Over the last decade or so, the Formula 1 calendar has expanded exponentially, with new venues added every year, primarily in Asia.
However, Bernie Ecclestone’s ‘Go-East’ drive has largely failed, with most new circuits either dropping out of the calendar, or running with empty stands.
The expansion drive largely relied on one assumption: bring grand prix racing to the people and they will automatically start watching it. But as it turned out, establishing a foothold in a country requires more concerted efforts on the part of the organisers.
Promotion is one area where Formula 1 needs to work upon. And Circuit of the Americas has come up with an innovative - but not unique - idea to get more fans across the entry gates, after recent difficulties that put the race’s future in jeopardy.
The state government has reduced funding by over $5 million, while poor weather during the 2015 race further strained promoter’s finances.
Taylor Swift to perform at US GP
However, the organisers have now confirmed that the US Grand Prix will go ahead as planned, with 10-time Grammy winner Taylor Swift set to perform after qualifying.
Okay, many of our readers might already be following the sport closely and may or may not like Swift, but the whole purpose of bringing the pop star to perform at an F1 race is to bring new fans - people who do not watch Formula 1 at all or do not follow it on a regular basis.
Now, Swift is one of the hottest properties in the music world at present, bagging three Grammy Awards last month. The 26-year old made an announcement about the US GP concert on her Facebook page, which is ‘liked’ by 75 million people across the globe.
To put that number into perspective, F1’s most followed driver on social media, Lewis Hamilton, has only 9.2 million followers across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - a far cry from Swift’s huge global fan following.
Moreover, Swift, as of now, doesn’t plan to host another concert the entire year, having recently completed her 1989 world tour. Surely, that will provide an impetus to her fans to buy tickets for the US Grand Prix, enjoy a new spectacle, while getting a chance to watch their favourite singer perform live on Saturday.
And the organisers are indeed relying on pop-star’s loyal fan base to flock the venue and make the F1 race an attractive proposition again - from a financial point of view.
Adding value to tickets
Formula 1 fans have often complained about high ticket prices, with the British Grand Prix receiving the most criticism.
While organisers have little to no choice, given sale of tickets is their only source of revenue, perhaps they can add more value to the tickets offered.
Historic races, support events, and music concerts all fit the bill. However, while historic races and support events will largely lure the passionate fans, concerts will bring fresh blood to the sport.
Music concerts - not a new idea
Over the last few years, several celebrities in the world of music have performed at grand prix weekends. F1 Rocks was a great initiative, bringing in rap legend Eminem and DJ David Guetta, among others, to grands prix. However, F1 Rocks has stopped trading, leaving it to individual race organisers to complete the entertainment gag for their respective race.
In fact, even the presence of a celebrity - from the music world or not - can provide significant marketing benefits to Formula 1. Rihanna was seen in the McLaren garage during the famous 2011 Canadian Grand Prix, while Katy Perry posed on the starting grid at Singapore’s Marina Bay Circuit the following year.
More recently, Terminator-actor Arnold Schwarzenegger brought life to the Australian Grand Prix podium, before later posting photos to his 3.8 million-strong Twitter following.
Statistics prove that F1’s fan following is ageing with time, with the sport having done little to attract the youth.
Yes, F1 continues to have a very loyal fan base, who are likely to oppose such marketing ploys. But with changing lifestyle and needs, it’s harder than ever to attract new fans through conventional methods.
Think this way - F1 fans keenly follow each move of their favourite driver, and are willing to buy merchandise of racing teams.
Similarly, fans of Swift and other celebrities may become interested in Formula 1, if they see their favourite stars perform at a grand prix venue.
by Rachit Thukral