How is Formula E creating digital experiences to provide top level entertainment for fans? - Speaker Interview

A few weeks ago we caught up with Ali Russell, Director of Media and Business Development at Formula E, in advance of his speaker role at the 200 speaker Sports Performance Data & Fan Engagement Summit in San Francisco (brochure) to talk a little more about the dramatic growth of electric car racing and how they are approaching digital fan engagement.

It is clear that motor travel has an electric-powered future. With more and more car manufacturers announcing their strategy to move into this battery-powered sector, how has the interest in Formula E (manufacturers, sponsors, fans) grown?

Formula E has had an incredible growth. We have set up the pinnacle for Electric racing and repositioned motorsport bringing the race to the people. Its been incredibly successful at connecting with the next generation of racing fans and this has led to multiple manufacturers joining the championship (Jaguar, Audi, Porsche, Mercedes, BMW, Renault, Mahindra, Citroen, Venturi, NIO and Faraday Future). Our race locations continue to grow as we support major international cities to communicate E Mobility and sustainability messages and have secured New York City, Hong Kong, San Paolo, Mexico City, Rome, Paris, Berlin, Santiago, and Marrakech for our global calendar.

How is Formula E creating digital - and event - experiences which reflect its values and provide an high level of entertainment for all fans?

Our DNA is to bring sport to the fans and everything we do has to improve the viewing experience so whether thats Digital or traditional linear broadcast we emphasise as much as possible the authentic experience. Motorsport has always struggled with its athletes being hidden behind the helmet and we try and ensure whether its short form or long form content the focus is consistent on telling the real story and trying to get under the skin of our key personalitities (Teams and Drivers). Lastely its important to get the new generation to participate in more ways with Formula E and we have launched the first in race voting scheme which allows fans to vote through social media for their favourite driver. That driver gets a fanboost which allows the driver to have more energy which he can use to attack or defend on the track. The great aspect is drivers are very competitive and so really do everything possible on social media to connect with fans and build their popularity.

I have read that Formula E is establishing partnerships (eg. with Gigya) with technology firms to build identity-driven relationships with fans. How is this allowing your brand to bring tailored content to your community and grow your fan base? (eg. exciting racing to motorsports fans, or messages around sustainability and the future of electric vehicles to technology enthusiasts).

Data is essential for any modern sports organisation. It allows you to understand your fans and allow you to build current and future products which they will like. It also allows you to segment effectively so targeting can be more effective with goods and services that fans want. All our partners are sophisticated in the type of customer their targeting and the messaging they are trying to get across. Products like Gigya allow us to have a single customer view and build up an understanding down to customer.

Virtual and augmented reality. How is this going to change fan interaction?

We believe VR and AR are fantastic enhancements to content as they allow sports to create more immersive experiences and allow the editing to be in the fan’s hand. We have been using for a number of years and they are only getting better with their functionality and costs are reducing for the headsets making the accessibility far easier.

Do you see a future whereby driver biometric data (gathered by wearable devices etc) is being used to develop interactive content for sports fans?

100% and we are actively working on a solution for season 4 which will allow our fans access to traditional data on cars but also data on our drivers and key support staff. This can only help to help people understand the emotions of our key personalities.

Our San Francisco Sports PDFE summit will be inviting over 100 different sports to share their experiences and work in fan engagement. Has there been any approaches in the sporting world which have particularly impressed you over the last 12 months and why?

Grabyo near live clipping for us has been essential as it has allowed us to share key moments in a very time sensitive manner.

Finally, what are you hoping to share and who do you hope to network with at our Sports Performance Data and Fan Engagement Summit in San Francisco next January?

We are hoping to share our journey, how we have approached a narrative globally and the types of tools we have used to harness this growth of interest across traditional and non traditional areas.

- Realtime Fan in race voting
- Improving our digital offering – Short form content development
- Importance of data
- Esports – How it supports our broader business aims and objectives
- Growth of a Sport Social globally