Formula 1

Formula 1 disregarding younger demographic claims Bernie Ecclestone

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Formula 1 is not interested in attracting young fans to watch the sport, that is the remarkable claim of long-time CEO Bernie Ecclestone.

As worldwide audiences continue to fall with only a few notable exceptions, you would have thought that trying to gage the interest of those who could follow F1 for decades to come would be a common sense approach for those running the show.

But apparently this is not the case as the 84-year-old Ecclestone believes the sport's major sponsors are not marketing themselves at the younger demographic.

Social media 'nonsense'

In a rare detailed interview with Campaign Asia-Pacific, a sister publication to UK's Autosport, he also reiterated his stance against social media, something man believe is pivotal to securing the sport's future fan base and expansion.
"I'm not interested in tweeting, Facebook and whatever this nonsense is," he said.

"I don't know what the so-called 'young generation' of today really wants." - Bernie Ecclestone

"I tried to find out but in any case I'm too old-fashioned. I couldn't see any value in it. And, I don't know what the so-called 'young generation' of today really wants. What is it?"

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F1 unmarketable to young generation

Ecclestone also claimed it would be very difficult for a sport like Formula 1 to make itself attractive to teens and young people who won't be interested in the main sponsors seen at every Grand Prix.

"If you have a brand that you want to put in front of a few hundred million people, I can do that easily for you on television.

"Now, you're telling me I need to find a channel to get this 15-year-old to watch Formula 1 because somebody wants to put out a new brand in front of them? They are not going to be interested in the slightest bit.

"Young kids will see the Rolex brand, but are they going to go and buy one? They can't afford it. Or our other sponsor, UBS — these kids don't care about banking. They haven't got enough money to put in the bloody banks anyway.

"I'd rather get to the 70-year-old guy who's got plenty of cash"

"That's what I think. I don't know why people want to get to the so-called 'young generation'. Why do they want to do that? Is it to sell them something? Most of these kids haven't got any money."

Instead Ecclestone believes the sport should focus more on those who have disposable income and would be interested in those brands like Rolex and UBS, or in other words, people like him.

"I'd rather get to the 70-year-old guy who's got plenty of cash," he said. "So, there's no point trying to reach these kids because they won't buy any of the products here and if marketers are aiming at this audience, then maybe they should advertise with Disney."

Complete contradiction

For most this will be more fuel to add to the fire claiming it really is time for Ecclestone to step down and walk away from the sport in many ways he created.

Certainly his comments only highlight the short-termism that the sport's smaller teams have been speaking of this week as they look to negotiate ways at addressing the financial imbalance that has taken two teams off the grid and threatens to claim more victims in the not too distant future.

Yet oddly his remarks, that may cause dismay among those in the F1 public relations department, fly in the face of a change in approach over the past 10-15 years that has been all about securing the sport's future.

His switch in focus from Europe to the developing Asian markets, while it may have largely flopped, was all about trying to attract the next generation of fans, of course there was the greater money that those countries offered to host races, but it made sense from all angles to increase F1's footprint in the emerging world.

Even on social media there has been signs of greater engagement, Formula 1's official Twitter page has begun offering commentary and statistics during sessions and the F1 app is also trying to capture the huge mobile market.

Other sites such as Facebook and Instagram remain untouched but do offer other avenues to attract fans from all demographics not just the younger generation.

Then there are other big investors in F1 who don't fit Ecclestone's target demographic. Certainly Red Bull don't aim for 70-year-old's with their Air Race, X-Fighters and general marketing across all sports all aimed primarily at the next generation, and while no 15-year-old's can't buy a Ferrari just the mere dream of owning one and supporting the Prancing Horse on the racetrack is enough to attract young fans to F1.

Solving Ecclestone's 'issue'

And finally there is the 'issue', as Ecclestone would see it, of how Formula 1 could attract young fans?

Well pardon me for perhaps stating the obvious, but do we watch the sport because of the 200mph ultimate driving machines and the young men who drive them or to read the advertising hoardings that are usually taken up by just one or two brands around all the circuits?

The mere sight and (what used to be) sound of an F1 car was enough to get a teenager interested, you look through their PlayStation games and most will have had an F1 game at some point, it is showcasing that, that will get the next generation interested.

Yes today's young generation may all be about iPad's and iPhone's but do what they do, use what they use, have an app, tweet, give them a Facebook page to like, give access to videos on YouTube and stop coming up with stupid rule changes to put them off again.

Give them role models like Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo, make them feel involved by interacting, the satisfaction of a tweet from Lotus or even a follow from a favourite driver is good no matter how old you are.

It's scandalous to think that those who make the decisions in one of the biggest sport's in the world don't know how to cater for all the demographics and, as for Bernie himself, while he may have created this incredible circus that we all love and follow, if this is how he sees F1 going forward then it really is time to consider that maybe he is just a little too old and little too out of touch to be in charge.

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