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The Proliferation of Motorsport – So Where to Invest?


Quentin Warren, head of motorsport at Prism, part of Wunderman Thompson on increasing sponsorship values whilst also creating a greater spread in partnership possibilities

The Proliferation of Motorsport – So Where to Invest?

Over the last two weeks, we’ve seen the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indy500 and now all roads lead to the greatest challenge in motorsport - Le Mans 24 Hours. 

With more than 600,000 fans in attendance expected over motorsport’s Triple Crown events, hundreds of millions watching around the world and a greater number of brands activating than ever before, motorsport is arguably in its prime - and it’s not only in F1. So, what does this mean? Well for one, the increase in sponsorship value but also a greater spread in partnership possibilities.

F1’s phenomenal and unrelenting rise is well documented, however, the rebound of all motorsport series post-Covid has been strong and each provides unique opportunities to connect with audiences and future customers. Each of the Monaco Grand Prix, Indy500 and Le Mans 24 Hours provide vast global reach with distinctly different audiences and brand activation possibilities – if the platform is the right fit. A well-thought-out strategy that takes into account the specific goals and objectives - whether this is increasing brand awareness, generating leads or sales, key market engagement or enhancing customer loyalty - can create powerful motorsport platforms. Aligning brand values with a platform can drive brand growth through tapping into motorsport's sheer popularity in all corners of the world, whether this on two wheels or four.

Is F1 top in North America? Not yet, IndyCar and Nascar are still stronger but the rise is evident to see with three races now in the USA. The Indy500 is billed as ‘the greatest spectacle in racing’ or ‘the Superbowl of motorsport’ and sees Indianapolis transformed into a month long motorsport festival. Last week’s race saw 330,000 attendees - the second-largest in more than two decades. Additionally, the 2022 Daytona 500 saw Fox average viewership of 8.87 million, an 84 per cent increase from the previous year. 

All sports have embraced sustainability, however, Formula E remains top of the list on sustainability credentials and is seeing growing audiences fuelled by new races in Brazil, South Africa and India. 2022 broadcast figures increasing 20% year-on-year to 381million as live viewership grew to 216million, up 10% on season seven. Formula E also is the clearest link to a future of electric vehicles – although there is no doubt other series are challenging this narrative with greater use of electric technology and sustainable fuels.

The Centennial Le Mans 24 hours marks the 100th anniversary of the first race and will see one of the biggest grids in decades, with more than 300,000 enthusiastic spectators expected to flock to Le Mans. Significant brands whether this is Rolex, Hertz, or even Tom Brady’s clothing line alongside a host of returning automotive manufacturers in Ferrari, Peugot, Porsche and Cadillac are present within the series knowing the significance of this year’s race.

Both Formula E and WEC offer global championships with a committed and growing fanbase at a lower price point than Formula 1 while Nascar and IndyCar remain vastly popular in North America. What’s more the Drive to Survive effect is well known across Formula 1, however there are many many more stories to be told and brought to life from across the motorsport sector. When this is combined with changing viewing habits, especially among younger fans who are are not following traditional live broadcasts but engaging more on social and with behind-the-scenes content, the story-telling opportunities for brands are vast.

Motorsport is booming and effective activation strategies should focus on maximising exposure by identifying the most impactful channels and opportunities, and I don’t only mean communication channels here but the sport itself; choosing the right sport is key. Look at Red Bull’s very existence in Formula 1 - Red Bull don’t sell cars but have a global platform to showcase their brand. There is no doubt that F1 is front-and-centre currently, however through ensuring a strong presence in their chosen property - both on and off the track - brands can generate significant value and achieve their goals in a range of rapidly-growing series.

Image credit: Nick Dungan

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Wunderman Thompson London, Thu, 08 Jun 2023 09:44:25 GMT