Lifestyle, Luxury and Fashion
Wavemaker Client Solutions London
Formula 1: Unleashing the World’s Greatest Racing Spectacle on the Planet
With a decline in following and negative perceptions impacting both brand and business, 2018 was a seminal year
for Formula 1. The brand mission to “unleash the greatest racing spectacle on the planet” was realised for the first
time as we reignited love for F1 with fans old and new.
When Liberty Media acquired Formula 1 in 2017 the sport was struggling to recruit fresh blood; viewer numbers
were in decline and fans were getting older. Even the fans that had stuck with F1 were less engaged and the sport
was widely perceived as inaccessible and “boring”.
For a long time F1 had put the needs of fans second to the serious business of making money and the fan
experience had suffered as a result. To reverse the long-term decline and bring in 100MM new fans by 2022 we
needed to put the fans first and at the heart of F1.
Quantitative studies put ‘speed’ as the no.1 driver of appeal and speaking to fans seemed to verify that. Repeatedly
fans would cite speed as being the hook for their love of the sport. But F1 was faster than it had ever been and yet
fans were saying it wasn’t as thrilling to watch. So we dug deeper into what fans love about F1, what was lacking and
what they felt it had lost. Reading between the lines we realised that what fans really love about F1 isn’t the speed as
they said, it was the racing. It’s the raw energy of competition, the human drama in the rivalry. Speed feels cold,
technical, bloodless; whereas racing is passionate, gritty and dangerous. Most of all it’s human. To bring more
people into F1 we needed to bring out the human side of the story and dial up the racing.
Formula 1 has six bespoke IPSOS audience segments. To design an effective comms strategy we grouped these into
three pairs, focusing on general interest in F1: “Yet to Try”, “Light & Lapsed” and “Engaged”. Using brand and
audience insights we adapted our purchase journey framework into a “fan journey” and mapped out how people
move across this circuit.
“Engaged” fans were identified as those already converted to F1, actively looking for information – what we call the
Active Stage. To halt the decline in audience we had to re-engage this group by giving them the stories, content and
access that all sports fan crave.
Our “Yet-to-Try” audience was identified as people with whom we had to build bias, as well as creating a connection
between F1 and wider culture to make it relevant to these future fans – called the Priming Stage.
Finally, the “Light & Lapsed” fans were coming to the sport when specific triggers occurred: rivalries, drama, their
home race. These people love to engage with big sporting occasions, but we wanted them to emotionally commit to
F1 and remain engaged throughout the whole season. To facilitate the transition from “Light & Lapsed” to “Engaged”
we had to amplify these triggers in our communications. (see uploaded image 1)
Then, we outlined two communication principles to guide global and local planning. These closely align with the
brand DNA – “ENGINEERED INSANITY: See, Hear and Feel The Unpredictable Drama Of Formula 1.”
• Driving conversations: by making every race an event, driving buzz around the events and create opportunities for
• Driving affinity: by bringing fans closer to the unfolding drama of F1, draw fans into F1 brand stories and amplify
news and intrigue.
From each principle cascaded a different approach for fan-focused executions. F1 would launch with more grit and
raw human energy than ever before.
Our communications planning took two approaches – race-by-race and season-long. We worked with 31 media
partners, advertising in 20 countries in 7 different languages, all overseen from London.
• Centred on key moments and strategically important markets for business growth, we supported individual Grand
Prix’s and Fan Festivals in Australia, China, Azerbaijan, Spain, France, Italy, Japan and USA.
• To drive conversation and make every race an event, locally-nuanced activations focused on building awareness,
buzz, footfall, and ticket sales in the 4-8 weeks before.
• We created ‘city attack’ executions – a takeover with variety of on-the-ground activations including street teams,
partnerships, TV and radio coverage, OOH domination, murals, fly-posters, and geo-targeted social, bespoke display
and online video.
• We made sure everyone knew F1 was in town.
• At the start of the season we launched the first-ever brand campaign “ENGINEERED INSANITY” across all major
social platforms. This was complemented with campaigns designed to keep up excitement during the summer break
and end of season.
• The principle of driving affinity focused on priority markets and regions, such as Germany, USA, Mexico and Latin
America. Storytelling was key to unlocking affinity – this was achieved via partnerships, paid and organic social media content and bespoke digital and video display.
• Behavioural targeting was used to initially reach those interested in F1. Our targeting was subsequently expanded
to reach fans and followers of specific F1 teams, other motorsport content, eSports, gaming and sports where fans
show high affinity to F1 (e.g. basketball, NFL, football, tennis, boxing).
To prove the effectiveness of our strategy and impact on the F1 business over the next 5 years, we designed a
bespoke measurement framework, linking media and brand KPIs. The framework includes a success hierarchy and
dashboard. We also set out a test & learn programme.
The results of our campaign and various executions exceeded expectations, resulting in incredible performance in
• Delivered over 43 million completed video views across social and display
• Drove YouTube VTRs 18% above category benchmark
• Outperformed CTR benchmarks on Chinese social platforms, up to 12 times
• Increased following across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram by 54%
• F1 became the fastest growing sport on social media in 2018 – up to 75% of growth is directly attributable to paid
• Drove TV viewership up 10% vs. 2017 = +48m
• Sold more tickets: up to +30% YoY per Grand Prix
• Delivered engaged fans: +5% in ‘Engaged’ audience segments by May 2018 YoY
• Halted the decline and started to grow interest in F1: global search volumes +14% YoY, weekly volumes at 30-50%,
higher than pre-season forecasts
• Brand equity remained strong – F1 sits above the Premier League and second only to the Champions League
globally and to NBA in China
Most importantly we gave our audiences more of what they crave and reignited love for F1. Ultimately we proved
that a fan journey is not a funnel, it’s a circuit.