Formula 1: Conquering America

Written by
Fifty Team

15 Dec, 2021

World Domination

F1 has been on an impressive trajectory over the past couple of years, expanding its fanbase into both new audiences and new territories. We saw the culmination of all this on Sunday, as one of the most dramatic races in the sport’s history set the world (and social media) alight.

Chart 1
Chart 1: the conversation volume associated with F1 since 2018.

The chart above captures the trajectory of F1 over the last four years and also highlights just how engaged the world was with the season finale in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. Based on conversational volume, the sport has more than doubled in popularity since 2018, and much of this increase can be attributed to ‘Drive to Survive’, the Netflix documentary series heralded as one of the most effective sports marketing efforts in history. Prior to the series’ release in 2019, conversation around the sport was already growing at a respectable rate of 7% between 2018 and 2019. Between 2019 and 2020, however, the sport went on to see a 38% increase, and a further 39% increase the following year.

Conquering the US

One of the biggest challenges for F1 has been breaking into the American market. The opportunity is enormous, but so is the competition. NASCAR and Indycar represent a very different type of motorsport culture, while the Premier League rules the roost when it comes to international sports engagement. And yet, the success of ‘Drive to Survive’, combined with the escalating drama ahead of this season’s finale, seems to have made some significant inroads into the US.

Chart 2
Chart 2: The geographical spread of engagement with the F1 Finale.

The chart above shows the geographical spread of the social conversation on the day of the F1 Finale. As the third most engaged geo across the globe, it is clear that the US is engaging heavily with F1, which serves as a real marker for the growing popularity of the sport.

As well as from the sheer volume of engagement, our findings also revealed some interesting insights into the nature of the audience engaging with the finale. After running the engaged users through our platform, we discovered several key themes that indicate the sport is gaining ground amongst a variety of new audiences.

Multi Sports

Fans of IndyCar and the Premier League both indexed highly across the audience, which is highly promising for the sport as it suggests that F1 is beginning to grab the attention of a wider fanbase, including fans of competitors. Our ‘Multi Sports Fan’ tribe captures this neatly, with the mainstream sports fan (one of the most valuable segments in Sport) now seemingly captivated by F1.

Figure 1
Figure 1: Multi Sports Fans tribe from Fifty analysis

Young Entertainment

Another powerful finding from our study was the new generation of passionate F1 fans that emerged. Gen Z-heavy audiences such as Gamers, Wrestling Fans and Marvel Fans all made an appearance, illustrating how F1 is already making inroads amongst America’s youth - a trend that was also reflected in this year’s Global F1 Fan Survey.

Figure 2
Figure 2: Influencers from our ‘Avid Gamers’ tribe highlighting a younger engagement in F1.

Business Leaders

Historically, F1 has been known to appeal to business-oriented audiences and investors looking to capitalise on the sport’s market potential. This appeal seems to have been retained among the US audience, as we uncovered a wide array of ‘Successful’ tribes, such as Startup Leaders and Innovators - audiences with a more modern, digital skew that suggests the sport is also starting to attract new-age business professionals.

Figure 3
Figure 3: Startup Leaders tribe from Fifty audience analysis.

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