Media Analysis: Motorsport mags offer F1 access

The Formula 1 parade through Regent Street earlier this month was proof that interest in the sport remains high - good for titles dedicated to racing and evidence for PROs of the market's worth, says Mark Johnson.

Although motor racing currently has one of the most successful drivers in the history of the sport leading the Formula 1 pack, the fact that Michael Schumacher wins almost every race has taken the thrill out of the sport for many.

But despite Schumacher's dominance in the ten races so far this season bar one (the Monaco Grand Prix), Formula 1 fans have plenty to cheer about.

If the 500,000 people who turned up on 6 July to watch a Formula 1 demo on London's Regent Street are an indication of how successful a London grand prix would be, then there is much encouragement.

The inevitable impact on specialist motorsport magazines will also be significant, making them even more important outlets for PROs.

Hunger for information

The Drum Consultancy MD Karen Hughes has promoted DVD Murray Walker's F1 Greats and has worked for World Rally team Ford. She points out that demand for Formula 1 news and merchandise are bound to increase around a London grand prix.

'Motorsport magazines are very influential because the fans are always information-hungry and want to be able to reward their interest with products that help them indulge it,' she says. One lesson she learned while working with Autosport, like most of the titles in this sector, owned by PRWeek publisher Haymarket, was the importance of having access to rally driver Colin McRae when promoting his DVD Pedal to the Metal, she says.

But MTA Media director Mark Thursfield says the role specialist magazines have to play in a media strategy can vary. Currently working for British Speedway, and having counselled other motorsport clients in the past, Thursfield says: 'Our core target market is certainly not Speedway Star or other motorsport magazines; we are definitely looking to generate more national, mainstream coverage for the sport.'

Nonetheless, if a London grand prix does get the green flag, many media outlets will be keen for fresh angles.

F1 Racing

Circulation: 63,201

Matt Bishop: Editor-in-chief

Who are your readers?

First and foremost, Formula 1 fans, people who want something a bit more analytical and in-depth not provided by the weeklies.

We also know that every team boss reads F1 Racing from cover to cover.

What are the hot topics?

The British Grand Prix is a perennial hot potato, made even more so by the recent Regent Street parade. If a London street grand prix goes ahead, it would immediately be the most prestigious and glitzy event of any kind in the world.

How could PROs get issues aired?

All Formula 1 PR is access-based. We don't see any value in going to press conferences where the daily and weekly press are attending. F1 Racing has to have exclusivity because we're a premium product.

What are the common mistakes?

What we don't want is some FMCG product being endorsed by a low-marque driver. We require access to A-list stars.

Autosport

Circulation: 45,175

John McIlroy: Editor

Who is the target audience?

It is broad, but we aim at the committed motorsport fan with a need for in-depth news, etc.

What are the growth subject areas?

In the past three years, Formula 1's promotion and switch to ITV has brought it to new viewers who have a need we must address. Whether we like it or not, TV drives what we do. But while Formula 1 is still at our core, we have committed to the World Rally Championships.

What makes a great story?

It has to be in one of our key areas of interest and exclusive. One of the things we've learned this year is that, with the daily news covering our patch, we must be more in-depth than those sources.

How do you differ from rivals?

F1 Racing obviously lacks the immediacy we have as a weekly, but it does more analysis. Motorsport News is our direct competitor but is more grassroots, covering sports like karting.

Motorsport News

Circulation: 31,871

Tim Bowdler: Editor

Who reads the magazine?

Armchair drivers who are interested in Formula 1. They probably race some form of car, usually a rally car. They are also very loyal because we are like a local newspaper feeding a fairly small community, so we're more grassroots than other publications.

What advice can you give PROs?

Everyone in the PR industry is aware of sponsorship and I get loads of press releases about someone backing something. Nearly all of them lack a human-interest angle and have no story. PROs are often afraid of personality angles because they are afraid it might compromise a sponsorship, but they must remember that the drivers are human beings.

How has coverage changed?

We have to provide privileged information to our readers since the advent of the net. We no longer just say what has happened but go into the ramifications of the news.

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