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It's F1 weekend and only 32% of fans will watch on-site: Is marketing to blame?

It's F1 weekend and only 32% of fans will watch on-site: Is marketing to blame?

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The Formula One (F1) Grand Prix is set to race into Singapore this weekend and it is safe to say that the country is abuzz, especially considering that one in three (36%) of Singapore residents follow F1 motor racing. However, despite the number of fans, surprisingly, only a third of F1 followers in Singapore (32%) are planning to watch the race on-site. 

Of those attending, about three in five (59%) of this year’s racegoers said the opportunity to meet with friends to watch the race together drew them to attend the 2023 Singapore Grand Prix in person, while 57% say they generally enjoy a trackside view of the race and that was why they were going. 

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About half (49%) of racegoers also cited being a fan of one or more F1 drivers who will be competing in this year’s edition as one of the reasons they are getting tickets, while two in five (39%) point to being a fan of one or more artistes who will be performing at this year’s entertainment lineup.

These were the results of a YouGov survey into the interest Singaporeans have for the 2023 Singapore Grand Prix which is happening from 15 September to 17 September. 

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Saying that, among the non-attendees, close to three-fifths (58%) of F1 followers who aren’t attending the 2023 race in person say ticket prices are out of their budget this year. Notably, ticketing costs are by far the most common reason among past attendees who are not catching the race on site this year as well (52%), according to YouGov. 

Over half (54%) also cite preferring catching the race via television broadcast, as do almost two-fifths (38%) among past attendees. The next most common reasons, following at a distance, are not being able to secure race tickets in time and not being interested in this year’s entertainment lineup or performing artists.

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True enough, this year, the Singapore Grand Prix is seeing a drop in attendance following a record-breaking year in 2022 which saw the largest attendance in the history of F1 in Singapore. The 2022 figure was up 34,000 on the previous race at the track in 2019. This year, attendance is expected to dip. 

"Based on current inventory, the Marina Bay Street Circuit is expected to host approximately 250,000 spectators," organisers said in a release. "The reduced capacity – some 17% lower than last year’s record-breaking attendance of 302,000 – is due to the closure of the Bay Grandstand as part of the redevelopment of The Float at Marina Bay." 

Could marketing be to blame?

With a lower attendance and generally less hype around the actual on-site race, could a lack of marketing be the reason why there is a lower turnout? 

According to Kevin Kan, chief experience officer at Break Out Consulting Asia, there really have not been that many F1 posters to ramp up hype this year. 

"When F1 first came to Singapore, there were posters all over the place.  There was lots of excitement and reminders for people that a world-class event would be gracing the city," he said. "Honestly, I have not seen many F1 posters to ramp up the hype this year. Even Changi Airport does not have any major F1 posters."

Kan added that even from a social media perspective, he has not had any F1 advertisements pop up on his Facebook page or X account. 

He explained that the old adage of being where your audience is may have been missed with the marketing aspect this year, saying:

If I can’t see many F1 posters around the city or at the airport, where is the memory recall that I should buy a ticket either for the race or entertainment?

 What more could have been done?

Looking at a general lower level of excitement surrounding F1 this year, Kan suggested that the Singapore Tourism Board and marketers do more to hype up the entertainment lineup especially because many attend the races physically simply for the entertainment lineups. 

He added that more could also have been done around partnerships with sponsored F1 brands with regard to hosting more events or even competitions to win tickets to the race. 

"This ultimately increases footfall for the brands and awareness of F1 in the city," he said.

Agreeing with him, Tarun Deo, the founder and managing director of Progressive Communications suggested that more could also have been done to target actual fans of F1 who religiously attend the races year after year. "For example, I went last year and they have my data and details. But nothing was done to reach out to me to get me to buy tickets for this year's race specifically," he said. This, he said, was a significant missed opportunity by organisers. 

"You need to stay in touch and cultivate the relationship with people who are actual fans and who will keep coming back no matter what," he said.

Deo explained that this was even more important now that we are well out of the Covid-19 pandemic and events have made a return. "There are so many events happening right now and not everyone can do everything. If you are already going for the Taylor Swift or Coldplay concerts next year, you may not feel that F1 is a worthy investment," he said. 

Deo added that with the influx of more events, marketing needs to be more focused and sharper, targeting real fans and people who would be invested in the entertainment lineups. 

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Related articles: 
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Singapore Tourism Board appoints Distilleri to helm SG's Grand Prix parties for a second year
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