A distant prospect six months ago: F1 teams up with Snapchat to tap millennials
Plans outlined earlier this year by Formula 1's new owner Liberty Media to embrace digital technology and appeal to a younger demographic developed further today as a global partnership was unveiled with Snapchat, the photo and video messaging app.
The deal marks Formula 1’s first commercial collaboration with a major digital and mobile-first platform, and will officially kick off this Sunday, with exclusive content from the British Grand Prix at Silverstone through Snapchat’s 'Our Stories'.
Our Stories - one of three types of content on Snapchat’s Discover platform - are compilations of videos and pictures submitted from users at events and locations around the world, which are then curated by teams of editors and producers at Snapchat.
The partnership will continue at the Formula 1 races this season in Singapore, Japan, USA, Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
Ironically at last year's Japanese Grand Prix, prominent British driver Lewis Hamilton was widely criticised throughout the sport for using Snapchat in a pre-race press conference.
Frank Arthofer, Formula 1's head of digital and new business, who joined from the Boston Consulting Group in late May, said today: "Right from the start, we have said we want to work with partners to bring fans closer to the amazing show that is Formula 1, an incredible mix of technology and individual talent - and Snap fits that bill.
"We need to continue to bring new fans to the sport - by reaching out to them on social media platforms with behind the scenes, fun and engaging content. Snap’s platform is one of the most popular among ‘millennials,’ a sector we are particularly keen on attracting, as it represents the future of our sport."
Ben Schwerin, vice-president of partnerships for Snap Inc. added: "We want to work with the most iconic sporting organisations in the world, that are beloved by our global community of passionate and highly engaged fans - and working with Formula 1 has been at the top of our wish list for a long time.
"Our goal is simple - we want to make being a fan more fun no matter where you are and Snapchat offers unique and creative ways to experience it with their closest friends. We are honoured to be the first platform they are partnering with, and are excited to start offer their teams, partners and advertisers an opportunity to reach millions of Snapchatters around the globe."
Since completing its $8-billion takeover of Formula 1 in January, Liberty Media has been quick to take steps to revamp the sport, with an over-the-top platform, likely to be a combination of a subscription and free-to-view service, in the pipeline.
While erstwhile promoter Bernie Ecclestone was widely credited for turning the sport into a multi-billion-dollar business, which still attracts huge television audiences, high-profile car manufacturers and sponsors and countries eager to stage grands prix, he was increasingly regarded as out of touch, at a time when Formula 1 has to compete for attention with other sports and entertainment products.
Chase Carey, now chairman and chief executive of Formula 1, wants grands prix to evolve into week-long festivals, with complementary entertainment, to attract new fans, and his vision could be detected in yesterday's 'F1 Live London' event at the city's Trafalgar Square, which featured live music and demonstrations by the drivers, albeit with three-times world champion Hamilton a notable absentee, ahead of this weekend's British Grand Prix.
The future of the Silverstone race is in doubt after the British Racing Drivers' Club, which owns the circuit, this week invoked a break clause in its hosting contract, meaning that it it can pull out after the 2019 event if it is unable to agree a more financially attractive deal with Liberty.
The situation, together with yesterday's event, has renewed talk of the grand prix moving to a street circuit in London.
The city's mayor Sadiq Khan told BBC London Sport: "If F1 want to speak to me I am keen to listen. My ambition is for London to carry on being the sporting capital of the world. There are some hurdles to overcome, but I am certainly interested in the future in having F1 in London."
Silverstone hosted the first British Grand Prix in 1950, and has been the permanent home of the event since 1987, but it has become a financial burden for the BRDC, which lost £2.8 million ($3.6 million) in 2015 and £4.8 million in 2016.