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Photo by: www.kymillman.com/F1

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

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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.

  • Paul KieferJr

    Get off mah lawn!

  • kcabmi

    Carey is a good man with many fine ideas
    BUT
    he risks turning F1 in to another Indycar. There is no shortage of series where similar cars race close together on a track.

    • subcritical71

      Does he want similar cars? I’m not so sure about that. Some standardization is good, lets hope he doesn’t go to far…

  • bobmendon

    I think Carey is being a bit misinterpreted. I see where he is going. The sport needs to draw in new fans. I think it’s a generational fact, that F1 is no longer perceived as interesting for it’s history and exclusivity. Younger audiences have a strong desire to be entertained and indulged. If the sport is to survive it does need to attract newer generations of audiences which means changing with the times. Business should never be stagnant.

    • I’m certainly not trying to misrepresent what Chase said, I know he said that both new and old fans are important and he wants to reach both. My point is that we’ve seen this same notion from other companies and they actually mean, we want Gen Y and Gen Z. They end up orphaning Gen X and Boomers. Not saying he will do that but it happens quite a lot. I want him to succeed for sure, I’m just slightly worried about what that will look like. I also believe that his best recruiting tool is Gen X and Boomers and they also happen to have the most disposable income to support F1.

  • Tom Firth

    Like Todd, I’ve been following F1 since I was very young, and certainly when I’ve been in discussions with people on ‘how did you first get into the sport’ most say ahh it was me dad, me grandad, me friend, whatever but at a young age, and that seems at least to go across generations, though i may be generalising a bit so do say If I’m wrong.

    F1 and motorsport in general, actually lots of sports, not just ours struggle to attract younger generations, certainly in motorsport, average age is about 35 but I have to give the event promotors some credit in trying to engage with younger fans. Silverstone for example since 2015 has offered under 10s free general admission to the British Grand Prix. F1 was a bit late to the party on this as most domestic series have offered those type deals for decades.

    The reason I went to BTCC and BSB as a kid was because it was free for me to get in, and its kind of nice now seeing lots of families at those type events, as it gives you some hope of a future large fanbase coming through for our sport as a whole. Maybe not all of them, but if it gets a few of them to start paying gate fees on motor racing events later in life like it did me, and I’m sure others then its been worth it and lets be honest here, yeah families get the kids in free, but then they want the merchandise, the food etc and the already discounted kids price on a gate is already reimbursed.

    Another example is Spa has a grandstand exclusively for 19-27 year olds this year for the Belgium Grand Prix and is some DJ and other stuff in that. To me, that sounds like an idea of hell and I’d much rather spend my times talking to older racing fans and learning more about the sport but I’m not an atypical 20 something year old. I understand that these type things do appeal to people in my age bracket.

    The other part is whilst Chase is going on about attracting young people to racing etc. The sport is disappearing off the radar as its disappearing off TV onto premium packages and when you can a ton of Netflix content for £6 or whatever, you can’t charge them £50 a month on a sat package and expect them to just follow it. The reason F1 is popular in the UK is it was free to access on TV. It is TV coverage, not trackside coverage that gets people into the sport in the first place. Trackside comes after you’ve been exposed to it.

    Now whether that is on your TV, or whatever device, a smartphone, a tablet is irrelevant. What is relevant is it has to be accessible to get them interested enough to go spend some money down at Silverstone, or wherever in the first place, and right now, its becoming about the least accessible ‘mainstream’ sport to watch in the country.

    So you can change the technical regulations and all that stuff, and maybe close racing would attract fans, but are far more proactive, cheaper ways to bring them into the sport. We aren’t all goldfishes, some of us do have attention spans Mr Carey.

    • Meine Postma

      By the way that our attention span is less than a goldfish is an incorrect urban legend.

    • jakobusvdl

      Your point about accessibility is a great one Tom.
      For most of us boomers F1 was always available – Sunday afternoon 3pm, there’s going to be a race on, and Raymond Baxter, or Murray Walker are going to be telling us about this high tech world of brilliant engineers and daring drivers.
      Local motorsport was physically more accessible, but we always had this window into the ‘pinnacle of the sport’.
      Unless F1 can find a way for a diminishing group fans to fully financially support the sport, making sure F1 has huge ‘free, or cheap’ shop windows is going to be necessary to maintain a mass audience.
      Its all about the story telling – there is so much depth to F1 that L.M could open up to fans.
      Mostly in F1’s history, the racing hasn’t been super close, but the stories and enthusiasm of Murray Walker and James Hunt, generally meant that by watching the races you learned about the sport and its folklore.

