Unfortunately, Formula 1 is not that popular in Russia as it is in so many countries all over the world. Firstly, any sport in Russia has to “prove itself” before gaining the popularity among the masses. Probably there are just two sports unconditionally respected in Russia: hockey and football. But even those struggle a lot with the loss of fans when something goes wrong. Let’s look at the options.
Making Formula 1 more affordable. I don’t only mean the ticket and merchandise prices but also the opportunities to follow this sport. The biggest problem is that here we barely have a variety in sports channels on TV or even other media about motorsport in Russian. That makes things a lot more complicated. Most media outlets are used to post about Daniil’s performance yet they forget that there are so many other interesting things in motorsport.
Understanding what Formula 1 is. If you ask 100 passers-by on the street what they know about the sport, I’m sure probably 95 of them are going to tell that it’s just about money, elitism and fame. People find it hard to understand the huge investments in high-technology cars. Most of them think that this is just a waste of money because they only see expensive vehicles and famous guys driving them. The fact is that those who really love Formula 1 could talk more about the teams, cars, drivers and speed but also about the things outside of the paddock. Things like research and modern technology helping to make street cars a lot safer.
Fan clubs and youth programmes. You can find almost no groups or forums on Formula 1 here. However, there are official fan clubs of Real Madrid, Pittsburgh Penguins, many NBA teams but nothing really about Formula 1 except a few very small communities. The creation of substantial motorsport groups online could help in bringing Formula 1 to the masses. Also, what makes any sport closer to the public is the chance to experience it. Many boys in Russia are probably dreaming of becoming Formula 1 drivers knowing Ayrton Senna, Kimi Raikkonen, Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton, Vitaly Petrov, Daniil Kvyat and so on, yet are there many of them dreaming to become a Formula 1 team member? Experience is the best thing ever. Programmes for students and volunteers in Russia might help a lot to make the sport popular among not only youngsters but their parents and friends.
Celebrities. You might be surprised by this point but let me ask you – which Grand Prix is the most popular in Formula 1? When it comes to Monaco, the whole planet is here: football players, coaches, all kinds of sportsmen, singers, actors, models, businessmen. All of them take photos, post them and tell people about what they’ve experienced. This simply works. Bringing Russian and foreign celebrities to the race in Sochi should make it more interesting even for those who are not so much into high-end motorsport.
Sponsors. Unfortunately, just a few Russian brands are interested in worldwide promotion. That’s why right now you wouldn’t see a lot of sponsors from Russia in Formula 1, with VTB and Kaspersky being the exceptions. Most of the country’s potential sponsors are much more interested in gaining popularity here, not abroad. Fans and sponsors are very closely linked in Russia, so winning over some part of the local fans will definitely result in promising sponsorship deals.