Posted on January 27, 2017 by staff

F1’s Ecclestone was left behind in tech race


Earlier this week 86-year-old Bernie Ecclestone was removed as the boss of Formula 1 – ending his remarkable 40-year reign at the top of the sport.

US Group Liberty Media, which completed a $8bn (£6.4bn) takeover, decided it was time for a “fresh start” but Ecclestone’s undoing was the way be embraced technology – or rather he didn’t.

The 5ft 3in tall billionaire is a giant in the sport and rightfully has a reputation as a deal-maker and master tactician, turning F1 into one of the world’s biggest sports. However his demise is a salutary lesson of what happens if you ignore tech.

I should say at the outset I’ve never got the F1 bug so I can’t pretend to understand the nuances of the sport that only a real fan can – but I do know F1 has paid lip service to the benefits that technology and new media present.

All the reports I’ve read described Ecclestone as a “reluctant embracer of the internet age” and say he rejected approaches to extend F1’s reach because he saw no way of making money out of it. That’s so shortsighted.

F1 came to Twitter relatively late and has lacked a marketing department and digital strategy befitting of a billion dollar industry.

TV audiences have declined and the growth of the sport has stalled.

Last week BusinessCloud reported how a North West-based company called Laduma VR was using virtual reality to bring sport to life but F1 has sadly caught a cold when it comes to using tech to enhance the race experience.

Liberty Media is a US group so it was inevitable that they would use social media and modern technology to grow F1 because that’s what they do in other sports.

Chairman Chase Carey told BBC Sport that F1 “needs to be run differently than for the last four or five years”. He spoke about the need to create “21 Super Bowls” and provide the opportunities for fans to connect with the drivers and the personalities who make the sport.

The irony is that at a time when the technology on the track has been so good to enhance driver safety the technology off it has never got off the grid.

Ecclestone has paid the price and the message to other business leaders is simple: if you don’t get with the tech times you’ll be left behind.