      • Salvu Borg

        The biggest loss of F1 followers is not how good or bad the racing is, it is the ever increasing cost of following the sports, the main culprit was the replacement of free-to-air with pay TV. The global F1 viewing figures between 2008 and 2015 dived from 600 million to 400 million. I do not see a hope in hell that LM will reverse this trend, I don’t see them returning to or increasing free-to-air. LM will not want to milk the system any less than the ones before them did.

        • jakobusvdl

          That seems to be the case Salvu.
          Its a real challenge for L.M. They have an US $ 8 billion investment to service, so they need to make big returns from F1.
          They can’t afford to go back to Free to air, can’t make the on line content free, or we’ll all cancel our subscription TV, but have to compete with other entertainment that is cheaper to access.
          Its enough to make the ends of your moustache curl!!!!

          • Salvu Borg

            “That seems to be the case, LM have an US$8billion investment to service, so they need to make big returns”. yet some on here even suggested LM might have planed a series without the big teams!.
            A huge percentage of the teams operating budget comes direct from sponsorship, sponsors are much less inclined to invest in F1 because of shrinking TV audiences, hindered by ever increasing pay wall.

        • Fred

          Well except in America during the “good old days” we had Wide World of Sports for Monaco, ABC for Indy 500 and that was about it. We mostly followed the sport via magazines. It wasn’t until ESPN took up the torch that we could watch the whole season of F1.

          • Salvu Borg

            but now the good days are coming because the sports we follow is being Americanized.

          • subcritical71

            My point below confirmed, worldwide viewership was down to decade lows in 2016 and is up in 2017 and the Americans are to blame, not congratulated.

          • Salvu Borg

            Moving F1 broadcasts from free-to-air TV to pay TV was the biggest contributor to the loss of 200m viewers (one third of viewers). From 2015 to 2016 the viewership numbers loss bottomed out. This trend was not exclusive only to formula 1, but also hit the English premier league as well as the American national football league. Every pay payfer broadcast sports is experiencing large declines in viewership.
            People under 25 have less money than before, they don’t have the money on luxuries TV packages. It’s amazing that the commercial rights holders don’t understand this. You increase the financial barrier to participation, you decrease that participation.
            When you have large declines of viewers, a decline in revenue from sponsors also follow. As evidenced by the over 40 million loss in profit LM has managed so far. Something that those before them not only managed to avoid but always increased the profits.
            LM does not intend to increase or take back FI to free-to-air TV.

          • Salvu Borg

            What was up in 2017 was race attendance as registered by some tracks on their attendance of the previous year and not TV viewership.

          • Fred

            If they compare a F1 car to the family car, I’ll go back to watching it on Spanish TV.

          • Salvu Borg

            ha ha ha, that’s a good one FRED.

            Some old-time buddies of mine from Mineral Wells TX recently said to me “ Doing a Micheal Buffer in Austin does not make the sports any better”. I was taken aback by this coming to me from where it did.

        • subcritical71

          What does ‘free to air’ mean? I can’t remember a time when F1 races were provided free in the US but yet viewership is going up 16% year over year in mid 2017 (from racer.com)

  • charlie white

    Generations change and sports must evolve with those changes to survive. And that’s precisely what F1 under Liberty is doing. Every sport I like and follow have evolved to match its primary audience, sometimes for the better but in most cases, not. The sport, in its present form, is not attractive to new fans in Chase’s eyes. If I were to come to F1 as a new, curious viewer watching the Yas Marina race, I’d probably never watch another open wheel race again.

    • I understand that. I was thinking yesterday of the changes that F1 has gone through in my lifetime and what it did to keep me invested in the sport and how did it change to accommodate my generation versus, say, the greatest or boomer generation. What, if any, changes do you think they made since 1950 to attract new fans and appease new generations or it’s primary audience as you call it?

