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How the F1 rebrand breathed new life into the classic sport

The 2021 Formula One season is one that will live in the memory of many fans.

After 21 races, we are left with the top two drivers, Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, equal on 396.5 points. This is the first time the two championship runners have been level on points going into the final race since 1974, when Emerson Fittipaldi and Clay Regazzoni went into the last race and battled it out in the United States.

Formula One has always been a huge global sport, with the first ever grand prix being held at Silverstone on the 13th May 1950. But from 2010 to 2017, the sport was losing viewers year after year, going from 527 million worldwide viewers in 2010 to 352.3 million in 2017. This is when Liberty Media took over…

Liberty takes control

On the 23rd January 2017, Formula One announced that it had been taken over by Liberty Media, a mass media company based in Colorado. Liberty Media already had knowledge in the sports industry as they already owned The Atlanta Braves, but taking on a whole sport is different to a single team! At the end of the 2017 season, Liberty Media rebranded the sport and changed the logo, showcasing it at the end of season finale in Abu Dhabi.

The season after Liberty’s takeover saw Formula One’s viewers increase for the first time in 7 years! Going from 352.3 million in 2017 to 490.2 million in 2018. F1 then saw 2019 gross 471 million viewers and 433 million in a disrupted 2020 season.

Off the track

As well as Liberty Media bringing success on track, their off-track marketing has been nothing short of superb. All F1 teams now have their own social media platforms and teams, as well as having an overarching F1 channel. In 2019, Formula One’s social media channels were confirmed as the fastest growing of all major sports leagues in the world, beating huge global players such as the UEFA Champions League and the Premier League.

These social media channels bring the fans closer to the day-to-day life of the teams and drivers, making them more relatable. The Mercedes F1 team in particular have a great approach to social media, making it informative and professional but also letting the fun side come out, especially through TikTok and Instagram reels. Often dubbed ‘the best social media admin’ in the F1 community, Mercedes is the most followed team in the sport, proving that what they do on and off the track is reaching fans and making them engage.

Another move that has paid dividends for the world’s most famous motorsport is the introduction of their Netflix series. Drive to Survive first hit the streaming platform in 2019 and has since had two more seasons in 2020 and 2021. The success of the Formula One docuseries has more F1 based programmes such as Schumacher and A Life of Speed: The Juan Manuel Fangio Story also landing on Netflix.

A new generation of fans

This digital first approach has led to Formula One’s fan demographics becoming younger. A survey commissioned by Motorsport Network found that the average age of Formula One fans is 32, which is four years younger than the previous study from 2017. It also found that female participation has doubled over the past four years – another win for the sport.

When asked about the report, current Alpine F1 driver and two-time world champion Fernando Alonso said “There’s a younger generation following Formula One, so I’m pleased to see what they think about the sport. I think the fanbase is a bit different from before, in the last two or three years with the Netflix series, et cetera.

“The surveys are very important. We had one a few years ago with some very interesting answers, and this one is the biggest ever, so this survey is going to provide even more interesting answers from the fans.”

The positivity of the fans was reflected by the report’s top five brand attributes. These were identified as being ‘exciting’, ‘technological’, ‘expensive’, ‘competitive’ and ‘entertaining’. This is the first time the attributes ‘competitive’ and ‘entertaining’ have appeared in the top five, showing the on-track action is exciting the fans, contrary to the 2015 report where ‘boring’ was one of the highest-scoring traits.

How PRG can help you down the home straight

Formula One has shown how a rebrand can breathe new life into an existing brand. Matching this with a digital approach can help you reach customers you never thought were attainable for your brand. PRG can help put you in pole position!


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