How to target fans of the world’s most expensive sport
Robert Laabs, Insights Services Analyst, Exponential reveals the key interests of Formula 1 fans compared to other leading sports
Per sportsperson, Formula One (F1) is arguably the world’s most expensive sport to compete in. The leading team, Red Bull Racing, spent about $13.5 million a race or over $270 million last season. Even the worst performing team of the season, Marussia, spent $5.4 million a race. Ferrari, the biggest spending F1 team, had an estimated budget of $470 million in 2013.
Fortunately, the sponsorship market the teams rely on for their survival is healthy. Sponsors are continually attracted to F1 for three primary reasons:
- F1 is global, over 500 million TV viewers a year
- Attracts a high end following
- Fans are brand loyal; motor sport fans can be up to three times more brand loyal than other sports fans*
The majority, about 20%, of the F1 sponsorship market today is driven by Telecoms. However, 2013 marks the last season for McLaren’s title sponsor Vodafone and their $65 million a year deal. FMCG company sponsorships – shampoos, shaving creams, skin and hair products – are expected to increase as F1 starts to make even greater inroads into emerging markets.
So, as the current season of Formula One draws to a close, how can brands understand, find and target fans into the next season of the most glamorous and expensive of sports? To try and answer this, we analysed the online behaviour of over 25 million sports fans during September 2013 to reveal highly correlating behaviours and interests that marketers can tap into. Some insights will confirm or validate long-held beliefs, others will challenge them, while some will provide surprising opportunities.
WHAT FUELS F1 FANS’ INTERESTS?
F1 fans have much more in common than a shared love of the sport. Their interest in high-performance motor vehicles extends beyond the track, having the highest interest in sport cars among fans of the other leading sports. In the UK, for example, F1 fans are 8x more likely to be interested in sports cars, followed by golf (5x) and cricket fans (4x).
British F1 fans, not surprisingly, are the UK’s biggest petrol heads. Not only are they more likely than all the other major sports to be interested in cars, lorries and motor cycles, they are also the most likely to be shopping for tyres online.
F1 fans around the world also share a big interest in technology. For example, no other sports fan in the UK, US or Australia are more interested in high-end home entertainment system components like speakers or televisions than F1 fans. UK F1 fans are 38x more interested in HDTVs – followed by Premier League football fans (5x) – and are 6x more interested in speakers.
In terms of computers, the world of British F1 fans is not a “post-PC” world; they are more likely to be interested in Apple desktops
than any other kind of tablet or laptop. Compared to the average Internet user, F1 fans are 8x more into Apple desktops, followed by rugby (6x) and golf fans (3x).
Although UK F1 fans are the most likely of the major sports to be middle aged, they are the most interested in video games. They index highly not just for racing games but for nearly every other platform and genre, from fighting games to Grand Theft Auto. Compared to other fans they are 8x more interested in the PlayStation 4; cricket and Premier League football fans are second and third, both coming in at 6x.
UK F1 fans’ high interest in technology and video games carries over to their TV viewing habits; they are 7x more likely to be interested in both Sci-Fi and Dr Who – higher than for fans of any other major sport in the UK.
HIT THE BRAKES
So while this gives an excellent flavour of the interests and activities marketers can tap into to more effectively target F1 fans, it can also be useful to see what F1 fans are not into and, thus, avoiding irrelevant campaign elements.
Among the six major sports we compared, F1 fans are the least likely to be watching MTV, musicals or romantic films. Aside from golfing fans, they have the lowest interest in rap music. F1 fans are three times more interested in heavy metal music than the average person.
British F1 fans are also the least likely to be interested in a night out clubbing and the least interested in beer – being more interested in wine, an attribute only cricket fans share with them.
F1 fans are the most likely (24x) to be Sky Premium subscribers. This is certainly driven by Sky’s F1 broadcast rights as F1 fans are the least likely of the sports covered to be following Premier League Football – the sporting rights Sky are most famous for.
A SURPRISING RUSH
A UK comparison between F1 fans and the audience most interested in “Rush”, the recent Ron Howard film on the infamous rivalry between drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda, brought to light some surprising findings.
Fans of “Rush” are 10x more interested in the Olympics and 13x more interested in the World Cup than they are in F1.
Furthermore, the Rush audience is predominantly female, whereas, the F1 audience is predominantly male. Although more in-depth research is required to understand the reasons why, one factor is likely to be Rush’s star, Chris Hemsworth, who is more famous for his portrayal of Thor.
So, unlike F1 fans who are most likely to be shopping for tyres and auto parts, Rush fans are more likely to be buying girls swimwear and women’s skirts. Alongside the demographic differences there are also interesting lifestyle differences.
The Rush audience is far more interested in healthy food choices – unlike F1 fans who are, by far, most interested in take-away. Rush fans, for example, are 2x more interested in vegetarian cuisine than pizza. The Rush audience is also less likely to be traveling far from home – being twice as interested in rail travel as air travel. In contrast, and befitting F1s global calendar, F1 fans are 5x more interested in air than train travel.
These are just some examples of high correlation or “lifts” that provide marketers of related goods and services with new insights to target fans of F1 in areas (online or offline) they previously may not have considered. Crucially, they may be well way from the obvious, competitive and crowded areas traditionally used – where costs may well be lower but where resonance and standing out are much higher.
* D’Orio 1997, Performance Research 2000, Petrecca 2001, JMU 2005, Thomaselli 2006
Robert Laabs, Insights Services Analyst, Exponential