Evaluating the marketing potential of MotoGP and Formula 1

Reading time: 4 minutes

An examination of viewership and rider profiles in MotoGP as well as the series itself and the potential parallels with Formula 1.

In a strategic manoeuvre, Liberty Media, the media conglomerate renowned for its ownership of Formula 1, has recently acquired MotoGP (via international sports management company Dorna Sports), sparking a wave of speculation and anticipation within the motorsport community. 

The €4.2 million move marks a significant shift in the landscape of motorcycle racing, as Liberty Media brings its expertise and resources to enhance the MotoGP experience. We delve into the motivations behind Liberty Media's decision, examine potential impacts on viewership and driver profiles, and explore the potential parallels with Formula 1.

The reason behind the acquisition

Liberty Media's acquisition of MotoGP underlines its commitment to diversifying its portfolio within the motorsport industry. With a successful track record in managing Formula 1 since 2016, Liberty Media recognizes the untapped potential of motorcycle racing as a lucrative market. MotoGP, known for its thrilling races and hardcore fanbase, presents a valuable opportunity for Liberty Media to expand its global reach and revenue streams.

By acquiring MotoGP, Liberty Media aims to leverage its marketing prowess and media platforms and look to convert new demographics, further solidifying its position as a dominant force in motorsport entertainment.

Formula 1 had an overwhelmingly male audience and was really only followed by ‘petrolheads’ before Liberty Media took the reins. In 2022, 40% of global F1 fans were women, up 8% from 2017. 

Liberty Media was able to change this at Formula 1, opening the sport up to new audiences, to those interested in large-scale events and wider entertainment. There is no reason why they cannot achieve similar goals with MotoGP.

Viewership Impact

One of the key questions surrounding Liberty Media's acquisition is its potential impact on MotoGP viewership. Drawing insights from the Formula 1 model, which experienced a resurgence in viewership and engagement under Liberty Media's stewardship, there is optimism that MotoGP could undergo a similar revitalisation.

Liberty Media's expertise in broadcasting rights negotiations and digital media strategies could unlock new opportunities to enhance the accessibility and visibility of MotoGP races. By leveraging platforms such as streaming services and social media, MotoGP can broaden its audience reach and appeal to a wider demographic, thereby driving growth in viewership numbers.

Additionally, Liberty Media's track record in producing compelling content, such as the acclaimed documentary series "Drive to Survive" for Formula 1, suggests the potential for similar initiatives in MotoGP. A documentary series offering behind-the-scenes insights into the world of motorcycle racing could captivate audiences and attract new fans, further fueling interest in the sport.

Drive to Survive

The success of Drive to Survive has reshaped the landscape of Formula 1, providing viewers with unprecedented access to the drama and intrigue behind the scenes. With Liberty Media now at the helm of MotoGP, speculation abounds regarding the possibility of a similar documentary series focused on motorcycle racing.

A MotoGP equivalent of Drive to Survive could offer fans a glimpse into the intense rivalries, personal sacrifices, and adrenaline-fueled moments that define the sport. By humanising the riders and teams, such a series has the potential to deepen audience engagement and foster emotional connections with the sport.

Between 2016 and 2022, F1’s social media engagement grew by a massive 80%, thanks to Liberty’s desire to capture new audiences and firmly aided by the revolutionary success of Drive to Survive. The fact that Golf’s PGA Tour, the ATP & WTA Tours in Tennis, Cycling’s Tour de France, NASCAR and Six Nations Rugby have all launched their own Netflix docuseries highlights the impact Drive to Survive has had. 

With Formula 1 stalling due Red Bull’s dominance, perhaps a more competitive motorsport could turn heads for the more casual viewers, thanks to a new docuseries.

Enhancing Driver Profiles

One of the notable outcomes of Liberty Media's involvement in Formula 1 has been the elevation of driver profiles beyond the racetrack. 

Identifying the most marketable riders within MotoGP is subjective, influenced by factors such as performance on the track, charisma off the track, and appeal to sponsors and fans. 

Looking at Drive to Survive, it is clear that the producers have lent on the likes of Daniel Ricciardo, Lando Norris and even former Haas team principal Guenther Steiner and used their personalities to leverage the show and convey a more light-hearted side of Formula 1. 

Riders such as Marc Marquez and Fabio Quartararo have established themselves as household names within the MotoGP community and have lucrative sponsorship deals. That said, MotoGP has a bit of personality problem. A social media study last year revealed that the most popular rider on various social platforms – Marc Marquez – had five times more followers than the next one, which was 2021 world champion Fabio Quartararo. Double reigning world champion Francesco Bagnaia only has 1.5m followers on Instagram, while Formula 1’s, Oscar Piastri, who is in his second year at McLaren and is yet to win a GP, has 1.8m as a comparison. 

Under Liberty Media's stewardship, opportunities may arise for emerging talents to carve out their own niche and attract mainstream attention.

Marquez’s move from factory team Repsol Honda to private team Gresini Racing has brought excitement, especially with the Spaniard riding last year’s Ducati bike. This is the biggest story in MotoGP, similar to Lewis Hamilton’s move to Ferrari for the 2025 F1 season.

US Market & appeal

The prospect of MotoGP expanding into the US market, akin to Formula 1's efforts in recent years, presents both challenges and opportunities. While motorcycle racing has a dedicated fanbase in the US, it remains a niche sport compared to mainstream counterparts such as NASCAR. A Statista report in April 2021 showed that 43% of respondents had never heard of MotoGP and a further 42% were not a fan of the sport.

However, with Liberty Media's track record in expanding Formula 1's presence in the US through strategic partnerships and marketing initiatives, there is potential for MotoGP to follow suit. 

By leveraging iconic venues, such as Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, and tapping into the American appetite for high-octane entertainment, MotoGP could gain a foothold in the lucrative US market. Before Drive to Survive, the US only had one Grand Prix a season, now it is the only country to have three in the calendar - with F1 colliding with the flashness of Miami and Las Vegas.

MotoGP also brings more drama than other motosports. One mistake and the rider is off his bike. Despite its global appeal, F1 is not as pure. A mistake may just result in a car going wider on a turn or going into the gravel.

New regulations from 2027 will further enhance "rawness" in MotoGP. The holeshot (keeping the bike level and enabling more traction) and ride height devices will be banned as well as the aerodynamics will be reduced.

MotoGP arguably presents the perfect balance of speed and racing purity.

Full Throttle

Liberty Media's acquisition of MotoGP heralds a new chapter in the evolution of motorcycle racing, promising exciting opportunities for growth and innovation. With a proven track record in revitalising motorsport properties, Liberty Media is well-positioned to elevate MotoGP to new heights, expanding its global reach and captivating audiences around the world. 

As the synergy between Liberty Media and MotoGP unfolds, fans can anticipate a thrilling journey filled with adrenaline, drama, and unforgettable moments on and off the racetrack.

It’s also not just the fans who may benefit from this acquisition. Liberty Media’s ability to promote motorsports to wider audiences also presents opportunities to sponsors and brand partnerships in MotoGP.

More eyeballs to the sport, through attendances, watching live, highlights, social media and through a potential docuseries is likely to see new brands enter MotoGP - leading to even further promotion.

Aramco, Visa and Stake all have naming rights to F1 teams, and perhaps we could see similar partnerships in MotoGP under Liberty Media.

Beyond the Match
The SPORTFIVE Magazine

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