Formula 1 go big with digital strategy to woo younger audience
Formula 1 go big with Esports Series and they believe Singapore is an ideal platform to grow their target group
With three laps remaining at the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix last year, championship leader Brendon Leigh made a crucial pass that allowed him to storm to victory.
And when he backed it up with another win in Austin, Texas, in the next race, he became the first repeat champion in the F1 Esports Series.
The Esports Series is a key part of the strategy of Formula 1 owners Liberty Media as they look to reach a younger audience, including through social media platforms Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.
Organisers of the competition will be reaching out to local fans during the build-up to the Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix this weekend, when Mercedes' five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton is expected to face a huge challenge from Ferrari's Charles Leclerc in the night race along the Marina Bay Street Circuit.
Singapore is the ideal location.
In an interview last year, Formula One Group chairman and chief executive Chase Carey said the night race in the Republic - with its sport, show, music, food, hospitality facilities - is the perfect platform for the sport to reach a younger audience.
Julian Tan, F1's head of growth and Esports, spoke to The New Paper from his London office recently and he said: "We will have a touch point there (in Singapore), just as we do with 17 other Grands Prix on the calendar, because South-east Asia is a growth area for F1.
"We had a lot of participants from the region, including Singapore, who competed in this season's qualifying stage earlier in the year, so we will be there to reach out to more fans."
PRIZE MONEY DOUBLED
The third edition of the F1 Esports Series kicked off at London's Gfinity Esports Arena on Sept 11. The prize money for the winning team has more than doubled to US$500,000 (S$690,000).
The series saw a nearly two-fold increase of 109,000 entries this year, compared to 66,000 last season.
It was whittled down to 40 for the Pro Draft stage in July when they competed for a seat in each of the 10 teams.
Tan said the sport is still in its infancy and they continue to study data on the impact it has had on Formula 1.
"We are doing a lot of things to increase interest in F1 and Esports is just one of the core pillars of the strategy," said the Kuala Lumpur native.
"But we are seeing an increase in attendees in all of our races this year and our TV numbers are holding up very strongly."
Formula 1 reported in January a significant increase in its audience figures for the 2018 season, across both digital and TV platforms.
In terms of unique viewers, the sport had a 10-per cent increase globally, reaching 490.2-million viewers. Total followers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube also increased 53.7 per cent, reaching 18.5 million.
But, in that same month, F1's global research director Matt Roberts said the average age of the global F1 viewer was at 40, while 14 per cent were under 25.
The target is to grow the audience among the under-25s, and Tan, 30, said Esports is making strides with this group.
"Our goal is to reach out to a younger audience and we are using technology that speaks the language they understand." said Tan. "F1 is not accessible like tennis where you can pick up a tennis racket and head to the court.
"So our gaming initiative bridges that gap and helps to draw in new and younger fans to F1. It is a technology that gives them an immersive experience."