Building direct to fan relationships at speed for F1
Ogilvy UK supercharged conventional customer relationship marketing by fuelling fan passions, delivering a season of stories, told by an insider, directly to fans.
We created the first direct relationship with F1 fans – transforming typical customer relationship marketing practice into an ambitious content lead entertainment channel to keep fans switched on F1 and introduce new ways to enjoy.
We did this by creating a hyper-responsive fan engagement programme to turn fans into superfans, creating drama, making every race as unmissable as the latest episode of Game of Thrones.
Fans loved it. Our campaign delivered significant ROI, brought in new subscribers to F1 TV, new players to F1 Fantasy and contributed to ticket and merchandise sales, proving the value of direct communication with the sport’s true fans.
Heading into the 2018 season F1 was facing key challenges.
Lots of eyeballs but no direct relationship with these fans.
Formula 1 is one of the most popular sports in the world with a truly global television reach with over 350 million unique viewers in 2017 . But TV reach does not make for a direct relationship and it was hard to introduce and sell new services to indirect and unknown viewers.
Leading up to 2018 F1 had neglected fans, focusing on wooing broadcasters and brokering deals with circuits. Fans were left in the wilderness. For most of the decade, TV viewership had been in decline.
F1 was also losing fans to other digital content services who stepped into the neglected space. With no direct relationship with fans third parties siphoned off fan attention that F1 could have had.
The new owner of F1 had no way to sell new fan services
Liberty Media bought F1 in 2017. Its aim: put fans back in the driving seat. To help this, F1 introduced new ways to enjoy F1, from Fantasy gaming to a new F1TV app, but needed new ways to sell these to fans.
F1 had to earn the trust of fans to be able to offer new services
F1 wanted to build a direct and digital relationship “that forms an indispensable element of the F1 fan’s engagement with the sport”. For the recently established marketing department, direct could not be merely “a promotional tool” – a new approach was needed. It was suspected that a conventional customer relationship programme, grounded in offers, product information and competitions was not going to move fans.
Our target audience
F1 has many television fans but many have weak bonds to F1, casual viewers often keeping up with the sport via non-specialist media or unofficial non-expert motorsport sites.
Our primary target audience were the hardcore fans. They were passionate, influential and heavily involved with the sport, but not necessarily with official F1. If we could win over this core group, they could spread the word to others in the F1 community.
Creating fans, not customers
Social listening, fan panels and analysis of sports marketing best practice confirmed what we suspected. Fans do not think of themselves as customers.
We had to earn the trust of fans, feeding their passion before we could ask them to sign up to services.
For F1 to be enjoyable you need to be in the know
F1 is not self-evident. Watching live transmission of the race can be confusing without expert commentary. The rivalries and personalities, the teams and engineering take time to understand. Casual fans might have lost contact, F1 moves so fast that two years away from the sport makes fans outsiders.
We needed to help people understand the sport, the more they knew the more they enjoyed the sport and were able to share their passion and opinions with other fans.
Strangely F1 needed to win over the F1 community
Fans weren’t turning to official F1 as they were more likely to have a relationship with individual teams, drivers, or unofficial sources. For many fans, F1 was not even seen as an authority on F1.
And in forums, fans were suspicious of the new American owners, making it hard to introduce new services. So we were facing huge challenges in mobilising our fans and fulfilling our goals.
• Improve incremental revenues by 45% from the sale of F1 services through our programme.
• Improve uptake of incremental services (such as F1 TV) by 120% versus our control group.
• Engage 33% of the our base of fans over race weekend and to maintain this throughout the year.
• Reduce churn in the monthly subscribers versus our control group.
• Email average open rate of 25% (based on an industry sports and entertainment benchmark).
• Achieve email average click to open rates of 8%.
• Achieve email average click to delivered rates of 4%.
Direct-to-fan relationship management
We launched a new fan engagement programme based on a content focused email programme, supported by social video, digital display and new automated fan welcome journeys. The temptation is for CRM to focus on shouty offers with little engagement, we flipped the hierarchy with fan engagement first. Any sell was contextualised with the feeding sporting passions.
First we had to earn the attention of fans. Not only with up to the minute news but analysis and video that made F1 an authority over other social led sources. We would need drama to excite, deep stories to appeal to purists and also offer fresh ways in to the sport for new or returning fans.
Our aim was to increase fandom across the base. We wanted to nurture new fans, turn fans into superfans, and superfans into megafans. Our hypothesis was that the bigger the fan the more they spend time and money with F1 on new services. The more they knew the sport, the more enjoyable they would find it. This would in turn build deeper engagement and fan passion.
We approached F1 fans as a community who loved the sport. Leading with F1 content and free added value services. Commerce was essential to the future of F1, but first we had to respect our fans, because passion ultimately drives sales.
Fan relationship management as entertainment
We decided to think like an entertainment channel, not a typical customer relationship marketing program.
Our new regular F1 email newsletters served up select content designed to help fans enjoy the race weekend. We helped fans with their fear of missing out by being the inside source, keeping them up to date with F1.
Like Marvel superhero movies, it’s more fun if you understand the ‘Cinematic Universe’ but you would struggle with no back story. Educating fans creates more engagement in the sport and customers for F1 services. We fuelled passions, creating more insiders.
Going beyond sports news, we invited fans into the season as a drama series. Each Grand Prix became the next episode in an unmissable saga, with the drivers, managers and circuits as the characters. We kept them up to date with the latest stories and technical developments. We introduced the team rivalries, offered curious ‘did you know’ facts about each track, explained the technical developments and offered value added services for fans.
Direct and integrated fan service
To give F1 a direct channel we had to put the fan first, creating a hyper-reactive engagement programme to deliver a season of stories around F1 passions. By learning more about which stories engaged different fans, we could sow the seeds for a more personalised experience including services from apps to ticketing. We gave them calendars that downloaded race times to your device, digital versions of the Grand Prix programmes and introduced the new F1 Podcast and F1 apps.
Having earned trust and regular engagement we could now introduce new services; the F1 TV live streaming service, F1 Fantasy leagues, where you manage your own team, F1 Esports were sim racers play console games against fellow fans, F1 tickets to the Grand Prix, F1 Paddock Club the business hospitality at races and of course F1 and team merchandise.
These services are supported by new email welcome journeys, triggered to land with Grand Prix and by user actions. We also created automated email content journeys to encourage ‘in-life’ customer usage, journeys to help retention triggered by fan behaviour and ‘win-back’ journeys to turn lapsed fans back onto F1 services.
They link to select pages and information on the F1 estate to help retain fans, driving deeper understanding and use of the services like F1 TV.
Dramatise the race weekend
At the front of the fan engagement programme, three hyper-reactive editorial-style emails were sent every race weekend. Friday set up the story. Sunday reacted to the action and qualifying sessions. Tuesday went in depth. They were effectively mini-magazines.
Look and feel like the sport
F1 is one of the slickest, grittiest, and most immersive sports on the planet. So, the challenge to us was to create the slickest, grittiest, most immersive work possible… all at the speed of F1.
We approached the work more like magazine production than conventional CRM. With direct access to F1 content creators and on track photographers, we found the most exciting elements coming in live from race weekends and turned them into poster-style graphics and animations to set up our season of stories.
Dramatic cropping, bold typography, layerings of grit and dirt, all gave the work an ownable and tactile feel, while animation brought the excitement to life. We wholeheartedly embraced the GIF, making the emails feel more fan-generated as we repurposed and remixed live race content.
The same creative and up to date messaging approach was echoed in social video assets, digital display and press ads.