Susanna Coletta, a student at the University of Lugano in Switzerland, has authored an in-depth study examining cross-generational consumption behavior – focusing on the engagement of the so-called Generation Z or iGeneration, born between 1997 and 2021.
It is estimated that this group will generate 27% of all global revenue by 2031 and their interest and spending habits will be critical to the success of the sport. It is almost exclusively influenced by social media and is less inclined to attend events unless there is an incentive to do so.
“I have a great passion for cars and motorsport in general and I grew up in this sport because both my parents work in the industry,” explains Coletta of her work. “In the meantime I have studied corporate communications with a focus on customers.
“I focused on Gen Z because I saw the potential problem for motorsport because there wouldn’t be as many fans in the future. I interviewed people from different generations to make comparisons to see the changes, both older and younger people to decide if the problem is real or if it’s just my impression based on their experiences and the new technologies that changed our lives.”
The responses she received highlighted the problem motorsport organizers and marketers will face as audiences become more important post millennium.
“It’s clear that young people are no longer as interested in cars as the generations before them were,” said Coletta. “An example is my sister who is just 18 years old. She’s not interested in a car. When I was 18, about four years ago, the first thing I wanted was a car! It’s like she lives very differently from me. I think there’s a big generational shift – it seems my sister’s generation is all like that. None of her friends are interested in cars or driver’s licenses.
“My sister is always on the phone, like eight, nine, ten hours a day. During Covid she’s been watching virtual races – which I’m not really interested in, someone else playing a game – but she’s given esports a high priority. I think that’s important to get their attention, but I don’t think it’s the future of motorsport, although clearly it can be integrated.
“When you’re at a circuit, the experience you get when you’re watching a real race is completely different. It’s not like watching someone else play.”
Photos are taken with cellphones as Lewis Hamilton inspects his car
Photo by: Jose Rubio / Motorsport Images
Coletta believes prohibitively expensive ticket prices are a serious barrier to new fans gaining access to real-world exposure to the sport itself, rather than just experiencing it through TV or streaming.
“One of the key points that came out was that ticket prices for major events like Formula 1 are out of Gen Z’s reach,” she says. “A high percentage of them don’t spend as much money to see a race when they could spend their money on new technology or clothing.
“They thought it was very expensive compared to a sport like football. And that also meant that they weren’t interested in other forms of motorsport because they saw Formula 1 as the highest form of sport.”
Coletta also reported that motorsport event promotion needs to further embrace social media platforms to reach new audiences.
“This generation is always on social media, looking at Instagram or TikTok or whatever,” she said. “I see Formula 1 promoting itself but other categories not so much and because this generation lives on social media – if they don’t see it then they don’t think it matters.
“Think of it like looking for a restaurant. The first thing you do now is look for a good place with nice photos on Instagram. If you don’t make it look good, find somewhere that will make it look good. The same applies to other categories outside of Formula 1 in motorsport. if you don’t find it, you will live without it.
“It will be crucial for the categories to better present their races to this generation.”