When it comes to sports in America, one cannot deny the existence of a “Big Four”. The NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL dominate viewership, and rightly so. They are the pinnacle of elite athleticism and are each the wealthiest professional club competitions in their sport (titlemax.com). The sports are associated with these leagues, and as evidenced by the NBA in specific, athletes from all over the world flock to the United States to play at the highest level and achieve true glory. People grow up watching these sports, with sentiments attached to each team and its history. Nothing can break that bond. However, there’s always a possibility of disruption.
The world, especially after the pandemic, has entered a highly technological mass media landscape. Content is being consumed on streaming platforms, and social media at an astonishing rate. A sport that has mastered this change is Formula 1, or F1 for short.
For those unaware, Formula 1 is considered to be the pinnacle of motorsport and modern engineering. Each season, 20 cars race on countless challenging tracks, which range from street circuits to specially crafted tracks, in all sorts of conditions and all over the world. Most team bases are set up in Italy and England, with the sport having originated in Europe.
However, it is rapidly gaining popularity in the United States. Historically, F1 only had one race in the US: a Grand Prix in Indianapolis from 2000-2007 and then the Circuit of the Americas in Austin 2012 and onwards. Just this year, Formula 1 raced on a street track around the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, with ticket prices going up to a reported $35,000. The viewership equaled 240,000 people over a span of 3 days, with the whole event thought to have brought $400M to the city of Miami. Super Bowl LVI’s viewership was around 208 million, and Miami Grand Prix’s viewership stood at around 109 Million. The difference? The Super Bowl has been a tradition since the 1960s, while the Miami GPs first edition was in 2022. Formula 1 also recently announced a new race starting in Las Vegas 2023, where the cars will take to the famous Strip. The excitement surrounding this event is tremendous, with packages being sold for over $100,000.
The key to this exponential growth lies in the media narrative of the sport. Having been acquired by American-based Liberty Media in 2017, Formula 1’s marketing focuses on branding the sport as an all-around entertainment festival in the United States, rather than a pure sport – understanding the love the American public has for the ‘Big Four”. They currently run a Netflix Show known as Drive to Survive, which used exaggeration to enthrall North American audiences. It’s led to a massive influx in viewership of the sport. Formula 1 also runs 3 different podcasts, on which they frequently bring in Team Bosses, Drivers, and high-profile guests. They own their own streaming service, which is easily accessible on their website, and regularly post race clips, highlights, and driver and fan interactions on their YouTube Channel.
To conclude, Formula 1 and its growth is a prime example of how conquering the mass media and technology landscape in today’s day and age can lead to a massive expansion in sport. While the connection between people and their teams is pure, rare, and valuable, it is also important to understand how the world and people are changing, and how sport’s portrayal must change with it.