      • charlie white

        I think you need to remove yourself as a long time fan and see it with new eyes. That’s how I think Chase is viewing it. Before acquiring it, I bet he never watched an F1 race. Now, it’s his job. Yes, long time fans like yourself(and even me) were key to F1’s past success but we are diminishing in numbers and the sport must look past “us” to attract new fans. Maintaining the status quo won’t achieve that. They can’t rely on we hard-core long time fans to earn back $8billion Liberty paid for it. What changes, you ask? Other than having races in certain locales, I don’t have an answer. Has it always been the case of “if you build it, they will come” for F1? I looked at this in the context of long-running movie franchises: Sean Connery is James Bond but he can’t play Bond now. The character has evolved from “Dr. No” through “SPECTRE” for better or worse over time, yet still holding a large fan-base. This sport is not the same as the one I saw in Japanese Grand Prix in 1988 but it has changed very little since then, too.

      • jakobusvdl

        I think there have been huge changes over F1’s history to attract an audience, fan base and SPONSORS!!!!
        The two hour race format – because us boomers didn’t have the attention span of the silent generation.
        Tying teams of two cars to a full race series – rather than a few regulars, with random entrants dropping in and out – because we wanted consistency.
        On car cameras – so we could see the drivers ‘working the wheel’ – so we could feel involved in the racing.
        Televised coverage of the full race weekend – rather than just the race – so we’d understand the context.
        Qualifying – has become a specific session, and more recently a structured Q1 to Q3 session – because our attention span…….
        The podium ceremonies and champagne spraying – whoohooo :-(
        Interviews with team principal’s, drivers etc, Grid walks, etc, etc.
        Night races – so Bernie could get his asian/arab $$$’s and European’s still get an afternoon race
        High degradation tyres, DRS, etc – to make the racing closer.
        Bernie worked his butt off and grew F1 from a small minority sport into a worldwide phenomenon.
        Keeping it at that high level in a rapidly changing world is going to be a huge challenge for L.M

    • Salvu Borg

      I have honestly lost count of how many “Yas Marina like races” I have watched and yet here I am still watching, stop watching? honestly never ever thought of it.

  • Sakae

    Bigger question is, whether “wash-down” version of the “old” F1 will be enough to keep legacy fans interested, and still lure in new generation. I am no expert on the subject, but I think it might be rather difficult, if not impossible, especially when increasingly I am hearing from kids (I am also a legacy fan) – don’t waste my time, just give me highlights of the race and I want to see only something special what happened. They watch summations FOG (or networks) provide, and watch a few highlights on You Tube, and restrict themselves reading articles crafted by F1 media (more often than not I say unfortunately). I’ve had no problem liking F1 in seventies, and I am still going strong today, despite being quite upset about normative references of late, yet when I listen to Liberty, I am also slowly realizing that my time might be coming up. Writing is on the wall. Proposed changes are just too much, and there is no point to be angry day in, day out, and like Seb, I will stop when fun ends.

  • Meine Postma

    I’m very scared that they will later say ‘It all went to hell the day the americans took over’.

    • subcritical71

      LOL… I work with a lot of europeans, mostly Swiss, German, Italian and French… we are going to get blamed no matter what happens!

  • I would argue strongly that attracting Gen Y and Z is critical, no doubt, but they’ve owned it for a year and have talked a lot about attracting new fans, making it an event, improving the show and on-track action and better marketing et. al. I have no doubt that this is their goal for sure. What I haven’t seen is any mention on how any of that might be achieved.

    We are getting to the point where they are regurgitating marketing buzz phrases and offering words. I know the new streaming digital platform is a huge initiative but you hear very little about it.

    Here’s the thing, dumping something new on an unsuspecting fan base is what the old F1 owners did. Liberty have been critical of the way things have been done in the past and yet they seem to be doing it themselves?

    If you are revolutionizing the way F1 is digested, wouldn’t you get in front of the speculation and set the narrative better for this new product? Right now, you have an entire US fan base upset over NBC losing the broadcast rights, ESPN saying they aren’t sure what they are going to offer and F1 saying they have a new “thing” coming in 2018…is that really the way you want to leave your legacy fan base and attract new fans?

