Discover more from Beyond The Game
Key Takeaways from the Netflix series, 'Formula 1: Drive To Survive'
How Do We Capitalize the Success of Sports Documentaries in Attracting New Fan-bases?
Today, steaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime are flooding with sports documentaries. Why? Because more and more fans are interested in the real moments within the field, rather than the 90 minutes of live action. Today we’re looking at how some of the most successful sports documentary series have managed to pave a new path to fan attraction.
‘Formula 1: Drive To Survive’ is a documentary series showcased on Netflix, covering the behind the scenes and ‘human’ moments within the Formula 1 World Championship. Currently preparing for its 6th season, the series itself has brought major attention across global fans and has played a critical role in attracting new fans to the sport itself. So why is it so successful?
By offering a mix of high-octane racing footage and deeply personal human stories, ‘Formula 1: Drive To Survive’ has made Formula 1 more accessible and engaging to a broader audience. Before the series, many viewed Formula 1 as an elite sport, largely inaccessible to the average viewer due to its complex technical aspects and lavish lifestyle. However, ‘Formula 1: Drive to Survive’ has changed that narrative, transforming the sport into a compelling, emotional human drama that appeals to both avid fans and newcomers alike.
The way Drive to Survive intertwines the professional and personal lives of its stars is a key ingredient to its success. It doesn’t just focus on the races, but on the personalities behind them, the sacrifices made, and the highs and lows of their careers. Every episode is imbued with an authentic rawness that makes it impossible to look away.
Moreover, the show has been a boon to the sport’s digital growth. Formula 1 has reported significant increases in its social media following and engagement rates since the debut of ‘Formula 1: Drive to Survive’. Fans are not just passively watching races but are engaging with content, sharing their thoughts, and connecting with fellow fans from around the world. This heightened level of engagement is a goldmine for advertisers and sponsors, offering them a direct line to a young, diverse, and highly engaged audience.
Formula 1 has always been a global sport, but ‘Formula 1: Drive to Survive’ has supercharged its growth in regions where it was previously less popular, especially in the United States. The transparency and depth of storytelling presented in the show have made the sport more relatable and easier to follow for Americans, driving increased viewership and attendance at the United States Grand Prix.
Average Viewership of Formula 1 vs. NASCAR
NASCAR (2018): 3.34 Million Viewers
Formula 1 (2018): 554K Viewers
NASCAR (2022): 3.37 Million Viewers (+0.8% Increase)
Formula 1 (2022): 1.2 Million Viewers (+116.6% Increase)
The Success Story
Shortly after its success, streaming services have been flooding with sports documentaries. The playbook set out by ‘Formula 1: Drive to Survive’ has opened a treasure trove for other sports, proving that fans crave intimate, behind-the-scenes access to the athletes and teams they adore. The sports documentary genre has exploded, bringing viewers closer to the action and personalities of sports like basketball, football, cricket, and more.
One notable success story is ‘The Last Dance’, a series that chronicles the career of Michael Jordan, with particular focus on his final season with the Chicago Bulls. Like ‘Formula 1: Drive to Survive’, ‘The Last Dance’ captivates audiences by unveiling the human stories behind the icons. We see not just the heroics on the court, but the struggles, conflicts, and triumphs off it. By painting a complete picture of the athletes, their teammates, and the whole ecosystem around them, these documentaries foster a deeper connection between fans and the sports they love.
But why are these sports documentaries so successful? One key reason is the way they humanize the superstars. For years, fans have placed athletes on pedestals, viewing them almost as demigods excelling in their chosen sport. These documentaries pull back the curtains, revealing that behind the extraordinary talents and achievements are individuals with their own vulnerabilities, challenges, and emotions.
The narrative storytelling is also a crucial element to the success of these series. These aren’t just highlight reels of great moments in sports; they are well-crafted stories that chronicle the journeys of teams and athletes. Every episode is laden with conflict, triumph, failure, and redemption. It mirrors the elements of a compelling drama, and like any good story, it keeps viewers on the edge of their seats, craving for more.
Top 10 Sports Documentaries According to IMDb:
Top Class: The Life and Times of The Sierra Canyon Trailblazers (IMDb TV)
Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns (Amazon Prime)
The Last Dance (Netflix / Amazon Prime)
Undertaker: The Last Ride (Peacock)
The Test: A New Era For Australia’s Team (Amazon Prime)
Dark Side of the Ring (Hulu / Amazon Prime)
30 For 30 (Amazon Prime)
Formula 1: Drive to Survive (Netflix)
All Or Nothing: A Season With the Arizona Cardinals (Amazon Prime)
The Other Sport
Now that we understand that sports documentaries are booming with demand, is it too late to jump in now? The answer is yes and no. It’s definitely true that streaming services are now ‘over saturated’ with these contents. And as the series progresses on to newer seasons, producers will have to face the challenges of providing a new stimuli using the same setting and characters. Something that is rather more difficult in real-life setting.
However, for fans that wait days and weeks for their favorite teams to play again, these off-the-field sports content is another means of keeping them entertained. This means that the content itself doesn’t necessarily have to a well made documentary series or a fully produced movie. Simple inside takes and YouTube clips are just as good enough to keep fans entertained and interested.
In fact, this is why a lot of professional sports clubs are and should be spending a lot of attention towards their social media and public relations. Simply showing the behind the scenes and human moments of athletes can be a great way of interacting with fans, but it can also be a great stimuli to attract new fans to the sport. A cost effective way of team branding.
So while you might think that some of these sports intakes are a little too cliche, it can be a great way for you to stay entertained as you wait for the next game of the season to come around.
*Here’s one of my favorite coverage on the inside of the NBA during the Bubble season. Enjoy!
Thanks for reading this week’s article of Beyond The Game. If you enjoyed this breakdown, feel free to share with your friends.