How Formula One’s ‘huge surge’ in the U.S. is capturing the attention of marketers and publishers

Moneygram is cashing in on the growing popularity of Formula One in the U.S. The financial technology company is currently running a contest offering the winner the opportunity to attend the first-ever Formula One Grand Prix in Las Vegas this November.

“There’s been a huge surge in interest in the U.S., predominantly driven by the launch of the [Formula One] Drive to Survive series on Netflix, which initially showed a spike in 18-to-25 year olds,” said Greg Hall, Moneygram CMO, when asked about why the brand is focusing on the sport now. “From a viewership perspective, from an interest perspective, there’s a great swell in the sport.”

Moneygram isn’t alone in recognizing the growing popularity of Formula One for a U.S. audience this year. Red Bull is currently running its own contest offering travel to Vegas later this fall. And, as previously reported by Digiday, Hilton Grand Vacations is pitching an exclusive experience at the same race to boost brand awareness and garner new members. 

With three Grand Prix races in the U.S. this year – Miami this past May, Austin in October and Las Vegas in November – the interest from U.S. marketers in Formula One has increased this year, according to agency executives, who say they expect that growth to continue next year. The Miami Grand Prix reportedly drew 1.96 million viewers on ABC making it the second highest rated Formula One race in U.S. history; 2022’s Miami Grand Prix drew 2.6 million viewers. 

The three U.S.-based races as well as the addition of American racer Logan Sargeant, the first US F1 driver in nearly a decade, has helped boost interest in the sport domestically, making it more attractive for US marketers and advertisers. At the same time, the Netflix docuseries Formula One: Drive to Survive, which debuted in 2019 and has had five seasons since then, has likely contributed to the U.S. viewership growth, according to agency execs.  

“There’s been a massive influx of eyeballs on Formula One,” said Yadira Noelle Harrison, co-founder of brand consultancy and experiential agency Verb, adding that over the last two years interest from clients in the sport has ramped up with more conversations about it than years prior. “People feel like they can have this American claim on the sport now.” 

Jon Goynshor, svp and global head of partnerships at VMLY&R Commerce, echoed that sentiment. “This tipping point has taken place this year to grow the sport [in the U.S.] – I only see that continuing,” said Goynshor, adding that the agency has been recommending the sport as a sponsorship opportunity more to marketers this year as viewership and interest grows in the U.S. “There are some clients who may have had reservations two or three years ago who are now more open to it.” 

The New York Times-owned publication The Athletic has also recognized the growth of the U.S. audience for Formula One, adding coverage of the sport earlier this year. After doing so, the publication “got into the ad market and right away we had numerous brands” interested in the coverage, explained Seb Tomich, chief commercial officer at The Athletic. “It’s probably the fastest thing we’ve ever sold.” 

Coverage of the sport has also been a boost to subscribers, per Tomich, who noted that “in terms of new subscribers to The Athletic, it’s one of the fastest-growing sports.” Tomich declined to share specific subscriber growth figures noting that “it well exceeded our benchmarks for what we expected with new subscribers” and that the popularity of the coverage will lead to more investments in the space next year. 

Whether or not the burgeoning interest will continue is yet to be seen. For brands taking notice as the sport potentially continues to grow in the U.S., marketers could use it as a “good point of difference for a brand looking to appeal to a multicultural, higher end demographic,” explained Goynshor. 

—Julian Cannon contributed reporting to this story.

https://digiday.com/?p=519256

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