Right on time for the beginning of the season, we had the opportunity to talk with Matt Roberts, Global Research Director of Formula 1, about how the group is taking huge steps towards customer centricity. Here’s what we talked about!
Formula 1 is putting more and more focus in listening to the voice of the customer. What do you think it changed in the last two years in terms of responsiveness to the voice of the customer, and where do you want to be in 5 years?
I joined F1 right after the Liberty Media took over, prior to that Formula 1 was more a B2B business where we mostly dealt with race promoters, sponsors, and broadcasters. When we came in, we had a significant rebrand and created a number of new mission statements which included putting fans at the heart of everything we do.
We did so by launching many different initiatives such as Fan Festivals in cities, creating more video content for social media and we launched the website F1 Fan Voice, which gives fans the opportunity to feedback to the sport with regular surveys and polls. We also launched the new F1 TV OTT service to give fans access to live races as well exclusive and historic content.
The idea is to give more to the fans than ever before.
We now have a much deeper understanding of our fans, because two years ago we barely knew them! We didn’t know who they were, which countries they were in. We are in the process of building up a database of fans – trying to understand how they behave in relation to F1 (ie do they go to races, do they buy merchandise etc) and our goal is to start communicating with fans. Within the next 5 years we don’t only want to know them, we want to be able to communicate with them in a very personalised way.
For example, if we know you are an F1 fan but we know you rarely go to races, we may prefer to message you with info about race TV timings and what is available on our digital platforms over the race weekend. On the other hand, if you’re an avid fan who attends different races throughout the year, we may want to send you messaging regarding tickets, early bird offers and promotions.
The new F1 is putting the focus on bringing in more “casual” fans than before. To do so, F1 has to be more entertainment-oriented, less technical?
How do you do this, preventing brand erosion towards the hard core fans?
Well, of course we have to be careful we don’t alienate the hard core fans. At the same time, we have to bear in mind that we have a number of fans who will only watch 3 to 4 races a year, and there is a real opportunity to increase viewing and engagement amongst this fan segment.
We try to understand what these people are interested in, what they’re looking for, and what are their barriers and triggers to consumption. It is clear from our research that one of the key challenges is around making the sport more competitive as this would increase engagement amongst this group
We want to have more drivers winning races, more drivers going on the podium, that’s why we have the Motorsports team lead by Ross Brawn, who is dedicated to improving the sport and making it more competitive.
We are also working hard at changing the perception of F1 amongst non-avid fans.
Prior to 2017, Formula 1 was perceived in some markets as an older sport with some casual fans thinking that F1 was better in the past than it is today. We are working really hard to change this perception and have launched a number of initiatives to improve interest in F1 amongst younger audiences. For example we are doing much more around social media, we have launched an esports series and we also have our first ever Netflix documentary. These initiatives have already been extremely successful with 61% of ‘new’ F1 fans in the last 2 years aged under 35 years old
Drivers are becoming more important than the cars, is that a fair statement? Is this part of the new storytelling around Formula 1?
The drivers are extremely important to our sport. There are only 20 of them in the world and they are the heroes of our sport. We need to elevate these people. In many countries, fans are mainly aware of just 4/5 drivers with little knowledge about their back story, and we know we need to change that. We need to put the drivers at the forefront of the sport and we’re happy to see a lot of young drivers like Leclerc, Stroll, Norris, Russell, coming through. All these guys are 18-20 years old, social media is part of their lives, they will be telling us many more stories about their lives and background than the drivers from the previous generation.
Drivers are key for our sport, and with the exception of Italy, fans are generally more likely to support a driver rather than a team. Obviously in Italy, Ferrari is the key focus for most fans!
What are the insights that you gather to change the content marketing strategy?
Breaking news tends to be always the number 1 info in terms of interest. People love to hear news from us first, as they know it’s official.
Any kind of feature around our drivers and upcoming races also performs very well, but behind the scenes content is also extremely well received.
If you’re an F1 fan already, we need to give you something more, something new and interesting , otherwise why would you open our emails or check out our different platforms ?
In the olden days, sports companies would just take highlights of their events and put them on social media, but now it is key to start creating content specifically for digital and social, rather than just repackaging TV content
Fans don’t want to only see the best crashes and the pit-stops, they want to see something on social media which they can’t see on TV.
The spectator experience can be compared to an in-store experience. How does that change? Year over year or from one grand prix to another?
Every race we learn new things about the fans and their behaviour, what they like about the race experience, where they went and what they engaged the most with (via on ground surveys across most of our races). This insight is fed back to the race promoters, who manage our events, and our events team to improve the fan experience for our fans moving forward
The research we do is very interesting and throws up some very eye-catching regional differences: for example fans in the Middle East behave very differently from fans in Europe. Bahrain for example, has a very family-based audience: they come with children and they consume many activities for the family at the circuit. This seems to also be the case in Baku, whilst races in Europe are less kids-centric and seem to attract a more engaged fan.
Last year, we interviewed 50.000 fans throughout the season at 16 races races to understand what they thought about their experience. We also use wifi analytics to monitor how fans are walking around at the circuit – are they going to the Fanzone, how long are they spending in their grandstand seats etc. This builds up a significant bank of insight around fan’s behaviour and is used to help improve the experience at the next race. We know that the better the experience, the more likely fans are to return the following year.
If you want to hear more from Matt Roberts, he will join us at Savant eCommerce Amsterdam for an Inspirational Keynote – Pushing the limits with data and insights at Formula 1. Check the full agenda and speaker list of Savant eCommerce Amsterdam here!