Aspiration and F1

It seems that the typically divisive F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone reached a new milestone recently: uniting almost everyone associated with the sport in complete bewilderment. Ecclestone’s comments on F1, it’s audiences, social media and his preference for septuagenarian fans had pretty much everyone aghast. The reality of him being out of touch with modern communications and marketing methods was cause for concern. More worryingly however was the implication he has lost touch with something deeper within the fabric of the sport.

F1 it is often claimed – like every other form of motor sport – is powered by burning money. In reality it is actually powered by aspiration and this is where the problem lies with Bernie’s recent comments.

Top and bottom

Being powered by aspiration relies upon a spectrum between top and bottom; the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. It may sound vulgar and in many respects it is. Motor sport is elitist just like every other sport on the planet. The problem is ours is much more difficult to hide.

Irrespective, this continuum principle exists and to focus as Bernie suggests on the rich and the ‘haves’ is at best short-sighted (pun intended). For the fabric of the sport, it needs kids aspiring to be F1 drivers. It needs them aspiring to be the next Adrian Newey, part of the pit crew or the team boss. And from a commercial perspective, that is entirely true as well.

Running short on time

Take watch brands like Rolex, Tag Heuer and Hublot. When digital watches emerged, Swiss watch brands were in crisis with products that were effectively being made obsolete. In response they positioned their products as holding intrinsic value based on the prestige and aspiration of it as a status symbol. In effect they were saying: anyone can afford a Casio but what does it say about you compared to owing a fine Swiss timepiece?

On paper, their products could not do any of the clever things the digital watches of the 70s and 80s could, let alone the new breed of smart watches, but that’s not what people pay top dollar for. Without the youngsters, without the kids aspirating to live the life of the drivers – the watches, the travel, the cars – these brands will only ever see a diminishing return as the new blood declines and the old blood ages and dies.

Ultimately there needs to be that young kid at the circuit with a cheap ticket, rubbish view and big dreams. Dreams of getting in to the Paddock Club, dreams of wearing those ridiculously expensive team jackets, and dreams of buying the AMG Mercedes-Benz black edition C-class. In short, the current breed of Hublot-watch wearing, Paddock Club attending silver foxes were once the young and ambitious who sought to be in that elite group. It’s vulgar but true.

Paddock Club, dreams of wearing those ridiculously expensive team jackets, and dreams of buying the AMG Mercedes-Benz black edition C-class. In short, the current breed of Hublot-watch wearing, Paddock Club attending silver foxes were once the young and ambitious who sought to be in that elite group. It’s vulgar but true.

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