F1’s fans make their voices heard

The Grand Prix Drivers Association (GPDA) has released the executive summary of the 2015 Global Formula 1 Fan Survey, which provides an interesting insight into the sport’s health from the perspective of its supporters.

More than 215,000 fans took part from over 194 countries, with the survey’s #RacingUnited hashtag retweeted over 15,500 times. Clearly this is an impressive response, but this is just a fraction of the 450 million people that watched F1 on TV last year.

Of greater concern to me is that, of the 217,756 fans the completed the survey, only around 133,000 responses were included in the executive summary total sample. While it is inevitable that some will be spoilt or perhaps duplicate entries, the GPDA explains that ‘results bases on this number and weighted to be representative of F1 fans by region and interest’ – this clearly introduces a natural bias to the process that should be considered.

1About the fans

Of the 194 countries that took part in the survey, the UK, France and the USA come out as the top countries according to the survey, with Austria and Germany occupying fourth and fifth place respectively.

While the UK’s position as the sport’s number one supporter is not surprising, France’s status as the nation that provided the second highest number of completed survey’s is impressive considering the country does not have a race in the series.

The report highlights that over half of F1 fans are aged between 25-44 years old, with an average of 37 years old, with over three quarters having followed F1 for over 10 years.

One in five have been to a Grand Prix in the last 12 months – something that I would be interested to analyse in the full data, as it strikes me that the vast majority of F1 fans have not been to a race in the last year due to the excessive cost of the sport – something we’ll touch on later.

How fans follow

F1 Fan Survey 2015The vast majority, 90%, of fans continue to watch F1 on TV, with just 45% watching online and less than 30% watching the sport on-demand. However, the latter is unsurprising as live sporting events are rarely watched after the fact.

The executive summary also details that Twitter is the primary social media platform for F1 fans, despite F1’s shocking use of the platform, and 55% of fans now use F1 websites as their main news source for information on the sport.

Perhaps most interestingly, is that more than 50% of the 133,000 admitted that they no longer watch races live since pay TV subscriptions were introduced. The actual number of fans that stated this is not made clear, but a loss of half of the audience must surely provide a stark warning to the sport’s governing body and is clearly not a sustainable model. The sport must learn from this quickly.

F1 then and now

F1 Fan Survey 2015The survey summary also provides a comparison of fan’s opinions both in 2015 and 2010, tracking how the image of the sport has changed over the past five years.

Interestingly, the words most commonly associated with F1 now are ‘expensive’, ‘technological’ and ‘boring. This provides stark comparison with ‘technological’, ‘competitive’ and ‘exciting’ – the terms most readily related to the sport in 2010.

Alongside this, 85% of fans believe that the sport needs to recruit new fans (compared with just 64% in 2010), and fewer than 10% of fans believe that F1 is healthier now than it was five years ago.

This is yet another clear warning that the sport must work harder to win over its fans. What it is doing now, if anything, is clearly not working.

Cutting costs, boring business

F1 Fan Survey 2015When asked about the costs associated with the sport, 68% of fans responded that the team running costs are too high and not sustainable for a healthy future for the sport, with 54% believing a budget cap should be introduced.

F1 Fan Survey 2015Interestingly, the report does not feature anything related to the cost to the fans. It is clear from conversations that I have had and regular social media discussions that the costs associated with the sport, from tickets to TV, are the most prohibitive element in actively supporting F1. However, 77% of fans did stipulate that F1’s business interests are now too important in their opinion.

Winning back the fans

F1 Fan Survey 2015Perhaps the most interesting information relates to the sports’ reputation and what its fans want to see from the drivers.

86% have stated that they want drivers to be open and honest with fans, while 78% believe they should be working to promote and enhance the sport’s worldwide image and reputation. This is mirrored by 75% of fans commenting that drivers should actively work to bring fans closer to F1.

What does it mean?

In short this means very little at present. The approach of asking fans for the opinion is a very positive step, although I do question why they have included stats from just 61% of respondents – I have asked GPDA to comment on this and will be sure to share their response if they provide one.

The most important part of the survey is the next step. What will the GPDA, and more importantly the FIA and F1, do with this information.

It is clear that fans want change, and not just for the sake of it but instead to improve the show.F1 needs to work harder to reward its fans and provide them with what they need. Simply ignoring them won’t work any longer.

To view the executive summary of the 2015 Global Formula 1 Fan Survey, click here.

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