Formula E learns how to go viral with #LeapOfFaith

There were two major social media highlights of the past few months for me, one of which showed how to go viral, whilst the other really showed the personality of two popular drivers away from the racing circuit.

#LeapOfFaith takes off…
To reach a new, diverse audience, you have to take creative risks. You have to be prepared to try out new things. If the audience is not receptive to said ‘new things’, you simply move in a different direction and add it to your ‘lessons learnt’ list. It gives you an idea of what works and what doesn’t. Formula E’s latest stunt was designed to go viral, and it did exactly that.

The stunt, filmed around the time of the Mexican ePrix in early March, saw Damien Walters backflip over a Formula E car travelling at speed. As of writing, the main video on Formula E’s YouTube channel has had over 5 million hits. When you combine that with Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms, the combined reach of the video will be in excess of 10 million hits, an excellent achievement for Formula E’s digital media team. It shows that thinking outside of the box does work, and can bring attention to their channels, which I feel is a lesson that all in the world of motor sport can learn, including Formula 1.

However, here is the crux for why I don’t think you will see F1’s digital media team do videos like that, and it is not because they are not creative or anything of that sort. How many people will have watched the #LeapOfFaith and thought “I must check out some of Formula E’s other videos” or “I might watch Formula E next weekend”? I’d hazard a guess and say that it was less than 1 percent. Instead, for the vast majority of those that stumbled across the video, they probably thought it was “cool” and moved on.

I’m not trying to undermine the idea behind the video by saying that, because I thought it was awesome, but I do not see it significantly affecting Formula E’s growth. Mind you, every little helps and every opportunity to grab a new viewer is a good opportunity and I applaud Formula E for producing #LeapOfFath.

…Formula 1 drivers show off personality with fun and Q&A sessions…
There have been a few examples recently where personality has been on show in the world of Formula 1. Aside from Fernando Alonso’s live on-screen jibe at Johnny Herbert during Sky Sports F1’s Bahrain Grand Prix practice coverage, the Chinese Grand Prix saw a heated back and forth debate between Sebastian Vettel and Daniil Kvyat over the driving standard of the latter at the start of the race. The debates have been intertwined with fun and Q&A sessions along the way.

Probably the best show of personality this season away from the race track comes from Felipe Massa and Daniel Ricciardo. Back at Massa’s home in Monte Carlo, his son and Ricciardo engaged in a go-karting race. In what was a close run contest from start to finish, with plenty of nail-biting moments, it was the youngster who won by the smallest of margins. The fun and games between Massa and Ricciardo was live streamed on Facebook. Like #LeapOfFaith above, this too went viral amassing nearly 5 million views. Of course, one was designed to go viral whereas the other was some fun between two mates. But we need videos like that, they are memorable and for good reason too.


On the more scripted side, Sky Sports F1 have been engaging in some fan question and answer sessions, so far with Lewis Hamilton and Rio Haryanto (the former also doing a Twitter Q&A in recent weeks). Including all play backs, these two have had 270,000 and 60,000 views respectively. This is a wider Sky Sports strategy to conduct question and answer sessions on social media as opposed, which is how these two have come about. You only need to look at the swathe of videos that Sky Sports upload to Facebook to realise that. I would be surprised if Formula One Management (FOM) have got involved in either of these Q&A sessions. Scripted or not, from a fan perspective, it has been great to see personalities on-show so far during 2016, something I hope continues throughout the year.

…but what hasn’t gone viral?
There have been many fantastic and dramatic moments so far in the 2016 Formula One season. Alongside the aforementioned Vettel vs Kvyat squabble in China, we had Fernando Alonso’s horrifying crash in Australia and the major turn one accident in Russia. There’s been a lot of pin-points so far this year that could have gone ‘viral’. You can produce the greatest videos in the world, but there is no substitute for current action as that inevitably drives traffic. Formula 1 has probably lost out in excess of 15 to 20 million views across Facebook, Twitter and YouTube so far in 2016, I daresay more than that.

Take a look at MotoGP’s social media video portfolio on Facebook and YouTube. We’re talking short-form bite-size content: around 20 seconds long on Facebook and one to two minutes on YouTube. The reason for the lack of 2016 Formula 1 video content on FOM’s social media channels is the current television broadcasting contracts as we all know, but it just illustrates the potential reach that Formula 1 is losing hand over fist on a now bi-weekly basis.

Elsewhere, the lack of an on-screen hashtag still confuses and bemuses me, both in equal measure. I’m surprised Formula E still hasn’t successfully embedded it into their graphics set. So simple, but proving to be a challenge at the same time. Formula E have also launched a new website, which is designed for best use on phone or tablet device. It feels slim line, and is extremely different to say the Formula 1 and MotoGP websites. As a desktop user, I personally prefer the F1 and MotoGP sites, both of which look more professional than the Formula E site. Round the edges, the Formula E website does not look as smooth either, but this should improve over time as bugs are ironed out.


4 thoughts on “Formula E learns how to go viral with #LeapOfFaith

  1. Agree completely about Leap of Faith: It was well produced, and it showcased something really attention grabbing and daredevil in a nice and straightforward way, but at the end of the day the attention it garnered from mainstream media was short term, and more people would be focused on Damien Walters than the car he was jumping over. But still, props to Walters for doing the stunt not once, but multiple times to allow the crew more camera angles, and at least it’s hopefully broken the public consciousness a little bit, and it was a good news story in a time when we’ve got Moscow dropping off the calendar, bad organisation and fan experience in Paris and a judicial review and court case between locals and Wandsworth council deciding the fate of the London ePrix on May 24th at the end of the month. So I think the good job that Formula E does in terms of entertainment is praiseworthy and helps distract a little bit from the controversy which paints some of them in not so great a light.

    1. 0-60 MPH in under 3 seconds, and a top speed of 140 MPH… That’s not bad for a spec prototype EV. (Only in it’s second season too)

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