What does a Post-Covid Motorsports Landscape in 2021 look like? And how can businesses adapt?

Looking back, we wanted to share our observations, and how businesses, teams, and drivers can quickly adapt to make 2021 a far more prosperous and productive year.
Samuel Pawlak
Owner of Grand Prix Studio
January 4, 2021

I don’t think we need to waste too much time discussing how 2020 panned out for the motorsports community (not exactly the greatest season), but looking back, we wanted to share a few observations, and how businesses, teams, and drivers can quickly adapt to make 2021 a far more prosperous and productive year.  

Let’s start with our outlook on the situation. Rather than view the effects covid-19 has had on our economy as a negative (which, don’t get us wrong, it certainly was), we like to view it through the lens of an economy that is neither good nor bad, but rather just evolving. We believe there is always value to be found out there, but people get too complacent with their source of value, and when that value stream shuts off, they panic, and don’t always know what to do. We saw this shift take place in the racing community first-hand when all racing came to grinding halt in late March. All value streams ceased, and what filled the void? E-Sports. And suddenly, everyone and their sponsors utilized this new digital landscape to channel their value.

Beyond creating a massive shift in where value is derived, covid also accelerated the downward trend of particular industries that were already on the way out. For example, we all knew shopping malls were slowly on the way out, but the measures put in place due to Covid put the 7th, 8th, 9th, and final nail in the coffin for shopping malls in a matter of months, versus the 5-8 or so years malls in their traditional form had left had Covid not come about. Something new will arise to fill the void malls leave, but what we want people to keep in mind is that value streams never die, they simply move.

Takeaway #1 – Content marketing is king in motorsports

So, to answer the first question posed in the blog's title, for 2021, let’s start by making what we think is a fairly safe assumption – There will definitely be lots of racing (more so than in 2020), but in-person fan, partner, and sponsor attendance may not always be guaranteed, and event cancellations are still a possibility, if not likely.

How do we combat this? Better yet, how can we take advantage of this? If we’re to take a page from 2020, the answer is actually pretty simple. We need to derive far more available value from the digital space, and rely less on value derived from in-person experiences. And what better time to make this shift than for 2021, because when event attendance does return to normal levels, you’ll have the benefit of not only being able to once again offer the value of an in-person experience, but also the value of a far stronger digital experience.  

The most obvious area effected in 2020 was hospitality/fan experience. Offering hospitality, tickets, and hosting in-person events will be a more difficult sell in the short term. To compensate for this temporary loss of value, now is a great time to learn how to produce meaningful content for your sponsors and partners as an additional offering to businesses that might not be in a position to do in-person events or activities. Content marketing is booming, and Covid has only accelerated its predominance. For those unfamiliar with the term, content marketing is simply creating unique/tailored digital content (photos, videos, interviews, podcasts, etc.) for your sponsors and partners, and distributing that content across social media, blogs, TV, and beyond to strengthen their brand image while promoting their product or service. You can also perform content marketing for your own team or business, by simply providing value or insights via a blog like the one you’re reading!

Takeaway #2 – If you thought your business’s personality online didn’t matter before, it now matters more than ever.

The first experience a potential sponsor, team, or driver had with your business wasn’t always a digital one. In racing, many first interactions with a team or driver was an in-person experience. Now though, social media, your website, and your digital presence as a whole is far more likely to be someone’s first experience with you, and you won’t even know it’s happening.

It only takes one real world example to demonstrate this point. All of the people and businesses we immediately recall from early 2020 (during the lockdowns) are the ones that kept us all engaged by telling stories, interacting with us, and ultimately building what we felt was a personal relationship with us. A prominent example was F1 driver Lando Norris and his Twitch stream where he interacted with fans and brought us all along for his sim-racing journey.  

This form of marketing was already in practice long before Covid, but through the removal of most all other existing value channels, the simple act of keeping us entertained through digital channels stood out. And those who adapted quickly and began utilizing those channels grew at an immense rate of speed.

Takeaway #3 – A digital tip: Your brand and your personality are one in the same.

We’re not saying you need to develop a fully fledged brand or brand identity, but what you do need to do, keeping to the digital plane, is develop a consistent, predictable pattern of behavior. On the digital front, people will only know you for what you put out into the world. The moment you go “off-brand” and start putting out unrelated material or content, you break an unwritten contract you had with your followers. And when potential partners and sponsors are now viewing your entire digital presence as potentially the only value channel in a post-covid landscape for their products and services, the last thing they want is to work with a business or an individual who’s image lacks consistency, or is unpredictable at best.

There are a few additional notes from 2020 we’ll share in future blogs, but these three takeaways are by far the most important in the short term.  In summary then, your digital presence must co-exist as an extension of yourself, and the more value, entertainment, or engagement you can provide digitally, the better off you’ll be in the long run.