For as much as I love sports themselves, there is a part of me that is fascinated by social media’s role in them. News and conversation around sports can take place on any number of social media platforms. And, it’s also a way for said “new kids” to get their name out there.
The FIA Formula-E Series is heading to Miami today. Formula E? I know, I know. You’ve heard of Formula 1, but not Formula E. Formula E is a unique motor sport racing series. Unique in that the goal is to run on sustainable technology.
Cars are designed to run on a single battery – no re-fueling required for these cars. Two cars per driver for the 50 minute race. The noise that racing fans are accustomed to with NASCAR or Formula 1 cars is not present with the F-E cars. Crashes can happen, but to this point (thankfully), not to the point of their more powerful counterparts.
It may sound kind of odd. A car race using no traditional re-fueling pit stops, changing cars as routine and minimal noise. With challenges like these, especially at a race in America, how does Formula E get their name out there? How do they get the word out?
I spoke with Formula E CEO, Alejandro Agag, Michael Andretti and driver Lucas di Grassi about that yesterday during Media Day.
Where do you see social media now and in the future for Formula E?
Right now, we’re focusing on building the race. The race is just the base. Then, everything else needs to go through video and social media. My next focus is an online, real-time video game.
You can talk about social media very vaguely. We are totally user-friendly, for example. All of our races are on YouTube. That doesn’t happen basically in any sport. But, we want people after 48 hours to just go and watch the race. You can say it’s a lot, but we need to do much more sophisticated things. The kids are getting more and more sophisticated. I see it with my kids. It’s incredible what they do with these things.
We need to get a focus group of say, twenty 10-14 year-olds and have them tell me what they want. That’s where we’ll really get the good feedback.
In the short-term (for social media), the online real-time video game, without a doubt.
(Note: Agag said that this video game is at least two years or more down the road. But, it is something he really wants to implement for the next generation.)
On #FanBoost (the social-driven system of fans voting to give a speed boost to their favorite driver during the race):
Yes. Very positive reaction. We are working on enhancing it more.
It’s important to continue dialogue with the teams. Growing together, taking cues from each other, is how a young sport like Formula E will see itself connect with fans in this social media age. On working with teams and social media strategy:
“We are totally open. There are rights issues to be concerned with…” but “we are for teams doing their own thing (on social).”
In a November pre-race press conference, Agag described Formula E as being a “championship for the younger generation”. As they move forward in trying to grow Formula E, social will play a key part in their strategy.
I also had the privilege of sitting in on the driver/team press conference yesterday. Live-streaming the conference on Meerkat, I was able to ask Michael Andretti and driver Lucas di Grassi about the importance of social media and connecting with the next generation of fans.
Andretti: That’s one of the things that what Formula E is doing that’s a little unique. With the Fan Boost, and all of those things – they’re trying to connect to the kids and the phone that you’re holding right there. That’s important. We’ve heard talk of ways they’re trying to get kids to interact with them even more with what’s going on with the race track. I think that’s all part of it. To get the fans actually involved.
di Grassi: It’s very important to connect with the younger generation. When they think about buying their first car, they think about buying an electric car. To change an old mind that V-8’s and V-10’s are the car to get, it’s very difficult. But, if the first car that you buy is electric, the chance of you staying with an electric car for the future is very high. That’s why it’s very important to engage with the younger generation.
Much like the racing series itself, I would describe the social strategy of Formula E as a work in progress. With anything new, it takes time to build. Having an idea for growth and connecting with the next generation of racing fans is a solid place to start. Logistical, as well as organizational, issues will need to be ironed out. But, as di Grassi alluded to above, thinking like them, will be key.