Social media’s ‘fastest-growing sport’ still has far to go

2017 F1 season

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“F1 was the fastest-growing sport brand on social media platforms in 2017” Formula One Management announced today.

It’s a move in the right direction for a sport which once shunned the opportunities presented by the Internet. That had begun to change before Liberty Media took the reins late in 2016, but last year F1’s new owners took its social media campaigns to a higher level.

Video content was a key part of F1’s offering. Previously this was kept exclusively for the use of F1 broadcasters and little to no footage from race weekends or tests made it onto F1’s official social media accounts.

Now video highlights are available soon after sessions finish and archive material has also begun to appear as F1 realises the opportunity offered to expand its following on social media.

The result has been a rapid rise in interest from fans. The data released by FOM today showed F1’s combined audience across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram grew faster than several other notable sports and sportswear brands:

However F1 has made these gains from a lower starting point than the sports and other brands it benchmarked itself against. To get the full picture we need to consider what the total following of each of these brands is.

F1 Fanatic has gathered that data, which can be seen here:

Other popular sports exploited the potential of social media earlier and reaped the benefits more quickly. Some have even used social platforms to broadcast live events.

The Champions League boasts over 63 million followers on Facebook alone and has broadcast matches on the platform. F1 has used Facebook Live to broadcast fan events from grand prix weekends but has not yet used the platform to show live races.

Two other relevant championships were not included in the data issued by Formula One. The soccer World Cup and the Olympic Games are useful points for comparison to F1 as they are also international events, though they only take place every four years.

The progress other sports have made while F1 ignored social media illustrates what commercial head Sean Bratches’ remarks that the digital side of the business was “almost non-existent” when Liberty Media took over the running of the sport from Bernie Ecclestone. F1 has clearly made excellent progress since then but it still has a long way to go.

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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14 comments on “Social media’s ‘fastest-growing sport’ still has far to go”

  1. The last paragraph shows that “F1 was the fastest-growing sport brand on social media platforms in 2017” announcement is basically a self congratulatory message from the new adminstration. Well, if you were a major international brand and haven’t stablished a SM presence, it is expected a surge in social media. I’m not a huge international celebrity but I’ve seen 100% social media growth for some time – specially when I got from 1 to 2, and from that to 4 followers in Tumblr.

    1. Carlos Alfonzo
      5th January 2018, 20:09

      It’s more insidious that this. Generally speaking, these metrics should ALWAYS be viewed in absolute terms, not percentages. What matters is how many new followers you gained in the last year. There are very big channels on YouTube, for example, that get no views, mostly because they don’t get new followers.

  2. In my view an outstanding subjective article.

    Why aren’t the reasons for this state of social-media stated? Or the development leading up to them?
    Bernie always hinted = Kids do not care about F1, they’re attention-span is too short and the business model of social media is gather enough people with free stuff and make them addicted with the quantity with continuously deteriorating quality, whether that’s ethics or intelligence of the fans so that they’ll slowly begin paying for the smallest of things to identify with it and fiercely enjoy it with their free time….and work time = freemium model (of the reactions under this comment)
    So the question is. Yes, now everyone is happy, they’re obsession, F1 is growing again. Liberty is happy. The teams are happy. But is it sustainable and it the quality of the new viewers good for F1?

    No, because, as we’ve seen in other sports or sectors of the entertainment/infotainment-industry – when people bring social media and the ability to – without thinking twice – say anything they want for the sake of wanting their team or ”heroes” to win, the quality of the community deteriorates. As seen in… hmm I don’t know, politics, the news, all 15 major sports in the word, business or certain other ”front-pages of the internet”. That’s a fact. But they’ll probably delete this comment because I actually disapprove the site in a certain way.

    1. PS: or because of the fact English if my fourth language.

    2. Since you have been commenting here long enough, you should know that feeling your comment disagrees with the opinion of many others here, or that it opposes the view from Keith is no reason why it wouldn’t be published or deleted at all.

