneering nature of the sport as some of the world’s most powerful vehicles have developed over the last seven decades.”

Globally, 41 per cent of kids aged three to 18 now engage with esports, marking a 22 per cent increase year-on-year according to the report. The firm’s research also indicates that Generation Z now has a greater level of interest in esports than traditional sports, an area F1 is already strong in given the success of the F1 Esports Series events and Virtual Grands Prix, which took place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The likes of Lando Norris, George Russell, and Charles Leclerc were the stars of the show, as the Virtual Grands Prix series achieved over 30m views across TV and digital, and the record-breaking 2020 F1 Esports Pro Series saw a 98 per cent increase on viewership from the previous year,” says The Insights Family.

Research found younger males especially are huge fans of the official F1 video games because it ‘gives them the chance to feel what it is like to be in the cockpit of the car’, as well as see the world’s most iconic race circuits at track level. Esports and gaming has been key for F1 as an entry point to fandom as the younger generation continues to become increasingly embedded in the virtual world.

Interest in engineering and technology was also a common entry point, with many of the participants expressing ‘fascination at the extraordinary innovation on show throughout the sport.’ STEM education has become an important subject for F1, and the brand notes that this ‘will continue through the reaffirmed WeRaceAsOne movement’, which was made earlier this year, as well as the upcoming Aramco F1 in Schools World Finals which took place in June.

The Insights Family data shows that teens who favour STEM subjects at school are 64 per cent more likely to be a fan of F1.

Ellie Norman, director of marketing and communications at Formula 1®, said: “We are always thinking of creative and innovative ways to engage with new audiences and showcasing the sport that hundreds of millions of fans around the world already know and love, so it’s great to see that the work we’re doing to target new and younger audiences is paying dividends.

“Through the use of social and digital platforms, we’ve been able to break down our often complex sport for the next generation of fans, as they begin their own Formula 1® journey.”

Nick Richardson, founder and CEO at The Insights Family, said: “This generation are super-informed and constantly connected. They have access at a very young age to every bit of content they could possibly want. This presents both challenges and opportunities for content creators, brands, and properties.

“The proactive approach of Formula 1®, to invest in research and develop a new generation of fan strategy is very much a best-in-class approach. The results we have seen in our Kids Insights trackers across their key markets speak for itself – it’s working.”

Formula 1 extends Fanatics partnership as it eyes global expansion into new markets

With the 2021 FIA Formula One World Championship now in full throttle, Formula 1 has signed off a multi-year extension of its partnership with the licensed sports merchandise specialist, Fanatics.

The extension has been agreed following what the firm billed ‘an outstanding 2020 performance’, and will see Fanatics retain global e-commerce and manufacturing rights fort he F1 brand. The news arrives amid celebrations in the F1 camp, following a year that has sales on the official online F1 Store grow by more than 40 per cent globally.

Official Formula One merchandise is now delivered to fans in 143 different countries across the world. The strong performance has accelerated in the first six months of 2021, with sales on the official online F1 Store growing by triple digits compared to the same period in 2020.

The sport has also enjoyed an increased presence in the US, with the region becoming the most significant market with the most sales for the F1 site.

Fanatics, which partners with more than 300 of the biggest sports clubs and organisations in the world, has worked with Formula 1 to grow sales by almost 200 per cent since 2017 and has changed the way F1 fans purchase their merchandise online through a tech-infused approach to making and selling fan gear in today’s on-demand, mobile-first culture.

The official F1 online store utilizes Fanatics’ vertical commerce model, which combines on-demand manufacturing with an agile supply chain to produce the timeliest assortments of merchandise for Formula 1 fans. A key driver of sales on the official F1 online store in 2020 was the store’s move to Fanatics’ Cloud Commerce technology, which provides rapid navigation for fans across online and mobile sites.

Fanatics partners with many of the largest sporting organisations in the world including Manchester United, Chelsea FC, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, NFL, NBA, MLB and the NHL.

Ben Pincus, director of commercial partnerships at Formula 1, said: “We are pleased to extend our ecommerce and licensing partnership with Fanatics on the back of an exceptional 2020 performance, which follows the remarkable growth we have seen over the last few years.

“Our ambition is to serve all our fans no matter where in the world they are located, and our focus in the years to come will be to access new markets and grow strategic territories like China.”

Zohar Ravid, general manager for Fanatics’ International Business, said: “We have worked in partnership with Formula 1 for a number of years now and grown its global merchandise business significantly in that time. The recent transfer of the site onto our innovative cloud commerce platform has delivered some incredible results in recent months; we are committed to building on that growth in the coming years and I am delighted that we will now be able to continue to deliver results and an incredible service to its global fanbase.”