Motorsport and Society

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Mass media is the term for the broad range of ways information can be accessed and distributed. Classically media is considered to be newspapers, magazines, television and radio. With the ever presence of the internet, the term mass media now encompasses the new media which can be defined as: “Products and services that provide information or entertainment using computers or the Internet, and not by traditional methods such as television and newspapers. ” (Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary, 2002)

The mass media provide their audience with knowledge, access or insight into an area with which they may otherwise not experience. For example a music magazine such as Mixmag gives its readers exposure to the goings on in the scene; a new exciting venue in London, or the latest and greatest new act. To many people this is the only source of information outside of their immediate experience bubble. If Vogue says pink is the new black, well it must be. This is the influence the mass media have over the public.

The mass media keep us up to date with our interests and many take these opinions as gospel, this gives them unbelievable power and control as it plays a huge role in creating pop culture. Pop culture is exactly that popular culture. It can be defined as; “pop culture; music, TV, cinema, literature, etc. that is popular and enjoyed by ordinary people, rather than specialists or highly educated people” (Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary, 2002) In reality, pop culture goes far and beyond this and covers trends in just about everything in the main stream.

Pop culture and the mass media have a very intimate relationship and are heavily intertwined. The mass media have the ability to select or screen what the public have access to, thus selecting and screening what is popular. If the public have access to a certain aspect of life or a specific sport, they will have more awareness and a bigger following. Media coverage, especially TV has a huge impact on the popularity of a specific sport. This is especially true of motorsport.

F1 is a huge media event; it has prime time coverage in just about every country and has huge audience. Conversely, the World Rally Championship previously had little to no coverage. In the 80’s during the heyday of Group B, the WRC received a 15 minute slot on TopGear and occasional coverage of rounds of other championships such as the British Championship. The latest Wales Rally GB received much more coverage with between an half an hour and an hour every evening over the 3 day weekend. Most of the other rounds of the championship received similar coverage.

Rallying is arguably more popular today than it was then due mostly to the coverage it receives in the media, especially the TV coverage, but also specialist magazines such as Rally XS and articles in Motorsport News and similar publications. The link between sport and media coverage is a complicated one. It is a chicken or the egg scenario. There are thousands of different sports in many, many disciplines from track and field, to darts, to motorsport. Some lend themselves well to media coverage whilst some more popular sports do not. “Relatively obscure sports have gained huge new followings.

The popularity of show jumping, snooker, and to a degree, darts has been boosted dramatically. Conversely, sports with a high participation rates (squash, angling, badminton) have been adversely affected by their apparent unsuitability for television. ” (Fields In Vision, Garry Whannel, 1992) This is down to many factors, in terms of the media interest, coverage, both on screen and not must be of sport that is interesting and which works well on screen. There is an art to the editing that goes into covering sport on TV. Drama, emotion, enthusiasm and support can all be won or lost in the final cut.

Importantly, TV and indeed media coverage is not just about good viewing or exposure, it is down to how much money media can make from covering sport. Advertising and sponsorship are huge factors linking sport and the media. Without sponsorship and advertising many sports would cease to exist, outside of the motor sport world, football is entirely dependant on outside money. Sponsorship deals have traditionally been the big-money way of getting fans’ attention; harnessing the passion of the sports audience to a brand can be very powerful.

Huge sums of money change hands for all kinds of sponsorship, from the local pub or builders merchants putting their names on the shirts of the village Sunday league teams to huge multi nationals guaranteeing market share through sponsorship as shown by this extract from the BBC news website; “The world’s richest football club, Manchester United, has signed a record-breaking £302. 9m sponsorship and merchandising deal with US sports gear giant Nike. It will effectively hand control of Manchester Utd’s global replica-kit and merchandising business to the sportswear giant. ” (BBC News, 3/11/03)

The sponsorship is in and around motor sport in every way imaginable, on the cars, around the track, on the teams and everywhere visible to the naked eye! According to the latest figures from Ipsos UK Sportscan, Marlboro has splashed out a staggering £500m to keep its name on Michael Schumacher’s shiny car for five years. The coverage by the media encourages interest in sponsorship as it guarantees coverage and exposure to the target audience. If you watch any round of the F1 Championships it is a given that you will see the huge amount of Branding by Vodafone on the Ferrari’s as an example.

Coverage also entices companies to advertise / sponsor the media and their coverage. All motorsport coverage on TV is sponsored; with F1 Toyota sponsor ITV’s shows which cover practice, qualifying and the race itself. They have a short advert that runs at the start and finish of all the commercial breaks as well as other branding on the show. The Toyota sponsorship also covers the new media side of things with the ITV F1 website (www. itv-f1. com) having Toyota branding. The importance of this branding is shown in this extract from an article about sport and TV advertising: Toyota insists that sponsorship of Formula 1 on ITV is the best communications vehicle for its brand, despite the on-going brouhaha over “boring” races and reports that it’s seeking to renegotiate parts of the £25m deal. Toyota marketing director Paul Philpott says the car manufacturer had to find a way of leveraging its investment in motor sport and ensure the sport’s 25 to 44-year-old viewers connected the brand with the excitement of grand prix while it learns the F1 ropes.

TV coverage is biased towards the top three teams, which are challenging for the wins. “In the first three to four years, the Toyota team will not get that much PR or TV coverage,” says Philpott. ” (Media Week Online, Alastair Ray, November 2002) The advertising slots available during such big spectacles as F1, premier league football and the likes go at a premium as they have several big selling points. Firstly the huge audience figures, the bigger the audience, the greater the number of people who will see the advert.

Secondly, the audience tuning into a certain event tend to be quite specific and can be put into relevant groups. People watching a round of the BTCC are going to be interested in cars for example, as a market sector most manufacturers of both cars and related goods would seek to advertise before, during and after as the audience are likely to be interested in what they are promoting. In terms of media and its audience, there are two main types of consumer, direct and indirect.

The two types are best illustrated using an example, Dad buys Rally XS magazine for his interests (direct consumer), his son then picks up the magazine which is lying around the house and takes an interest (indirect consumer). This is important in the context of motorsport as a growing area. The last few yrs have seen a big growth in motorsport, some areas more than others. This is largely down to the contribution the media have made to pushing motorsport further into the public eye and part of pop culture.

Much of this growth is down to the direct and indirect influence of the media over the public. It is important that the media cater for both types of consumer. In terms of direct consumers in motorsport, many want total immersion, large amounts of in depth coverage with plenty of facts and figures to be bantered with. Conversely, the indirect consumer must also be catered for in the same article or report; a newbie will be baffled by excessive facts and figures and would be better suited to a report that was slightly more romantic and or dramatic in its coverage.

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