With 1 million users, DriveTribe courts advertisers

After growing to 1 million users in the last year, DriveTribe, a content creator and platform for car enthusiasts, is starting to drive commercial deals with brands.

Just before launch last November, the company — founded by “The Grand Tour” hosts Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond — announced funding of $6.5 million (£4.9 million) from 21st Century Fox and $5.5 million (£4.1 million) in Series A funding led by Breyer Capital and Atomico.

With less pressure to make money to survive, DriveTribe has spent a year working with brands like Porsche and Sky Sports F1 in noncommercial partnerships to find the most sustainable revenue model. In January, it plans to work with four brands on a retainer-type partnership for three months, where DriveTribe will provide a number of services, like creative solutions and access to its users and influencer network. The key currency, said DriveTribe CEO Jonathan Morris, is access to behavioral data on its community in real time.

“We found that working with brands on a campaign-by-campaign basis was looking through too tight a lens,” he said. “The reasons why a video didn’t perform well on YouTube but did on Facebook were complex and unfathomable. We needed to run a series of these to understand data and user behavior in a more realistic way.”

DriveTribe sits between a publisher and a platform. The company has 45 employees, a quarter of whom work on creative solutions. It has a slim in-house content team of three people, plus a network of global contributors, some of whom are paid. Most of the content on the platform, however, is user-generated content posted to what it calls tribes, which are forums built around specific niches. There are about 30,000 tribes, ranging from the Sky Sports F1 tribe to one about dogs (and goats) in cars. Clarkson, May and Hamilton have their own tribes, as does “The Grand Tour.”

Car enthusiasts are a social bunch, as the number of other popular auto communities like Car Throttle and PistonHeads proves. Understanding how they behave — like what type of content an Audi fan views, their feelings about topical industry points such as the Tesla electric truck launch, other interests, tribes they’re part of and how they interact with others — is valuable for brands. DriveTribe said brands can use this data to inform the type of media they use and where they distribute it.

Each of the 1 million DriveTribe users engages with more than one piece of content per day on average, according to the company. In the last 28 days, DriveTribe served 1.7 billion content impressions across its own platform and social media platforms, up to 15 percent of which were on its own property, and 230 million people have had a low-level engagement — such as a share or a like — with these posts, according to Morris. Per Tubular Labs, DriveTribe had nearly 50 million video views in October on Facebook, where it has nearly 3 million followers.

Encouraging people to use a platform when they already have Facebook is a challenge, but it helps to have well-known people behind the venture as DriveTribe does. According to Morris, quizzes drive high conversion rates from Facebook to DriveTribe, like one on how much torque different cars produce that had 230 reactions. More in-depth articles on carburetors, for instance, have smaller conversion rates from Facebook but much higher levels of engagement due to a more focused audience.

Morris said DriveTribe hasn’t decided how much to charge brands for partnerships, but the fee would be “reasonably sized” because the deals’ length would be only three months. It has a big pool to fish in beyond car manufacturers; oil, tech, sports and gaming brands want to target car enthusiasts.

“[This revenue model] is the movement we’re seeing across the industry away from programmatic advertising to a more holistic brand and media approach,” Morris said.

Image: courtesy of DriveTribe, via Facebook.