Paddock magazine December 2014 / January 2015 Issue 70 - Page 40

FEATURES We can learn a lot from Hollywood By Lena Siep | 2014 was a spectular motorsport season. The arrival of hybrid engines in F1, a thrilling duel between the Formula 1 world championship contenders Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, a spectacular WEC season which saw Porsche’s return and Toyota’s first triumph, and a brand new Formula entering the scene with 100 percent electric cars setting sail for a new era of racing. The SPONSORs Motorsport Summit 2014 at the sidelines of the Essen motorshow therefore promised to be an exciting event. Under the slogan ”The future of motorsport. Where are we heading?“, experts from the industry discussed trends and perspectives in an industry that is in a state of flux. I n Formula 1 there is a saying that goes, the end of the season is the beginning of the season. And with 20 races stretching from March until the end of November, there is indeed very little time to sit back and reflect. Although this year, maybe more then ever, there is a need to give thought to the future. The end of the ”silly season“ saw two teams bankrupt, a heated debate around engine regulations following the first year with new turbo hybrids, financial issues across the midfield, a crowd-funded team at the back, and a promoter who sees no value in marketing, despite a shrinking global community and empty ranks in Germany, traditionally home to one of the world’s most loyal F1 nations. The need to integrate efficiency and high performance into attractive sporting events that appeal to core fans as much as new target groups is a challenge that all racing series have to meet. Top-class speakers like Mercedes AMG Petronas boss Toto Wolff, Formula E Commercial Head Lars Stegelmann and reknown brand expert Frank Dopheide met in Essen to discuss the future of the industry and ways to inspire people in a time of change. One of the big questions of the event was how to appeal to a new generation of motorsport fans. Today’s fans are different from the ones that cheered for Senna, Schumacher and Hakkinen in the early 90s. While Formula 1’s promoter insists that the sport doesn’t need young target groups and the likes of social media, the makers of the new Formula E series immediately discovered the potential of the so-called digital generation. „Story telling is becoming more and more important“ says Lars Stegelmann, responsible for the commercialisation of the electric single seater series which banks on fan involvement with tools like the so-called FanBoost and an innovative 40 App. A strong brand lives of a strong community of supporters who like, share, retweet and distribute own content on relevant platforms. „There are so many topics we can talk about and we are very strong on Facebook and twitter. We had 3 Mio. video downloads on youtube during the first race which is a phenomenal result for a new product“. The problem with such numbers and certainly one reason for the hesitation from more traditional stakeholders is the lack of financial counter-values. „The user behaviour has shifted towards handheld devices. People want to consume the product on demand. But the crux is, we don’t manage to monetarise this today. We all say we should do more in the social media, but as long as Formula 1 gains 600 Mio Euros from traditional TV with partners like RAI, BBC and RTL, you cannot put their noses out of joint and say, we’ll do it for free on youtube from now on.“ argues Toto Wolff. But the truth is that even the traditional media partners are loosing out on viewers. The German TV channel RTL is currently reconsidering its involvement for 2016 following a drastic decline in viewers by one million compared to 2013 and six Mio compared with 2001. 2014 saw them with the worst audience share since 1994, the year of Senna’s death. An alarming value in a season with more drivers from Germany than any other nation, a German title contender and a German team winning the contructor’s championship. According to RTL sport chef Manfred Loppe at least partly a result of „a hardly comprehensible rule set and the sometimes unfortunate and counterproductive external presentation“ of the sport. Such issues are not exclusive to the pinnacle of motorsport; complicated rules and incomprehensible penalities have also caused a great deal of frustration in the German Touring Masters Championship, the most popular Touring car series worldwide, which also suffers from noticeable losses of TV audiences.