Who Really Won The 2018 F1 Grand Prix? They did!
A short case study in large scale content marketing.
Last week I binge watched Netflix and Formula 1’s new docuseries Drive To Survive. I was drawn in to the cast’s passion and drive to win at all costs, to the dramatic on (and off) track battles, to the high-speed, edge-of-your-seat racing action and to the sophistication involved in operating this massive, highly competitive, tech-oriented sport.
I’ve never followed motorsports before but after watching the series I felt the urge to watch a real Formula 1 race. I found myself checking up on race dates, current standings, sports channel subscriptions and watching race highlights. Leaving behind me a fat trail of pixel crumbs for F1’s marketing team to collect.
I wasn’t alone. I was part of an engagement wave flooding over the F1 brand.
This marketing M.O isn't new but it resonated with me because I was the one captivated by it and it got me thinking about the famous impact Top Gun had with a 500% increase in recruitment rates to the US Military after it was released. The film, starring a young pre-scientology-era Tom Cruise, was partly funded by the US Military ($1.8M) and used as a recruitment tool by the recently commissioned Military Entertainment Complex under the Reagan administration. Their mission (which they chose to accept) to resuscitate the Army’s poor post-Vietnam image included funding for many other features over the years including Armageddon and Iron Man.
Similarly, Formula 1 was having a bad decade, it had lost popularity and lacked current appeal. It was sold in 2016 by eccentric Brit billionaire Bernie Ecclestone, who commanded over the empire for over 40 years, to the American Liberty Media holdings group ($4.4B). The Americans, with an inherited talent to make business out of sports, laid out a growth plan and expanded into new markets (namely N.America & Asia). They did this by restructuring the world tour to include ‘New World’ venues and engaging a younger target audience.
They revitalised the brand with a new retro look and a significant digital presence including top of the funnel content, culminating in this primo piece, produced by Academy Award, BAFTA & Emmy winner James Gay Rees (who also credits: Senna, Amy & the breakthrough Exit Through The Gift Shop)
F1’s expansion and rejuvenation efforts reflect a change taking place lately on the track itself in the form of more inclusive teams and younger drivers, much like Top Gun reflected the change happening in young Americans in the 80's looking to shed their previous generation's defeated post war trauma and take pride in their country again.
The two pieces, also share a premeditated marketing plan to create great content as a recruitment tool for their brands.
It won't be long before other industries look to better their image through content and we might end up seeing "Drive to Sanitise" a behind the scenes drama about the lives and loves of dump truck workers in Minnesota.