UK – Formula One is trying to crack the lucrative American market using research and insights – the first time this global sporting powerhouse has done so in its history. 


Liberty Media, a US-based media group, took over F1 in 2017 from Bernie Ecclestone who ran the business with “an autocratic style of governance”, said Gregory Morris, senior brand research manager. “This 70-year-old brand had never commissioned a piece of insight before,” he added.

Formula One remains by far the biggest motorsport in the world yet its stock has fallen in comparison in value to others, such as European football’s Champions League. In the 1990s the two sporting events had “roughly the same monetary value but now the Champions League is way ahead”.

Liberty commissioned Flamingo to get under the skin of its existing fans and help untap new areas of growth with a brief to make each race a “Super Bowl moment”.

They took a three-pronged approach understand the fans, discover F1’s unique sporting DNA and uncover growth opportunities with network mapping via digital forensics.

Panel chair Catherine Crump, chief executive of Decidedly (pictured), said: “Unlocking new growth opportunities is the Holy Grail for brands. It’s not inexpensive and it can be quite risky.” She cautioned: “It is critical to find new customers without alienating current customer base.”

Delegates also heard from VIVO Cannabis, which launched three new cannabis brands in Canada in just six months ahead of the legalisation of the drug late last year. The country became the world’s first legal cannabis market in a G20 nation: effectively this was a market that had not existed before.

A rigorous insight piece focusing on medical and black-market users of cannabis revealed four key consumer need states and signalled the need to market it in three distinct areas: medical, wellness and recreational.

They needed to move the plant’s image away from that of a ‘Cheech & Chong’ stoner smoking in his parent’s basement or at college in order to focus on the benefits in each use case, making the language and science easy to understand and “compassionate”, particularly for medical users. 

The third case study focused on Pan Macmillan, who used insight to build three of its key authors into brands. It had expected insight to show that lapsed readers of an author would be low-hanging fruit in the quest to increase readership, but that wasn’t the case.

Instead, it helped inform cover images of the books and gave the authors the tools and information they could take into interviews, events and book signings in order to deepen the relationship they had with readers and encourage new ones on board. The most recent hardback releases by Joanna Trollope and Kate Mosse hit the number one spot and the findings are instrumental in the approach to releasing Kate Morton’s most recent novel as a paperback.