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Racing Organizations Gear Up for Younger Audience image

Racing Organizations Gear Up for Younger Audience

NASCAR and Formula 1 are in a race to attract a younger audience with licensing programs driven as much by technology as teams, cars, and drivers.

That much is clear from Formula 1’s recent global licensing agreement with Kindred Concepts to open the first of up to 30 One New Change venues starting in London in October-November. Kindred will operate the London location and potentially some in the U.S. and Europe but also will sub-license other venues. Each will have 40-60 racing simulation machines containing a Formula 1 game jointly developed by Koncept and videogames developer Motorsport. Formula 1 also purchased an equity stake in Kindred.

Similarly, NASCAR invested in iRacing.com, a developer of PC-based racing simulation games and a long-time licensee, whose status was upped to partner. NASCAR also partnered with Nace Starleague last month to launch the College iRacing Series.

In 2021, Formula 1 extended its licensing agreement with Fanatics, which has ecommerce and manufacturing rights, after a year in which Formula 1-related revenue rose 40% from 2020 and 200% from when the deal was first signed in 2017. The business also has drafted off the popularity of Netflix’s Formula 1 series “Drive to Survive,” which launches the fourth season on March 11. The average age of Formula 1 race attendees dropped four years in 2021 to 32 and the number of women doubled, according to Formula 1 Group CEO Stefano Domenicali. And of the 400,000 who attended a race weekend in Austin, TX last October, 70% were new to the racing series (up from a more typical 30%), he said.

The new Formula 1 season, which will have a record 23 stops this year, starts March 18-20 in Bahrain. The NASCAR Cup Series, meanwhile, started with the Daytona 500 on Feb. 20 in Daytona Beach, FL.

In 2021, Formula 1 extended its licensing agreement with Fanatics, which has ecommerce and manufacturing rights, after a year in which Formula 1-related revenue rose 40% from 2020 and 200% from when the deal was first signed in 2017. In the same year, the average age of Formula 1 race attendees dropped four years to 32 and the number of women doubled, according to Formula 1 Group CEO Stefano Domenicali. And of the 400,000 who attended a race weekend in Austin, TX last October, 70% were new to the racing series (up from a more typical 30%), he said.

To reach a younger audience,  Kindred also is partly focusing the 12,000-15,000-sq.-ft. “One New Change” venues on the 21-35-year-old age group by combining the Formula 1 race simulators with a restaurant and Formula 1 merchandise, Kindred  Founder Adam Breeden said.

“For Formula 1 this isn’t just about serving their dedicated fans,” Breeden said. “The majority of what we will be doing is taking the brand and fundamental of simulating a race and conceiving it in a way that is appealing to everybody. A lot of the work we are doing with F1 is creating a brand new racing title that is made specifically” for a simulation machine. I wouldn’t be doing unless there was an appeal to a younger audience and non-fan.”

At the same time,  Formula 1 and NASCAR are also working to streamline the licensing process, licensee executives said. In the past licensees were required to get approvals from the drivers, racing teams, racing organizations, and, in some cases, the car manufacturer. But NASCAR (in the past three years) and Formula 1 (this year) have centralized licensing, said Frank Tiessen, president of slot/RC car supplier Carrera Revel of Americas. Carrera has the license for the Formula E Audi Sport driven by Lucas Di Grassi and the Red Bull RB5 formerly driven by Sebastian Vettel, who won four consecutive Formula 1 championships between 2010-2013.

For licensing, while team and driver approvals are still needed under the new structure, the racing organizations are providing “greater support,” Tiessen said. That support is helping speed products to market, a key to attracting younger consumers accustomed to rapid change. For example, Carrera this year for the first time is current with the Formula 1 car and driver. Previously it was about a year behind because of a slower approval process, Tiessen said.

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