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F1 attracts highest upscale audiences; new sponsors likely to come in: Initiative

MUMBAI: Formula One is by far the leading global annual television sports event for viewers and marketers. However, as countries put a ban on tobacco advertising, which until now rode on F1; a whole new set of advertisers are likely to come on the tracks. According to Initiative's ViewerTrack 2005 report as tobacco sponsorship phases out, the sport may shift as a sponsorship property toward more family-friendly and health-conscious brands.

Initiative's ViewerTrack 2005 Formula One audience figures shows that despite diminishing podium appearances from Michael Schumacher, and the legendary Ferrari, F1 has sustained its popularity and remains unrivalled as an annual global TV sports event.

 

What's interesting is that with the ban on tobacco advertising, there will be a notable shift in the marketing of F1 as a sponsorship property. F1 has been associated with tobacco brands for the last 37 years with the first commercial sponsorship of Lotus by Gold Leaf at the Monaco Grand Prix in 1968.

ViewerTrack 2005 report said that this break with the past will open up possibilities for F1 as a 'cleaner' environment for more family-friendly and health-conscious brand sponsors. The risk of negative associations from the halo effect of advertising alongside a tobacco brand has long since excluded F1 as an attractive sports property for brands from such sectors. "If the tobacco industry and teams don't find a way round the restrictions, we could start to see an interesting shift with some new brands in the future. Already, in a deal managed by Initiative in 2003, GlaxoSmithKline were the first to associate its NiQuitin CQ brand, a smoking cessation product, with the Williams F1 team," the report added.

 

 

Additionally, the ViewerTrack 2005 report also revealed that F1 remains unparalleled, not only in its ability to deliver huge audiences annually, but what is truly unique is the upmarket viewing profile of that audience. "No other TV sport event has the power to reach the F1 upmarket audience who would otherwise be associated with more niche sports such as polo as yatching, and on such a large scale," said the report..

 

Figures from this season's report reveal that cumulative audiences increased by three per cent compared to last year. However, although the season's viewing levels are up overall, viewing per race is down by three per cent. The global increase in number of viewers this year is due to the cumulative result of adding a 19th Grand Prix to the calendar, a new race which took place in Turkey, and served to boost the total number of events to watch.

The report also showed that only a few markets showed substantial viewing increases and the reason is unequivocally liked to national pride in a "local hero." The fastest-growing markets this season included Spain (due to Alonso) and France (due to Renault). They saw 60 per cent and 23 per cent increases in average audiences per race, respectively. This translated to growth in average audiences per race of 1.9 million and 0.7 million individuals, as the chart below shows:

However, globally, without the addition of Turkey's Grand Prix, the cumulative audience year on year would have been down by three per cent. Schumacher's absence from the podium indicates that F1 not only benefits from Local Hero Syndrome but also from a new phenomenon - the Anti-Hero Syndrome, which is being seen with Schumacher. the report added that, after complaints that Schumacher's domination of the sport has been killing viewer interest, it could well be that without him, audience defection might be worse.

Another issue at hand as far as F1 is concerned is television broadcast of football at the same time as F1. According to ViewerTrack 2005, the clashes in broadcasting of matches in the 2006 FIFA World Cup tournaments and Grand Prix races will be a major influence on global TV viewing next year. Likely clashes identified so far are the British Grand Prix and the Montreal Grand Prix. The Montreal Grand Prix was the most watched Grand Prix this year although is obviously unlikely to be viewers' favourite next year with such a tempting alternative.

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