Making an impression: 20 million reasons for F1 to reinvest in esports

Last month’s inaugural Formula 1 Esports Series final was an enthralling event, but it proved just as engaging as it was entertaining, with over 20.5 million impressions recorded.

The statistic, released yesterday, is a formidable figure, especially for an esport that is still in its infancy. For the F1’s project to have had such an impact will surely have already justified its existence – few other marketing methods are as engrossing as a competitive, virtual version of your tournament to introduce spectators to your sport.

It will have certainly helped that the final itself, played on the FIA’s official videogame of their World Championship – Codemaster’s F1 2017 – was a thrilling, to-and-fro affair, with Brendon Leigh’s skillful last-gasp overtake providing a fitting conclusion to a riveting race. Indeed, the spectacle was successful enough that it seemed to open the door for racing games to become an esports mainstay.

Formula 1’s Esports Series final also accrued six million video views, with 1.8m on Facebook alone who watched the Brit edge out Chile’s Fabrizio Donoso Delgado and Germany’s Sven Zurner to the crown.

A further 1.6 million video views on Instagram vindicated the use of the F1’s main social media pages to distribute esports content, proving that existing Formula 1 fans are interested enough to check out a gaming tournament, run on a simulated track, and with virtual vehicles.

Likewise, the broadcast found popularity on traditional television networks, where almost half a million combined viewers tuned in to the semi-finals and finals in the United Kingdom alone, reaching numbers previously unseen for televised esports events in the nation. The UK was first out of the 123 countries receiving the broadcast for audience figures.

Impressions of the Formula 1 Esports Series Finals, by platform

However, as successful as the show was for supplying existing racing fans with further content, the final failed to make any real inroads on Twitch. An underwhelming total of 54,000 views (with a concurrent audience which peaked over 8,000) suggests that Formula 1 has not yet managed to crack the core of the gaming audience. That could be an issue, if enticing the affluent and diverse Twitch demographic is the focus of the esports production.

There’s no need to start ringing the alarm bells just yet though – the figures from the impressions made over Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram demonstrates that the event will have certainly turned heads, and there will doubtless be individuals who became aware of the race after its conclusion. The 556,000 views currently on the YouTube video of the final race is testament to that, and with the video’s reception being overwhelmingly positive, it wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest that a fair few will return as live viewers for next year’s competition.

Formula 1’s Director of Digital and New Business, Frank Arthofer, was confident that the phenomenal outreach of the final warranted further tournaments. “The audience numbers we reached with this first edition have been incredible, confirming we made the right choice when we decided to begin this new adventure for Formula 1,” he said. “The engagement with a broad and committed younger generation of F1 and esports fans is something that we are proud to support and nurture, and we look forward to establishing a season-long series in 2018.”

It is evident that the Formula 1 team is not content to rest on their laurels here. Alongside a new format in the works for 2018’s Esports Series, Julian Tan, Manager of Digital Initiatives & Growth, has his eyes on appeasing the community’s growing thirst for esports content:

“The audience has been great not only in terms of quantity, but also in terms of quality, with 94% of the fans who thought the Finals were exciting and 95% who would like to see F1 run more events like this one,” he said. Tan also pointed out that it is still early on after the event’s conclusion, and “all the above-mentioned figures will continue to grow.”

Esports Insider says: With ‘growth’ the name of the game for Formula 1 Esports, 2018 could prove a pivotal year in the project’s progress that really sees them galvanise racing esports to greater heights. After such an impressive inaugural foray into the esports scene, who would bet against them?

Formula 1 is just another example of how traditional competition can benefit from an esports venture. To learn more about the convergence of sports and esports, and to network with some of the biggest names in both, check out the ESI Super Forum at Stamford Bridge in March 2018.