Picture the scene; just finished a long day of lectures and finally completed that assignment you’ve been working tirelessly on all week. You’ve got a cup of tea in hand and are ready to switch on the TV to watch the final episode of your favourite Netflix series that you’ve been totally consumed with for the past few weeks; life is bliss. Then it hits you; what am I going to watch when this series ends, I’m getting tired of watching the same sort of genres, it’s time to switch things up but I don’t know what other types of series would interest me. This is why I love Netflix, don’t get me wrong I love watching a series that I know I’ll be interested in, there’s nothing better than switching on an episode of Gavin and Stacey on a rainy day to lift the mood. However there’s something about becoming fascinated by a Netflix show you thought would never interest you that can’t be beaten.

It is widely known that Formula 1 is a predominately male sport, it involves expensive motorcars and high speed racing. Before its premiere to Netflix on 8th March 2019, if asked about Formula 1, the only piece of information I would have known is that Lewis Hamilton drives in a red suit. This is in fact incorrect as Lewis drives in a sparkling white one for Mercedes Benz, information I only found out from watching the Netflix series. I would never have stumbled across this Netflix series only that I began noticing how much my dad who was a big football and rugby fan, talked about it from the day he began watching it. I mean who could have pictured it; a young female driver of a 2008 Ford Fiesta, who doesn’t break the speed limit, stalls on average around 3 times a day, completely engrossed in a Netflix series all about high speed racing, cars reaching up to 200mph to determine over a number of races who is the F1 World Champion. But that’s the power of Netflix.

When searching up Formula 1 on google, the suggested drop down menu’s presented many negative connotations, one that struck me was: is Formula 1 a dying sport? Although it is unlikely that Formula 1 bosses have ever seen this question specifically, it is without doubt that they would have gathered information over the years about the public’s views on the sport and its popularity. After furthering my search, I came across many articles that suggested Formula 1’s success was behind them and that the sport had started to be considered ‘stupid’, other articles provided statistics showing the drop in its popularity over the years. Not only this but Formula 1 had received much backlash for its lack of diversity and how it was still very sexist in terms of being predominantly, if not an all male sport. Formula 1 had failed to move with the times and this had not went unmissed by the general public. It was clear to everyone that something needed to be done if Formula 1 wanted to continue its legacy.

Up until 2017 Formula 1 was limited to what they could broadcast across social media. This all changed when Liberty Media purchased the global motorsport business and gave drivers and their teams the freedom to post across mediums such as Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. To an extent this worked well, it gauged supporter’s attention and allowed for much needed interaction amongst supporters and drivers. However the real genius was in the creation of their Netflix documentary. Formula 1 could not have choose a better platform to market their competitive motorsport than the online streaming mastermind that is Netflix. Their careful decision making enabled them to reach an audience of 158.3 million Netflix subscribers all around the world. Drive to Survive performed particularly well in the United States where it had a higher demand than 96.1% of all Documentary titles as shown in the graph below.

Current Renault and previous Redbull driver, Daniel Ricciardo also noted the he has seen an increase in the amount of people recognising him in the United States and said that Drive to Survive put Formula 1 racing on the map. He said that before Drive to Survive “not really anyone would say hi to me – not in a bad way, but they wouldn’t recognise me from being an F1 driver. And now it’s all ‘we saw you on Netflix, it was great, Drive to Survive’.”

Data from Research Agency Digital-i found that in its first 28 days, the Netflix Documentary Drive to Survive had been streamed over 1 million times in households within the UK. This has been hugely successful for Liberty Media whose aim was to expand its audiences, particularly to younger demographics which has also proved successful as since 2017, 62% of Formula 1’s new followers have been under the age of 35. Netflix has proved to be one of the most pivotal factors in the boost in popularity of the Formula 1 motorsport.

Liberty Media also made strategic use of Digital Marketing to promote Formula 1 further. As I mentioned earlier through restrictions being lifted on the content that was allowed to be posted, social media has been hugely effective in keeping fans of the motorsport engaged and interested. Content posted on Instagram including Instagram lives being filmed as drivers prepare to race, Youtube videos being posted to their 4.58 million subscribers on a daily basis and Tik Tok videos showing highlights from the races using popular sounds on Tik Tok are a few of the effective marketing methods used by Formula 1 to promote their motorsport further. Even with the coronavirus pandemic, Formula 1 showed fans how they could adapt and continue to interact across the world through the creation of the Virtual Grand Prix Series which proved a standout. Its run was able to pull in 21.8 million views on digital platforms, as well as 695 million impressions across social.

It was no surprise that Formula 1 Netflix Documentary: Drive to Survive has been a hugely successful marketing strategy employed by Liberty Media. The Netflix Documentary highlighted a side to Motorsport racing that had never been seen before. The previous two seasons have shown a more human side to a largely mechanical sport. Viewers are exposed to the emotional side of the motorsport not just for the driver but for their families and all the team involved in the success of a driver. From turmoil to triumph, this Netflix Documentary uncovers a candid glimpse into the life of an F1 driver and shows much more than just the on-track action that fans are used to seeing. I’m already excited about season 3 even though a release date is yet to be confirmed, but as I said before, that’s the power of Netflix!

Aoife Teague is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and Twitter