Formula 1 fans in America – should sponsors target them?

Motor Racing – Formula One World Championship – United States Grand Prix – Race Day – Austin, USA

As we just passed the US Grand Prix, it might be very useful to have a look at the profile of American Formula 1 fans and compare that to fans from other global regions. Yes, there are a lot of differences, and we all need to understand them.

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Measuring it all

These results are from a study done by the market research firm Sport+Markt AG, now a part of Repucom. The study was conducted in 17 markets worldwide, targeting men and women aged 16-69. More than 15,000 telephone and face-to-face interviews were conducted in order to gather a representative sample.

Starting from the top, let’s have a look at the level of interest in motorsport across global regions. This is not just interest in the glamorous Formula 1, but rather interest in any type of motor racing:

Region Interest Level Difference to the USA
USA 26%
Key European markets of Germany, France, UK, Spain & Italy 42% +16%
Central & Eastern Europe 33% +7%
Central & South America 36% +10%
Africa & Australia 34% +8%
Asia 29% +3%


Focusing specifically on Formula 1, we see a wider disparity of interest:

Region Interest Level Difference to the USA
USA 17%
Key European markets of Germany, France, UK, Spain & Italy 40% +23%
Central & Eastern Europe 32% +15%
Central & South America 37% +20%
Africa & Australia 32% +15%
Asia 33% +16%

So there’s a basic comparison of interest in racing in general, and specifically in Formula 1. While the US ranks lowest on either measure when compared to other global regions, we Americans might remind others that we have several sports that compete for our attention – college and professional (American) football, basketball, baseball, other types of racing and even a bit of soccer. Whereas the rest of the world is primarily drawn to soccer/European football, cricket, sailing, curling and various other sports that draw crowds of a few hundred… (tongue firmly in cheek).

Look at the ecosystem in which your business operates to see if there is a relevant way to engage with Formula 1.

But let’s look a bit more closely to see HOW interested Formula 1 fans are around the world – how intense is their interest? Well, of all the people in the US that said they are interested in Formula 1, 17 per cent of that crowd said they were “very interested” or “interested”. As compared to these Europeans:

The U.S. 17%
Italy 51%
Spain 49%
Poland 44%
Germany 42%
Switzerland 33%
France 32%
The U.K. 27%

That difference between US and European fans is rather staggering, staggeringly bad if you are interested in the growth of the sport within America. But let’s not forget that along with other sports that compete for American’s interest, there also are other forms of racing that Formula 1 has to battle within the States – sports car racing in various forms, drag racing (huge), sprint car and dirt track racing, Indy car racing and the granddaddy of them all, NASCAR. If one loves the smell of oil and rubber, there are many ways to get your kicks in the States, and, more frequently, at a much lower cost than good old Formula 1. Sorry Bernie, but that’s a competitive market at work.

Purchasing behaviour and attitude towards sponsoring

But now we can see where American Formula 1 fan stands out compared to their brothers around the world – that’s in their attitude towards sponsorship and how purchasing behaviour may be influenced. Sponsors can start rubbing their hands together now – turns out American fans are much more pre-disposed to be “up” on the latest products and are more likely to buy a sponsor’s product rather than something from a non-sponsor.

Respondents who said they are interested in Formula 1 were indexed against the “non-fans” on the below statements, and American fans are more pre-disposed towards these ideas:

Statement America Europe Asia Africa & Australia
I always try to be up to date in music, art & fashion. 133 108 125 110
I would choose a sponsor’s product rather than a rival’s product. 150 125 129 110
I am often the first person to have new, innovative products. 155 128 132 143

Based on an index of 100%, this score demonstrates whether a below-average (index value below 100%) or above average (index value above 100%) score exists.

This result may be a consequence of the often-touted consumer society in America, but regardless of the reason for its existence, Formula 1 sponsors may want to pay more attention to the US motorsport fan base. They appear very receptive to products from sponsors or likely from any business involved in the sport as a supplier, advertiser, partner and so on.

Halo effect from sponsoring

In the States, sponsorship has an extremely positive effect on the image of the sponsoring company. Here’s a comparison of different types of respondents to various image attributes. For purposes of this article we’ll call the sponsor “Sponsor X,” which is a globally recognized technology vendor that has sponsored two Formula 1 teams in recent years:

Image profile of Sponsor X, per cent respondents, stating attribute is “appropriate” or “entirely appropriate”



All respondents Formula 1-interested Aware of sponsorship
Appealing 51% 64% 62%
Dynamic 42% 56% 59%
High tech / innovative 63% 78% 72%
Unique 38% 52% 52%

Per cent of US citizens aged 16-69.

The likelihood of purchasing a sponsor’s product increases when a subject is interested in Formula 1, and increases even more when the subject is aware of a specific sponsorship.

Would consider buying products from Sponsor X
All Respondents: F1-Interested: Aware of Sponsorship:
Yes – 77%
No – 22%
Yes – 81%
No – 19%
Yes – 88%
No – 12%

Per cent of US citizens aged 16-69.

Companies with products that are appealing, dynamic, high tech, innovative, or unique (the attributes rated above) may well find a receptive audience amongst US Formula 1 fans. There are multiple ways to be involved in this high-end sport besides being a team, driver or series sponsor, there can be promotional opportunities with the circuit, with the broadcasting network, or partnerships with current sponsors or suppliers.

Look at the ecosystem in which your business operates to see if there is a relevant way to engage with Formula 1. Start small, be real, and track what you do. Formula 1 may be a great opportunity for you – it certainly works for numerous sponsors that have invested time and effort in building authentic sponsorship programs.

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