Formula One Needs to Promote Itself Better Says Lotus Boss Fernandes

December 13, 2011

Team Lotus head honcho, Tony Fernandes, believes Formula 1 needs to do more to promote itself better in new markets if it is to grow its fan base in the future.

Formula 1 is currently undergoing an expansion to the calendar outside of Europe – with India and South Korea having been added in the past two years, and Russia coming in 2014 – grand prix racing is facing the challenge of attracting new spectators if the events are to be a success.

Memories still remain of venues that have struggled to attract an audience such as Turkey who had to be dropped from the calendar because of a lack of support – Fernandes thinks that a different approach may be needed.

Writing in the latest edition of the FIA Institute’s IQmagazine, the AirAsia and Queens Park Rangers FC boss said that efforts have to go beyond the traditional way of trying to create a culture of grass roots motorsport.

“We need to keep the sport simple when it is introduced to new countries,” said Fernandes. “Motor racing, and specifically F1, is complicated, but the more understandable we make it, the easier it will be to get the newer countries involved.

“You can’t take F1 to India for the first time and treat that audience the same way you would the hugely knowledgeable tifosi at Monza. Italy has 90 years of heritage; India is brand new. Cricket exploded when they made the sport simple and accessible – first with the one-day game and now with Twenty20.”

He added: “I also think the teams and the drivers need to spend more time in the countries they’re visiting.

“When I was in the music business nothing beat bringing an artist to the country. Touching and feeling the sport is important. And we have to get away from the idea that F1 is a once-a-year thing that then goes away. It can’t just be about that.

“There needs to be bigger, wider promotion of the event, more coverage around the event, more TV programming from behind the scenes, as well as more journalists engaging with the event and more television promoting the rest of the season.”

Fernandes believes that the benefits of a big promotional push have been proven by the way that the football business grew when television companies started a major marketing effort.

“Football exploded into new markets and got really big when Sky and a few other TV channels came along and promoted it hard,” he explained. “There may be a lesson in that.”