Aesthetics of racing - Paddock Magazine

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LET’S LOOK AT THE RECENT CHANGES OF PR AND PROMOTION OF MOTORSPORTS AND TALK ABOUT WHAT COULD BE DONE TO AVOID CERTAIN MISTAKES WHILE MAKING THE RIGHT DECISIONS FOR FORMULA 1’S FUTURE.

Moving on

The most obvious change in terms of Formula 1 PR and promotion now is, obviously, the impact of social media. It is no longer enough to just rely on traditional PR strategies, although they clearly still have a place. The rise of social media has ensured that the motorsport audience is as informed and media-savvy as it has ever been, so we have to think longer and harder about what kind of content we are supplying media (and as a result the motorsport audience) with – bland, safe, overly-curated messaging will no longer have the same impact it would have done and in fact can damage a client’s perception amongst the audience who know when they are being spoon-fed a ‘PR’ story. The aim therefore is increasingly to find ways to engage directly and honestly with the motorsport audience.

The word ‘conversation’ is increasingly important in PR in general, and particularly in motorsport, where so many fans have made such a strong emotional investment, they want to feel included in as many ways as possible. In short – talk to your audience, not at it. Find out what conversation your client wants to have with its audience and then find the right way to engage the audience in that conversation.

"The word ‘conversation’ is increasingly important in PR in general, and particularly in motorsport, where so many fans have made such a strong emotional investment."

There are some great examples of this in motorsport currently, where the likes of Mercedes are constantly speaking to their large following and finding ways to involve them in the conversation. Similarly, one of our own clients, Circuit of The Americas (COTA) is constantly running online activities to engage its growing fan base such as the #COTALEWIS15 competition held last year, whereby four lucky fans won an all-expenses-paid trip to Austin to meet Lewis Hamilton at the 2015 United States Grand Prix. The response from the Mercedes and COTA fan base to this competition was incredible and showcased a shared passion for motorsport on the part of both COTA and the fans. This helped further strengthen the bonds between brand and audience. Furthermore, the @circuitamericas Twitter feed is growing its own very loyal following as a result of its constant, humorous and passionate engagement with its audience. It even has it’s own catchphrase – ‘time to make the tweets’ – which we are pretty sure is a first among Formula 1 circuits.

Furthermore, the rise of social media allows us to offer motorsport fans new, exciting and thoroughly engaging and visceral content that goes way beyond the traditional forms offered to them in the past. The phrase ’Content is King’ exists for a reason and when it comes to motorsport, there is no shortage of available content with which to engage audiences, old and new. Motorsport generates truly awe-inspiring visual imagery that sets pulses racing and makes people want to share this with their friends. It is therefore incumbent upon us to enable fans to directly engage with this content whenever they can, wherever they want. Never before has it been easier to create and share such content with millions of people around the world, never has it been easier to tell a story to each other with such ease and clarity and at such regularity.

The unique factors

Working in Formula 1 is certainly a great pleasure, an experience that is hard to compare with any other sport. This sport and its industry in itself is truly unique – there are very few, if any, sports that operate in such a distinctive manner where the sport’s regulatory and commercial arms travel the globe in tandem with its actual proponents (teams and drivers), an army of hospitality and sponsorship personnel as well as approximately 500 international journalists! There really is no place like the Formula 1 paddock!

While the aforementioned parties do of course work to different agendas at times, the overall feeling in the paddock is one of fraternity and of deep respect and love for the sport – something that truly makes any PR’s job a lot easier. Ultimately, we all want the same thing and that is to continue to help this motor sport grow and resonate with a modern audience.

The US of A

In a country with so many established sports (baseball, American football, basketball, ice hockey, NASCAR etc.), that already demand the attention and affection of the American people, Formula 1 always knew it had to play the long game to establish itself in the hearts and minds of American audiences.

The popularity and success of the race in Austin over the last 4 years has helped give the sport a home base from which it can hopefully (current financial issues permitting) continue to grow, while the added presence of a race in Canada and Mexico now means that there is a clear Formula 1 presence in central and north America from which the sport can truly begin to build. Furthermore the introduction of the USA-owned Haas F1 Team to the grid next season will also help make a big difference to its popularity in the American market, while the continued progress of the only American Formula 1 driver currently racing, Alexander Rossi, will also play a big part in this process.

"Never before has it been easier to create and share such content with millions of people around the world, never has it been easier to tell a story to each other with such ease and clarity and at such regularity."

As we have seen with the growth in popularity of soccer in the US over the past two decades, it takes time for any ‘new’ sport to establish itself in America, but as the incredible response by American fans to its team’s success during the 2014 World Cup showed, they are willing and able to get behind a previously unfamiliar sport if they are given sufficient reason to. So the combination of a continued and ideally increased presence of Formula 1 in America, allied with a successful American team and driver(s) are, in my opinion, the key ingredients required to build on the progress made over the past few years since the sport’s return to the US.

In addition, as mentioned earlier, making clever use of the modern PR tools available today will also greatly help to increase Formula 1’s popularity in America. A good example for the sport to follow is one of America’s most popular sporting bodies – the NFL and its embrace of modern communication tools. With 12 million followers on Facebook, 11.3m on Twitter and 3.1 million on Instagram, the NFL has clearly been highly successful in leveraging its many assets to directly engage with its fan base on social media. Through a combination of 24-hour monitoring of its social media landscape and a clear, concise content schedule, the NFL has managed to more than double it’s online following in recent years. The NFL is talking to its fans, not at them, making them an essential part of the NFL community via a policy of direct engagement and transparency.

The good news is that Formula 1 – and motorsport in general – has all the right ingredients to mirror the NFL’s achievement in reaching out to US audiences.

2016

The 2016 calendar is shaping up to be one of the best yet, with a record 21 races currently scheduled to take place – there will be no shortage of action for fans to enjoy! In particular, we are excited to see our clients at Sochi Autodrom host their third race during the earlier May date (having previously staged their first two races in October), which should see Sochi bathed in sunny weather.

Furthermore, we are also delighted to see the German Grand Prix back on the calendar, Formula 1 just isn’t the same without it and we are excited to work with the Hockenheimring once again. Finally, June sees the inaugural Formula 1 race in Baku whom we are currently actively working with. This will be the third and fastest street race on the calendar. We have been to Baku several times this year already to observe preparations and I am sure this beautiful city will play host to one of the most exciting and aesthetic races next year. It will really surprise people.

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Michael Cox