The reality of F1 is far different from the media of F1 (at least this blog thinks so).
Luci Di Montezemolo’s recent comments about making F1 races shorter, to please young people, is an example.
The younger generation have no money
There is often talk of ‘how to get young people into F1’.
Is that really necessary?
Take a long and extensive read of this marketing blog, Ad Contrarian.
You will find confirmed research that, although the world of marketing tries to convince it’s clients that the young generation are the ones to advertise to, they are NOT spending money.
It is the 40+ generation that not only buys for themselves – but also makes the decisions on what to buy for their children.
This is one point.
The other point is that people like Montezemolo are stuck in the past and (1) know nothing about the younger generation, (2) refuse to admit (still!) that Asia is the up and coming consumer base, not Europe.
China as an example
When the race goes to Shanghai, commentators will remark that the stands are only about 50% full because the tickets cost more than a monthly wage in China.
This is (as usual) a great mis-understanding of China.
Yes, there are very many poor people. There are also very, VERY many rich people in China, especially Shanghai.
To spend any time at all in the city is to see an endless supply of luxury cars, 5 star hotels, luxury shopping malls and more. This is not for a ‘small sector’ of the population. Look at sales of the new iPhone every time a new one comes out.
There are other reasons why the rich middle class don’t go to the race – it’s a cultural thing of not going to watch live sporting events. Effective and intensive marketing could change that (this is not a population that is difficult to persuade with ‘advertising’ etc.).
I won’t digress further into China because that is not the issue.
The issue is that Asian countries represent a huge target market. Much more real than these mysterious (and presumably wealthy) ‘young people’ which are hinted at.
Do they even believe their own PR
Eccles and Monte can easily make a headline and get some free F1 PR. I won’t list all of their inane suggestions, though suggesting that F1 races should have sprinklers is just one example.
There is no way that sane people would ever mean those things, but they know that they can throw them out there and get some basic coverage.
Therefore, do they even truly want to get ‘the younger generation’ involved in F1?
Why not introduce a very low cost under 18s weekend race ticket? A very low price could get a Dad to decide that it would make the weekend worthwhile as they can take their kid with them. The child then gets to see and hear an F1 race for themselves – an addictive experience for anyone who has tried it – and will continue to buy tickets when over 18.
The social media phantom
It has been indisputably confirmed (read the same marketing blog above) that Facebook and Twitter do not generate revenue for companies trying to use them for that end, and that they are most definitely NOT, AT ALL, effective forms of advertising, as neither is the internet as a whole.
There is no proven correlation between this strange fervour of ‘getting people involved’, related to increasing sales.
The simple and silly idea that simply getting Twitter users, ‘the young generation’ and any member of the general public ‘involved’ will in turn lead to ‘consumers’ is mis-led, unproven and unnecessary.
It goes against any factual and statistical (real results) based research (again, read the marketing blog above!!).
There is no reason why F1 would be any different than any of the world’s top companies in trying to use social media successfully yet failing to do so.
From where does the need arise?
TV viewing figures in the UK are strong. Does the concern therefore come from ticket sales? Each time there is news coverage of one of the old heads of F1 saying they need to ‘do something’ or ‘change something’, they never make it clear why they are saying it, or what has prompted their concern.
Seeing as (1) these oddball comments crop up every now and then, to no further effect, (2) it is never stated (by the person saying them) what specific reasons they have for their thoughts or concern, and (3) there is no general idea that the sport of F1 is in any form of ‘trouble’ or decline whatsoever, it could be logically assumed that the actual content of these comments have no actual meaning.
They may simply be throwaway comments that are lepat on by the media and then provide (for example) 300 comments on the James Allen on F1 website – thus keeping people producing F1-related content and comments during the two-week break between races.
Regarding the interest of ‘consumers’ – people watching at home – I have always thought that thw two week break is the biggest problem in Formula 1.
Not the race time, not the race format or anything. Merely the fact that you have a thrilling and amazing sporting event – and then need to wait two – sometimes THREE(!) – weeks for the next one.
Take the F1 calendar as an example.
The 2011 F1 season finished with a horrible and torturous wait between races. The last 4 races each had 2 weeks between them. Seeing as the title was already sewn up by Adrian Newey’s Red Bull car, this was a pretty boring way to finish the season – a real non-climax.
This year, they have cleverly changed it so that the last 6 races feature 3 back-to-back weekends:
September 23, Singapore
October 7, Japan
October 14, Korea
October 28, India
November 4, Abu Dhabi
November 18, United States
November 25, Brazil
This can create an intensity, an interest and something much more appealing to follow.
Of course, it is not easy to always do this – international management of this kind must be at a limit for the teams.
Yet it is exactly what F1 needs to maintain audience / fan interest.
If anything, I would say that creating a calendar which could allow more back-to-back weekend races would be something that would be good for the sport.
So next time you read that ‘old F1 person’ suggests they put animals on the race track to attract a younger audience – think twice about how genuine it is and what their real aim is!