Building fan engagement at Formula 1

How the team behind the F1 are working to keep experience at the forefront of fan engagement

It’s been said Formula 1 racing is not something a spectator watches, but something that they feel, as 1000 horsepower thunders past them at more than 350Kmph.

For Andrew Westacott, the challenge is how to convey that same feeling to someone who has never been trackside at an F1 race, while ensuring those who have come back for that feeling year after year don’t go home disappointed.

Sunday 17 March will mark the 9th running of the Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix with Westacott as the CEO. He says the emphasis this year - as it is every year – is to ensure the event is memorable. And that applies to more than just the 58 laps the cars will make of the Albert Park circuit.

“The customer and the audience are wanting more and more entertainment, and it is broader than just the sport and the on-field action,” Westacott says. “We have to make our event a go-to event, a must attend event, and when they go there they cannot be disappointed. We have to provide entertainment, sport, culture, food and beverage options - and an overall end-to-end package that is better than they can get in the international marketplace.”

Speaking at The Business of Events conference in Melbourne in early February, Westacott described how the race was enticing new attendees with an offer of entertainment they can’t get at any other event, spread over a number of days but centred around the showpiece race. At the same time, he said he must continue to please diehard annual attendees.

“We only have one chance at it, and if that person has a poor experience over the four days they may question whether to go again in 12 months’ time,” Westacott says. “So we have to constantly refresh, we have to constantly upgrade, and we have put newness and uniqueness into it so that every time they come to our event they are going to be surprised and delighted.”

While last year’s event boasted the largest track activity program in the race’s history in Australia, this year it will eclipse that of any Formula 1 event globally. The event site will feature an extension of the Melbourne Walk, where fans can get close to the drivers and teams each day, including supercar drivers who will be participating in the accompanying Beaurepaires Melbourne 400 race.

“We have to raise the bar - internationally against Formula 1, and nationally against all motorsport,” Westacott says. “And in Melbourne, against every other major event and every other opportunity people have to spend their entertainment dollar, we have to make our events memorable. There is so much opportunity for the customer that they are spoiled for choice.”

Over the four days, the event will also feature 70 musical acts, as well as an upgrade to the more functional aspects of running a large event, such as ensuring shade, security and clean toilets.

“They are the things people say we should be doing better on,” Westacott says.

This year’s event also features a number of changes to the sponsor line-up. While Rolex and Heineken retain their prominent positions, Beaurepaires is joining in its support of the supercars race. Westacott says numerous other new sponsors are still to be announced – some of whom are coming on thanks to the race’s ability to associate sponsors with cutting-edge technology and engineering.

“We have a strong partnership with RMIT University that centres around innovation and technology,” Westacott says. “These are the things that appeal to the Victorian Government, who is ultimately our major backer, because if we can stimulate advanced manufacturing and the pursuit of engineering studies and trade and innovation opportunities then that creates value for the state of Victoria.”

As for March though, Westacott says his team will be working hard to ensure that every attendee receives that Formula 1 feeling.

“It’s visceral and it does stimulate the senses, and we’ve got to leverage off all of that,” Westacott says.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu  

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