Reading the F1 “news” today all I feel is depression. For want of anything better to write, the Internet monkeys with typewriters have reproduced a string of remarks about F1 from Flavio Briatore. Lest we forget, the sleazy-looking Italian admitted to fixing races and was slung out of the sport five years ago. I make no secret of the fact that back then I was happy to see him gone. His presence, and that of his C-list celebrity friends, in my opinion, not only added nothing to the sport, it actually harmed it, creating the impression that F1 was entirely peopled with such folk and not filled with passionate, clever people, most of whom believe that success has no meaning if it is achieved by underhand means. The last thing F1 needs these days is a sleazy front man. We have enough sleaze already, thank you…
What F1 needs today is a clean and innovative image. It is no secret that when it comes to leisure spending, it is more often than not, mothers who make the decisions. They want their children to be associated with activities that will make them better people and so the last thing mums are going to do is steer their children towards a sport represented by people like this.
The sport is still producing a decent show, it is still churning in revenues, albeit an increasing amount of it by increasing pay-TV, thus reducing the TV audiences and, more importantly, reducing the number of potential new viewers, who will no longer become fascinated after stumbling upon races on TV. Everyone says that all sports are losing numbers because of the choices available to the kids today, but no-one in F1 seems to make the connection between falling TV audiences and a lack of promotion. For me, the biggest challenge facing the sport is attracting a new generation of fans in an age when the young have so many options and no interest at all in the sleazy old men who seem to run most modern sports. They would rather watch modern Red Bull sports such as cycling up and down ladders, or doing doughnuts around empty factories.
What is required to spark the interest in the young is clever promotion, using the tools that they themselves use: YouTube, Twitter and so on. The powers-that-be in F1 cannot master even e-mail communication… I have always failed to understand how it is that the company that prints money as the Commercial Rights Holder does not seem to think it needs to be the promoter of the series. I rant and rave about the FIA having failed to promote its new rules – which is shameful – but the Formula One group should also be banging on that drum, showing the kids of today that it is producing technology that will have an influence on their lives at a later date. Where are the F1 road shows, going around schools, showing them the clever stuff, inspiring them to get into engineering? Yes, some of the teams do some street demos, and yes a private enterprise organises F1 in Schools (and makes lots of money from it) but why is there not more effort from within the sport?
Find a toddler and you will see that kids still love cars and they continue to until they reach the age when the Internet takes them away to other exotic (virtual) environments. F1 should be fighting for their attention when they are between the ages of eight and 12.
Yes, attitudes are different on different continents, but where is the Formula One group’s promotional division with departments for different regions? Surely, the foundation of a good business is good promotion, not simply collecting money. This week there is a great example of the sort of thing required, which has appeared in the run-up to the World Cup soccer competition. What this does is to highlight the ability of people playing with a football and provides a Wow! factor that everyone can relate to. It brings soccer to their level, whatever that level may be. Click here to see what I mean.People say that soccer is a democratic game the world over and that is true, but cars are everywhere and car ownership is growing all the time and so there should be interest in F1 as well.
Formula 1 drivers are men (and hopefully soon women as well) who have extraordinary abilities and while F1 has the bizarre belief that its stars should be wildly paid yet not do any promotional work, it would be wise for them to be used as much as possible. They are the stars. The inspirations. The role models. And yet the sport’s PR people behave, largely, as policemen, stopping the stars from being themselves. Worse still, the stars are stopping themselves because they think that is what they have to do. Who really knows anything about Sebastian Vettel beyond what he thinks we need to know? Humans relate to humanity. This is why the Hamiltons and the Alonsos are more popular than the Vettel’s and Rosbergs.
F1 is still a great product. It still showcases all that is good in mankind: innovation, intelligence, endeavour, focus and sportsmanship. It is still great entertainment. But we have to get that message across…