    • charlie white

      I can recall some 15 years ago living in rural Texas where the cable company only carried Speed Channel in a premium package. I had to watch F1 races a day later, 4 days later or a week later on Fox Sports. I didn’t like that but I remained a fan. Yes, Liberty Media has overseen the sport for just a year. Maybe I’m more forgiving to them for their proposed/potential changes but I am tired of the sport’s present situation and its blinding rigidity to view itself in the eyes of the fans and conclude there is nothing wrong.

      • Mal DePortimente

        This is kinda the situation with F2, which has become my guilty pleasure along with Rallycross. Next year I plan to get serious about following WEC and IMSA. Except for the darkest years of the split, I have always liked CART/Indycar and that series seems to be really figuring stuff out.

  • Salvu Borg

    Those that “are solidly in the don’t let the door hit you on the way out camp” also those that “I am putting my money on Liberty”. Out to Google and read “Chase Cary simply doesn’t get it – 07/12/2017”.
    When blowing wind that is not meaningful (windy speakers) “windbag”, but “demagogue” will probably be more appropriate if zero windbag argument successfully attracts the public opinion.
    Hints of possibly some more good news, JAKO might see his favorite MASERATI great name back on the grid as early as next year.

    • jakobusvdl

      Haas-Maserati has a wonderful ring to it, though they’d need to get rid of Grosjean and hire a leather helmet wearing chain smoking Italian to drive it – and brakes would no longer be a problem, because ‘real drivers’ don’t use them ;-)

      • Tom Firth

        It would be nice to see the name back in F1, but am slightly more interested in the other Marchionne quote by the Italian press around exploring an entry into Formula E for Maserati.

        Would be nice to see one of the FCA brands represented within FE and Maserati seems a pretty decent fit, alongside rival brands like Jaguar.

        • jakobusvdl

          Maserat-e?
          That would be quite a shift, from the current outrageously roarty V8’s to representing FCA in Formula E.

          • Salvu Borg

            I don’t see FERRARI Maserati or Alfa Romeo doing a FE yet, at least not for the present future, the ICE future lays in its electrification, when and if FE will be able to kill F1 we will not be here to watch the racing. Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsports and the power unit is and always must be the biggest contributor to that. The technology of formula 1 should/must be “ecology” conscious, but also following global trends and all manufacturers takes the same stance on this.

          • MIE

            You keep using the acronym FERRARI. What does it stand for?

          • subcritical71

            From allacronyms.com – FERRARI, From Extra Rusty Rubbish And Rude Italians, but i’m Sure SB would prefer this one – FERRARI, Ferociously Elegant Racer Ravages All Roads Intuitively.

            Either way, ‘Ferrari’ on the other hand is a very good car company located in Italy who happens to also make very good race cars in multiple series.

          • Salvu Borg

            The most valuable F1 team.
            The most iconic and recognized in the world.
            The world’s most powerful auto brand.
            The only team and F1’S racing that become inseparable.
            If you need some more examples just ask, we have plenty of time on our hands to idle time away till next racing starts.

          • jakobusvdl

            Are you planning to start giving English lesson’s Dave?
            We could probably all do with them, but I’m not sure that is what FBC is for.

  • Fred

    If Liberty wants to see what the kids want in the way of motorsports they should check out a drifting event.

    • jakobusvdl

      What about World / Global Rally Cross and MotoGP?
      They seem to be pulling substantial ‘younger’ audiences

  • Mal DePortimente

    “If Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport, why does it seem so boring?”

    Years ago I used to invite friends or neighbors over to watch F1 races (TiVo-tape delayed). I stopped after one asked me this question. A reasonably short and persuasive answer was and is simply beyond me.

    In fact, while I still watch 20 qualification sessions in full, I usually only watch the middle 30 minutes of FP2 and sometimes skim and skip through races such as Hungary, Singapore and Abu Dhabi. Feint and wriggle all they want, but it seems to me that on track passing and dicing attract interest from newbies, and lack of those things (and lack of noise) drives them away–never to return.

    • jakobusvdl

      I take it you’ve dropped that person from your circle of friends, some people really aren’t worth the effort ;-)

      • Mal DePortimente

        Not at all. He like football and I find it a crashing bore. That’s not my point.