What are the nuts and bolts of a great Formula 1 race? It’s not what you think.

With new racing regulations coming into force this year, Greg Morris, Senior Brand Research Manager at Formula 1, is working to support the TV production team and the data team in showing the best sort of race to viewers. Based on his recent experiences, his advice for other brand managers setting up research is:

Surveys and focus groups don’t always provide the answers

“People often say exactly what you would expect them to say off the top of their heads,” Greg reveals, adding, “They think that they want the racing to be unpredictable and have a lot of overtakes, and that it doesn’t matter who wins. But then when you get them to rate races, it often coincides with whether their favourite driver or team is on the podium.”

“Often we find people believe they want to see more of what’s going on away from the front of the field,” Greg says. “But we’ve found that if you have a long period not featuring Lewis Hamilton or Max Verstappen or one of the other leading drivers, viewers start to feel like they’re missing out. They’re not as interested as they think and say they are!”

Look to other research options for genuine insight

Not relying on people’s survey responses gave Greg and his team a better understanding of how to split the coverage between the front and middle of the field. “It’s like a subplot rather than the main story. A lot of sporting stories that provide an interesting narrative are not always the ones that bring in the highest audiences.”

“I used to work at Sky Sports and if Manchester United or Liverpool were doing well, we tended to get higher viewing figures, even if the narrative was more interesting when it’s a smaller team winning.”

Know your parameters

Greg believes it’s important to know what you want to get out of your research before starting. “It’s difficult to come to concrete conclusions on what to broadcast of a Formula 1 race because everything is dependent on the wider context. We can’t say, for instance, how many times to replay something because in a quieter race, replays may be more interesting than what’s happening on track.”

“So my aim with research is to provide a framework of broader patterns that we can use alongside an understanding of production and creativity to make decisions on what to broadcast.”

Work out your priorities

“What difference does it make if we look at the Italian or Dutch commentary team? Or our support races like Formula 2 and Formula 3? How do Sunday viewers react differently to those watching qualifying? We get asked these questions all the time but it’s always a consideration in terms of the setup of a project – what are the priorities and how can you spread the budget across those priorities?”

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