Latin Americans are known for being passionate, especially when it comes to sports, so much so that they have earned the name, fanáticos (fanatics). On top of that they are also very patriotic, and their love for their compatriots is felt in the sports world. Popular Latin American athletes currently competing in motorsport include Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez, winner of the 2023 Saudi Arabia Grand Prix and McLaren’s Indy Driver Pato O’Ward. The growth in popularity of F1 among fanáticos comes as no surprise, as F1 has had so much success in the American market in recent years. The large presence of Latin Americans in the USA, especially Hispanics who account for 51% of population growth in country, have made it easy for the popularity of F1 to spread southwards into the Latin world. Cracking the Latin American market is massive for F1, and for motorsports in general, but why…?
First, one must understand that F1 are not starting from scratch, there already are historic Latin American foundations in motorsport. This is best seen by looking at some of the athletes that the region has produced, including the late Ayrton Senna. The Brazilian dominated F1 in the late 80s and early 90s, winning 3 World Championships. However, fans are still left to wonder what could have been, as Senna unfortunately died in a now infamous crash at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. Nonetheless, his name lives on and in 2000 he was inducted into the F1 hall of fame. Other iconic athletes include Nelson Piquet, Emerson Fittipaldi, the Rodriguez brothers etc, however it is difficult not to focus on the Argentine, Juan-Manuel Fangio. Fangio competed in the Argentine Turismo Carretera before switching to F1 in 1950, where he won the World Championship an impressive 5 times.
Latin America’s rich history of motorsport, coupled with the growing popularity of motorsports in North America, means that building on these Latin foundations is now a necessity for F1.
What does popularity in Latin America mean for F1?
Building a Latin American fanbase is really good news for F1, but not only because of the sheer amount of people there are… the profile of these people is so significant. Latin American sports fans aren’t called fanáticos for no reason, they live and breathe sport, and the rise of motorsport fanáticos is exciting for F1. On a basic level, these fans are capable of lighting up events, and spreading their passion for the sport, but it’s also important to understand the success these fans can bring to the business side of things.
Fanáticos are the dream sports fans for those involved in sports marketing, as studies have revealed the passion of Hispanic fans- a large portion of the Latin American market. Generally speaking, they are more invested in sports, which is shown by the fact they are more likely to support brands that sponsor leagues or events they follow. This support is shown through the purchasing of products and services, highlighting the fact fanáticos are gold, and that it is vital to find ways to engage them.
The bottom line is, the increase in Latin American fans makes motorsports more attractive to potential investors, as they make for very loyal customers. On top of the previously mentioned statistic, Hispanic fans are also shown to be 33% more likely to purchase products based on commercials they view. Now is the time to invest in motorsport, and at RTR we are on hand to help you find your entry into the market. It won’t be long before initiatives are introduced to help boost the Latin American audience even further, as there is undoubtedly room for more growth. But what could the steps to capturing the Latin American market look like?
First, one must understand what appeals to the Latin American market. What makes this market so great is the fact their love for sport has no limits, and if F1 officials can get their marketing initiatives right, they could experience a boom similar to the one in the US market. Campaigns introduced by other sports offer an interesting insight into what can be done to build a solid Latin fanbase.
The glaring weakness motorsports currently have for growing their Latin American following is the lack of Latin athletes. Currently Checo Perez is flying the flag for Mexico in F1- he is the only active Latin American driver. One can only imagine the impact of more athletes from the region competing in motorsports, just look at some of their most popular athletes from other sports… the rise of F1’s Neymar or Lionel Messi would see popularity explode.
Fanáticos form deep connections with their favourite athletes, with the most popular ones treated like kings- watch the reception Messi and the Argentina football team received on their return to the country after winning the World Cup in December.
The rise of superstar drivers is a long term wish however, and it is more important to focus on things that can be done now. Back in 2009, the NBA launched a marketing campaign targeted at engaging their Hispanic fanbase, called éne-bé-a– at the time, Hispanic people made up 15% of the league’s fanbase. It has involved the broadcasting of more content in Spanish, targeted promotions in NBA arenas, and even grassroots programmes to improve access to basketball courts in Hispanic neighbourhoods. The NBA have made a genuine attempt to help these fans connect with the sport, and it has paid off. It’s not the first time the League has been targeting at the latin fans: other marketing activities such as “la Noche Latina” (where teams would wear special spanish-speaking jerseys) have also been popular in the past.
F1 are in a similar situation to the NBA in 2009, but their ceiling could be even higher as F1-fever has the potential to spread across the whole of Latin America.
The NBA’s work to engage a new market is somewhat to similar to what F1 plan to do with their recently formed partnership with Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. They are working to improve access to motorsport in London, with the hope of unearthing new talent and boosting the popularity of F1. It would be interesting to see if something similar pops up in the near future to help attract more of the Latin market. However, what’s clear is that F1 are working hard to increase their global reach… which market will they target next?
Picture: Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing, Wastrick, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.