Racing videos, expensive cars and fans drive auto content on YouTube

Car lovers love watching racing videos, expensive cars and content uploaded by fans — not the brands themselves — on YouTube.

The auto category overall is huge on the video site, generating about 35 billion lifetime views, according to Zefr, a marketing tech company that specializes in helping brands and media companies track and monetize content on YouTube. Compared to other categories by number of videos uploaded and lifetime views, auto is in the top 10, Zefr added, accounting for roughly 18 percent of all videos uploaded and 5 percent of total views.

“YouTube has become the biggest single place for content around cars in the history of the auto business,” said Dave Rosner, head of marketing at Zefr, which has produced a report on auto content and brands on YouTube. “It’s a critical stop [for people] in their relationship with cars, whether they’re looking to make a purchasing decision, do repairs or are just a part of auto culture.”

Here are three big trends uncovered by Zefr’s deep dive into the category:

Racing is a massive subcategory.
While the automotive content is popular in general, what viewers really seem to enjoy watching are racing videos. According to Zefr, there are 895,000 racing videos on YouTube, generating 8.2 billion lifetime views and 40 million engagements (likes, shares and comments). The next-biggest subcategory is classic cars, which accounted for 305,000 lifetime videos, 1.6 billion views and 7.3 million engagements on YouTube.

Of course, just because racing is huge on YouTube doesn’t mean the whole genre makes sense for advertisers. “There are things that brands would want to be a part of, such as NASCAR and other pro-racing content,” said Rosner, “and then there are videos that are too racy for brands, like street-racing videos.” The key is to filter and organize the category to see where opportunities might exist for advertisers.

YouTube viewers love expensive cars.
Of the top-eight car brands on YouTube, five are in the luxury or high-end sports car category, per Zefr. BMW leads the way with close to 5 billion lifetime views. Mercedes-Benz is third with nearly 4 billion views. Lamborghini, Ferrari and Audi have roughly 3 billion views each.

“BMW and Mercedes do an amazing job of connecting with the broader population,” said Rosner. “Think of how often you see their commercials and how broad and deep their marketing [is].”

For the supercars, however, it’s all aspirational. “Not everybody gets to drive a Ferrari, but you can get pretty close on YouTube,” said Rosner.

Fan content, not brand content, rules.
While those and other car brands see huge viewership numbers on YouTube, only a small percentage of those views are happening on content that’s actually produced or owned by the brands themselves.

Take BMW, with its 5 billion YouTube views. According to Zefr, 98 percent of those views occurred on fan videos and not “official videos,” which Zefr defines as videos uploaded to brands’ official YouTube channels. And BMW isn’t alone. Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Lamborghini and Chevrolet are each only responsible for 1 percent of all views on content that features their brand and cars.

This presents an interesting opportunity for car brands, according to Rosner. While some of the fan-uploaded content might not necessarily be brand-safe, the volume of uploads and viewership is high enough to get a better understanding of how people feel about a given brand, not to mention the competition’s.

“You can uncover other places you can take your brand based on what your fans are already running with and getting millions and millions of views,” said Rosner.

Images via Rodrigo Garrido /

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