Formula 1 has and continues to be a male-dominated sport, however a newfound female fanbase is strongly emerging. Following the popular Netflix documentary series “Drive to Survive” ’s debut in 2019 the sport has become increasingly popular.
A committed strong young female fanbase has since emerged, completely leading to a complete shift as to how the sport approaches marketing.
Marketing and viewership are extremely important for Formula 1 as financing a team costs over 100 million dollars. The teams depend upon sponsors to afford the costly machinery and drivers.
Tensions were running high between the Team Principals at this group meeting 😅
Drive To Survive Season 5, now streaming on @netflix 📺
￼#F1 #DriveToSurvive5 pic.twitter.com/Tonx3pxANa
— Formula 1 (@F1) February 27, 2023
Therefore, successful marketing is integral to sustaining the sport. Sponsors and advertisements are consequently staples in the sport, from the cars acting as moving billboards fully brandished with logos to even the names of the teams adopting their sponsor’s titles.
Formula 1 was historically synonymous with the upper-class elites and was thus portrayed as an exclusive A-list pastime. The sport was focused on receiving big-brand deals with extravagant brands.
Motorsport was a sneak-peak into the world of the rich and powerful. Viewers were kept on the outside looking on at the sport with awe and aspiration.
Grid girls for example were a popular marketing tool; attractive models who paraded around the grid in cropped skin-tight Formula 1 branded clothing.
The grid girls were used as eye candy to grab the audience’s attention and further lore them into the fantasy of the motorsport world. However, the grid girls have since become redundant as the audience’s values have morphed.
Drive to Survive gave Formula 1 a platform to reach new audiences making the sport more accessible than ever before. The series plainly and seamlessly explained the ins and outs of Formula 1, making the sport palatable to new audiences.
This created a completely new outlook on the product – the sport was no longer a daunting shut-off secret club but instead became inviting and welcoming to anyone and everyone.
The series also gave insight into the driver’s personalities behind the wheel, becoming not just talented sports stars but also celebrity entertainers in their own right.
Fangirls emerged from this as not only were they gently introduced to the sport, but they also became invested in these engaging drivers. The female fanbase has become committed and avid watchers and is now the most valuable audience to receive marketing.
TikTok and Instagram have now become popular social media platforms for all the teams which is directly connected with appealing to these new young fans.
Before the fangirls the content on social media was purely sports updates whereas now, there is a shift towards light-hearted amusing posts.
Giving the drivers a stage to share their personalities in charming posts will help retain the fangirl audience that began with the Netflix series.
The type of posts on these accounts is directly correlated to young fangirls’ interests from memes created from George Russell’s infamous T-pose to TikTok trends with Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, to even ‘thirst trap’ content with Ferrari’s young drivers.
YouTube content with the drivers has also become essential for the team’s online presence. Once again, the videos are engineered for entertaining young audiences such as trivial challenges, games and quizzes.
This style of content further shares the driver’s personalities making them more likeable and approachable to viewers. Some drivers have even taken their own initiative to create content, for instance, Lando Norris is now a streamer playing video games to a live audience. The driver’s online media presence has transformed them into down-to-earth relatable influencers.
Additionally, the most evident example of marketing geared toward the young Formula 1 fangirl comes from RedBull’s content with their reserve driver Daniel Ricciardo. Ricciardo became a fan favourite after his charismatic interviews on Drive to Survive.
He’s back! Welcome home, @DanielRicciardo 🇦🇺 #DR3ack pic.twitter.com/LlA4OX6Oab
— Oracle Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) November 23, 2022
Unfortunately, Ricciardo’s career took a sudden downturn after heading into the 2023 season without a seat. Red Bull surprisingly came to the rescue by hiring Ricciardo as their reserve driver.
Following Verstappen’s controversial win in 2021, RedBull has struggled to garner a young female fanbase so, grabbing Ricciardo was a guaranteed fangirl trap.
Reserve drivers are relative unknowns within the sport, yet Ricciardo remains prevalent in the sport becoming the face of the Red Bull team.
Since employing Ricciardo, he has become a vital marketing asset, from simple TikTok and YouTube videos and Instagram posts to collaborations with other TikTokers to even appearing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
The engagement with Ricciardo’s posts is staggering garnering millions of views often more popular than content with the team’s two main drivers.
While Formula 1 is still a sport enjoyed and funded by the elites, we can see a clear shift to appealing to their contemporary younger fanbase. The sport no longer solely depends on elusive big brand deals but now on its connection to fans.
Driver personalities and entertaining social media posts are integral to sustaining strong support from fangirls.