Force India owner, Vijay Mallya, says that Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone needs to be schooled on the merits and world-changing impact of social media in order to help F1 gain new audiences and improve the sport.


“What I don’t understand is that Bernie doesn’t want to know about social media – he’s a TV man and that’s it,” Mallya told AUTOSPORT.

“Somebody who is qualified enough to persuade him and convince him that social media is something that should be taken seriously would be a nice addition.”

Ecclestone had made previous remarks that Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter can enjoy F1 content when they pay for it like everyone else. Some have taken this bullish position as being out of touch with Gen Y’s and digital natives who consume information differently.

So folks like to digest content on their mobile phones or tablets. Is this the magic cure-all for F1? Not entirely says Mallya:

“Bernie may also be concerned at the lack of live spectator interest, but you cannot immediately ascribe that to the races being unexciting.

“It could be for so many other reasons: ticket prices will influence attendance big-time, and so will weather or other clashing major sporting events – all this has to be factored in.

“You can’t just say: ‘the stands are empty; the sport is not exciting enough’.”

He’s right, of course. Tweeting out a bunch of cheeky commentary isn’t going to endear anyone to F1 more than they already are and having a Facebook page with millions of likes isn’t going to magically turn TV’s on.

A re-tweet or “like” is merely social capital. The problem with social capital is, like actual money, it has to be continually earned and you have to work at getting this currency each and every day. I should know, I’ve been engaged in this hamster wheel since 2007.

Facebook would gladly welcome F1 and will charge them nicely for the amount of content they feed into everyone’s timeline who “liked” them. You see the crux here? Bernie isn’t paying anyone for the privilege of pimping his series. I actually agree with him but then I’m an old curmudgeon who simply doesn’t “get it”.

If you consider Facebook and Twitter as this era’s television, then selling advertising space is what they do. What many are advocating is that F1 should start running ads. Yes, it’s a basic analogy that doesn’t do it much justice but to start arguing the power of social media to transforms lives is taking oneself a little too seriously. Sure, things have happened that have changed the course of history via a hashtag or tweet or Facebook post but newspapers and TV was doing that way before social media and radio before all of them.

So what should F1 do? Mallya says the Indian Premier League had Twitter’s CEO over to chat and they convinced them to embrace the new medium and growth has been wonderful saying:

“The IPL has had such a massive social media boost. We have had the CEO of Twitter and the regional head of Facebook come and make presentations to all IPL teams on how they can help promote IPL.

“It’s fantastic. We need someone like that to come and make a presentation to Bernie. Then I think he will be convinced.”

So that’s all it would take. Just a poke from a social media CEO. Let’s see, IPL has grown. A whopping 170 million people watched the first 41 games last year compared to 174 million tis year. They say that social media has grown by 300% with 1.45 million followers on Twitter and 10.5 million on Facebook.

How do they measure all of the real success in this article about the IPL’s turnaround? You guessed it…TV viewer ratings.

In the end, F1 would do well to have a coordinated effort and I have offered to help them. Let’s be honest, we are already helping them. A cross-platform program that coordinates message, brand and content that is both brand generated and co-content creation will do nicely.

A second and more meaningful goal is to look at what people really want. When they scream for a social media presence, what they really want is content on demand. They want to be able to watch F1 content where and when they want. That, my friends, is a much more achievable goal while still retaining F1’s complete value, content licenses and legacy revenue streams.

I’m with Bernie on this topic. Broadcast revenue makes the ship float and I believe they can have a social media presence but find a new and much better revenue stream in content delivery than just paying Facebook or Twitter for the privilege of flooding their timelines.

Give me a call Bernie; I’ve got a few ideas. ;)

An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry focusing on technology integration, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • Bernie needs to realise it isn’t the number of people in the stands that makes money, it is the fans who want to buy carbon fibre key fobs, but not pay $200 for one. That and advertising.

    The old dude has no idea, and F1 will be better off once all the ancients are out of the game.

  • I’ve heard Bernie does OK when it comes to making money.

  • Social media is 2014. F1 is 2000 and late, as the song says. Bernie is an old man. We are the clients.
    These are the haiku messages that can rule that case. F1 simply needs to embrace social media and improve its TV coverage at the same time. Yes, the investment bell is ringing. Oh, wait, this can make some people less wealthier? ….

    My take on it –

  • An example of monetizing, and even better exposure: NFL app now available on Apple TV, for supplementing the TV coverage.

    $1.99 per month for US, crucially $4.99 per month for international customers.

    For customers, selectable stats-galore, multiple team feeds, interactive content, etc.

    For the NFL, added revenue, and an access point for new viewers and enticement/investment for current fans.

    Also, note how the announcement and PR was sent everywhere, from Apple fan forums to TV reporting sights (both sports and mass interest) to NFL and sport streams.

  • Jason Anthony

    While the World Rally Championship has had it’s fair share of problems, and to be honest, some of the ideas from the new promoters are just as ludicrous as “standing restarts” in F1, I applaud them for their progress in this area. I never used to be able to watch the WRC until the WRC+ website was launched last month. Now, for about 9 dollars a month, I can watch live and archived WRC events WHENEVER I WANT TO. I have to be honest, I have been on that site more than any other website over the past month. Even today, I was keeping tabs on the live coverage of Rally Germany.

    I have to be honest, for the past 3-4 years my interest in the WRC had dwindled due to lack of access… now, in just one month, I am back on board.

    Kudos to the WRC promoters for getting one thing right,

    F1 would be wise to take notice!