      As far as your comment goes – Do I understand that correctly, that you are of the view that it is a good thing that F1 was not doing much with social media, for fear of the community detoriating @xiasitlo? An interesting point to make.

  3. These totals also apparently ignore the followers of drivers, teams and media covering the sport. An incomplete picture for sure. But at least the new management acknowledges social media is important. Previously the official web presence was laughable, so no surprise there is a lot of growth now that they care.

  4. I’m delighted about the F1’s current presence on YouTube but there’s a lot to learn, especially if they plan to release their own streaming platform one day.
    First thing Liberty should do is hire capable commentators and stop recycling Sky’s coverage. Sky’s commentator & expert are of the lowest quality one can find. F1 needs to find something better in order for them to be taken seriously. Croft and Brundle just can’t be official voices of F1 as more often than not they have no idea what they’re doing. They’re abysmally bad at their job. Surely Liberty could find better pair?

    1. I have to disagree somewhat @huhhii, I can only assume you have never watched F1 on RTL.DE – Sure, in principle Lauda knows about F1, as do some of the others, but it is very dumbed down, very very biased (yes, compared to German RTL Sky is quite neutral) and very banal too.

      Also, the Dutch team, while Olav Mol does know his stuff, and Allard Kalf in principle too, and while they do occasionally produce fun stuff again now that Max Verstappen makes F1 in NL something to look at, had years of getting no means (so only a studio seat in NL!). I am sure there are other markets like that, with either more localised bias, or less means and interest in F1.

      At least the Sky team cares for F1 and racing. I do agree they could (and worse, were initially) better. Last year I have often watched the CH4 stream if available – less info from the paddock, but what was there was often solid, and less dramatised/biased. A real pity Sky managed to buy-out the contract.

      1. @bosyber Replacing Croft and Brundle with German or Dutch commentators wasn’t my plan anyway. But yeah I know many countries suffer from the same issues. Is Martin Haven available? Thought he was excellent in WTCC. Or maybe that guy who is doing Formula E coverage? Not Franchitti but the other one. Both of them don’t sound biased, they get excited about the racing events without over-dramatazing and they also seem to care and know about motorsport. I’m pretty Haven or that other guy could do much, much better job than Croft and Brundle.

    2. @huhhii I disagree with your ‘opinion’, I don’t mind the Sky commentary team, while I prefer Ben Edwards to David Croft as the lead, I am luke warm towards DC as a co-commentator, and find Brundle sharper (probably due to experience commentating). Personally I really like listening to Jack Nicholls on Radio 5, and hope his chance for live TV commentary arrives soon. It’s no surprise to keep costs down that Liberty are using the Sky coverage for the footage on YT, it makes no sense for them to put together live-secondary commentary that would only be used on YT.

      Preference or otherwise of live sports commentators is a passionate subject, fun to discuss and argue about because it stems from personal taste and is entirely subjective to our preferences.

      1. @ju88sy I’ve heard DC only once. 2011 Hungarian GP I think it was. Gotta agree he was utter rubbish, possibly even worse than Brundle.
        I really don’t think hiring someone else to do quali/race highlight commentary would cost loads of money. They already have someone else wrapping up FP highlights on YouTube. Maybe he could do the job for quali and race highlights as well? Could be even cheaper for Liberty to use him instead of paying Sky for the rights to use their commentary duo!

        Long-term plan for Liberty is to have their own streaming platform and then they absolutely must have different options for commentary. British commentary duo won’t do for the rest of the world. Some major languages like Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, French etc. should be available. And the “main” commentators who’d do the English commentary should be chosen based on un-biasedness. I already offered some options in my previous message and still think they’d bot do massively better job in international F1 coverage than overly biased Croft and Brundle.

  5. Chris (@tophercheese21)
    6th January 2018, 0:49

    It’s easy to be the fastest growing on social media when you had no internet presence whatsoever in the first place.

    1. Yeah, that pretty much sums up the article @tophercheese21, it’s just lika all the information of early days twitter and faceboo, instragram etc user numbers growing with hundreds of % a year – easy to grow from 1 to 2 or from 10 to 100 :-)

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