Liberty Media’s boss, Chase Carey, was speaking at a BRDC event when he was critical of the season finale in Abu Dhabi as a race that the series really doesn’t want. The circuit does a nice job but the racing action was sub-par in Carey’s opinion. I agree. Although I would argue that the track itself—any many of the Tilke tracks—need some re-profiling as they were designed for a particular era and the cars of today are behaving differently so the 45 degree angle turns and other design elements aren’t really working that well in my opinion.
Carey then offered this:
“Probably the people who have been with it the longest, and are the hardest core fans, they’re the ones that have liked what they’ve grown up with,” he said.
“They are the foundation of the sport, so our historic fans are tremendously important.
“But we want to bring new fans in, and to bring new fans in we have to continue to find ways to respect the history and what’s made the sport special, but also find ways to entice and engage new fans.
“We’ve got to bring in a new generation.”
Since Chase likes to throw some good old-fashioned American colloquialism around, I thought I would offer this one: Everything before the “But” is a lie.
The veteran fan base is the very thing propping the sport up at this point and he’s right to want to appeal to younger folks as well but if there is one lesson we can learn from American businesses, marketing and advertising companies, fast food companies, car manufacturers, and more, it is that they are not really that interested in anyone over 35 years old.
I have written about the buying power of Gen X and how companies are ignoring that completely in favor of Gen Y and perhaps due to the fact that it is twice as large as Gen X. I get that. Still, the demographics with disposable income probably shouldn’t be avoided.
As we age, cultural trends become less meaningful or even interesting to us as young people create their own culture and display their own buying habits and trends. Fair enough. Makes sense. The tough question for Chase is, how do you create a series that anchors itself with all the history, legend and nuance to keep the 40-60 crowd invested while at the same time create a series that appeals to all the trends a young generation find appealing?
“It’s great, but we can make it much better,” he said. “And it starts with the sport on the track.
“We can make the competition better, the action better, and then around it we want to make sure it’s a sport that captures everybody’s imagination, an event that captures people’s imagination.
“We’ve used the word spectacle, and it should be.”
I could be completely wrong here but I keep coming back to the very notion that great racing breaks through a lot of generations. If the racing is good, the crowd will follow. Autosport said this in their article:
“Abu Dhabi puts on a great show and a great event,” he said. “But the race in Abu Dhabi was not what we want in the sport today.
“I think there’s broad-based agreement amongst the teams.
“Obviously on specifics there’ll be differences, but there’s broad-based agreement on things we need to do to make the competition better, make the action better.”
Carey said that to “make the sport more captivating” it was necessary to have a system that would make “other cars have a chance to win, have the unexpected happen”.
He added: “Everybody knows the initiatives we have in terms of engines and costs and rules and the like.
“We’re all driving to achieve that.”
This is a huge rock too. If he believes that Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault are all going to get on board with the notion that a Sauber could win on any given Sunday, that’s going to take some serious regulation tweaks to enable that outcome. Sauber spends nowhere near the resources on their program that Mercedes does and Merc reaps the rewards for doing so. That’s not an easy sell by any stretch of the imagination.
The intent is to make on-track action much better in order to appeal to a younger audience? The FIA, Merc, Renault and reluctantly-at-first Ferrari all felt that being the pinnacle of sustainable racing with hybrids would bring manufacturers and Gen Y flocking to the sport. It did neither.
Are we suggesting that regulations enabling Sauber, Williams, Toro Rosso and Force India to win on any given Sunday against a team that spends $400 million on their racing program is going to appeal to those big spenders and keep them in the sport? What regulations could enable such an outcome if not standardization (spec), a Balance of Performance or cost-cap scenario is used?
I am one of those legacy fans, Chase, and I suspect you may still need me yet so best not to throw the baby out with the bathwater here, mate. Every week I am still working to get new fans into the sport with a large footprint on the very market you are seeking to crack…America. There are 20 and 30-somethings watching your sport and who are new to it.
You may find that the legacy fans could be your biggest marketing tool to getting new fans. How do I know? Because when I was 7-years-old, my dad would sit with me on the couch and watch F1. I was hooked from then on. That Gen X with young children may just come in handy after all. You can put that sentence after your “But”.
Hat Tip: Autosport