Formula One marketing – The Racing Teams Taking TikTok by Storm

08 February 2023
by Archie Williamson
5 mins
Formula One marketing – The Racing Teams Taking TikTok by Storm

Fast cars, picturesque destinations and thrilling races make Formula One an exciting spectacle, but the sport was not always as accessible to fans as it is today. 

F1's marketing strategy has shifted dramatically in recent years from a traditional, perhaps outdated model under former owner Bernie Eccleston to an exciting, forward-thinking digital model under Liberty Media, which purchased the international racing organisation for upwards of $4.4bn in 2016. 

The arrival of Liberty Media brought about a seismic change in the media department as video restrictions were finally lifted, allowing teams to film and upload clips to social media channels for the first time. 

Another turning point in F1's strategy came in 2019 when it released Drive to Survive, a documentary on Netflix about the drivers, managers and team owners who make up the world's highest class of international racing. It was a huge hit, especially with the younger viewers F1 wanted to target and reach. 

Following the success of Drive to Survive, F1's social media followers jumped 30% year-on-year, making it the second fastest-growing global sport. Video views and total engagement also surged as fans flocked to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube to watch clips of their favourite drivers. A new era of social media-driven brands and personalities was born. 

However, the platform that is now defining F1's social media output is TikTok. McLaren was the first F1 team to hit a milestone of 1m followers on the short-form video app only a year ago. Fast forward to early 2023, and followers of the Surrey-based motor racing team now number 2.8m. 

All ten F1 teams have accounts on TikTok, and nine out of ten regularly post content. McLaren has also been the most successful at driving engagement with 69.1m likes, but Mercedes is now in pole position in terms of followers. The stats show F1 teams are taking TikTok seriously and are working hard to publish content that hits the right notes with an ever-growing audience. 

  • Mercedes - 4m followers, 54.3m likes
  • McLaren - 2.8m, 69.1m likes
  • Ferrari - 2.5m followers, 37.5m likes
  • Red Bull Racing - 2.3m followers, 34.6m likes
  • Aston Martin - 1.2m followers, 21.9m likes
  • AlphaTauri - 574k followers, 7.2m likes
  • Haas F1 Team - 482k followers, 4.2m likes
  • Alpine - 405k followers, 4.7m likes
  • Williams - 148.1k followers, 1.3m likes
  • Alfa Romeo - 53.4k followers 

One of McLaren's most successful clips isn't even race-day-related. It features driver Daniel Ricciardo trying but failing to make pancakes in the team kitchen. Just a short snippet of copy stating that "we're going to need a reaction to this", an @Gordon Ramsay, and hashtags including #McLaren #Food and #Fail was enough to generate 10m views and almost 800k likes. 

Mercedes was also successful recently with a meme based on the animated movie, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish. The short clip with text overlays and a tagline referring to the surprise arrival of its W14 F1 car has been viewed 8m times and received 650k likes. Teams are getting more and more creative with their social media output. 

Formula One also has its own official TikTok account with a concise and engaging tagline – "risk takers, late breakers, history makers". The account has more than 5m followers and has generated 105.3m likes. F1 posts engaging clips of thrilling racing manoeuvres, new events and compelling behind-the-scenes moments. 

So, what's driving the success of F1 on TikTok? Aston Martin has the answer – publishing content that "creates community around the fans" and other interested parties and stakeholders. F1 teams now use social media marketing to make viewers "part of the story". 

Aston Martin announced a partnership with TikTok in 2021 to achieve this objective. It now sees the platform as a vital outlet for artistic expression and brand awareness. Aston Martin's chief marketing officer Bloom says social media is excellent for "building uniquely spun narratives". There's no place for formal business announcements here, just thrilling storytelling and iconic racing action. 

Bloom noted how "creator-driven content" is still in its infancy in F1, which traditionally relied on traditional sponsorships and advertising. Aston Martin saw an opening to engage with fans directly, which is vital for building passionate fan communities. This was crucial because the brand was returning to Formula One for the first time in six decades. 

A more direct and personal touch to brand marketing is now developing in F1 in place of promoting wealth and celebrity, which can alienate modern-day viewers. Bloom says the practice of bringing A-list celebrities trackside before races for publicity is over. Fans now crave authentic, relatable SEO content they can like and share with fellow race fans. 

Key to Aston Martin's marketing strategies is crafting content that puts its road cars front and centre, but like many other teams, it has also recently pivoted to content that will entertain and amuse followers. A recent post about a new team colour "glow up" featuring Stranger Things actor Finn Wolfhard has amassed more than 4m views. 

TikTok has been vocal about its potential for connecting sports brands with viewers and race-goers in new ways. The app's sports marketing lead, Harley Johnson, believes that effective social media management is best for putting fans "at the centre of the experience". That's why F1 teams are working so hard to publish engaging short videos consistently. 

And while TikTok is gaining the most traction recently, F1 teams are also posting other forms of content on social media. For example, Mercedes has more than 10m followers on Instagram, where its professional shots of luxury cars and exotic destinations hold a captive audience. Mercedes is cross-posting too – the Puss In Boots meme made its way to Instagram, receiving 400k likes and 3K+ comments. 

TikTok is the place to be, though. As Aston Martin states, the platform is the perfect destination for the team to "further disrupt and innovate socially". That's true for brands of all sizes, but getting a marketing campaign up and running is difficult. Atlas SEO can help. We offer several services, including content creation and social media management, that will get you noticed on TikTok and increase the visibility of your web pages in search engines. Contact us today to find out more.

Content marketing

Have a question?