F1's Gregg Morris openly admits the concept of a fans forum is nothing new, but in the supposedly innovative world of Formula 1 it has been groundbreaking.

GREG MORRIS openly admits the concept of a fans forum is nothing new, but in the supposedly innovative world of Formula 1 it has been groundbreaking.

Liberty Media bought the motor racing series for more than $4billion from the private equity firm CVC in January 2017.

At that point "there was effectively no commercial division" said Morris, who moved from Fox International Channels to take the position of Senior Brand Research Manager in May 2017, a month before his boss, Director of Research Matt Roberts.

By the end of October 2017 the Research team based in London was up to five, with the aim of giving life to the department's mantra "It all starts with the fans." 

The launch of the award-winning F1 Fan Voice website in April 2018 has played a significant role in this but is just a small part of what Formula 1 now does to engage and deepen their understanding of the sport's fan base.

Morris, who will be a speaker at the Digital Transformation in Sport Summitin San Francisco in Digital Transformation in Sports Summit  January, explained: "There was a reputation that F1 was all about big business and money and wasn't really run for its fans and for Liberty that was one of the things to tackle.

"A lot of my work revolves around understanding the different types of fans that we have and what drives their interest in Formula 1 and how we can engage them more in the future.

"We do a lot more work now that is focused on getting their feedback. 

"The main thing I will talk about at the Digital Transformation in Sport Summit is our Fan Voice website, which is an online community that is partly there for fans to discuss the sport with each other but gives us a great source of real avid F1 fans.

"It is true that it is not a completely new idea and not just in sport, in other industries as well.

"But for Formula 1 it is a new thing. In the past changes were made just on a gut feel of what was right and sometimes there would be unintended consequences that were not expected and so they didn't have the desired effect.

"The idea with something like Fan Voice is if we are looking at how we adapt the sport going forward, if we have ideas, we can use Fan Voice to consult fans but we will then scrutinise all the potential ramifications of a certain change or policy will be."

Just as speed is crucial on the race track, it is also a huge advantage for Morris and the research team when it comes to direct feedback from the fans. 

He added: "Things like the polls and the surveys, I think we get fantastic engagement with. 

"So generally, when a survey goes live, there'll be an email that goes out to the membership to say there's a new survey available for you. 

"I think it's pretty typical that we would have something like 5-6,000 responses within a couple of days. 

"The engagement is very good. For us it serves a great purpose in terms of being able to get results quickly. 

"This is a pretty fast moving business and sometimes the kind of traditional research survey process means you're waiting six to eight weeks to get the results, so it's amazing to be able to get them within just a few days."

The feedback from Fan Voice's 80,000 members via the forum and surveys has helped evolve Formula 1's OTT streaming channel F1 TV and brought about the re-introduction of the Fastest Lap point in Grand Prix amongst many other things.

But the users on the English-language Fan Voice website represent a microcosm of Formula 1's estimated 730million fans worldwide.

That figure dwarfs the sports' global TV reach of 490million, which has F1, like many other traditional sports, working hard to track the changing engagement habits of their fans and provide meaningful metrics for sponsors, broadcasters and advertisers.

Morris said: "Traditionally you tracked your TV audience and that told you almost everything you needed to know about engagement with the sport. But it's more difficult now.

"Sometimes it can look like engagement is going down, but it's just the engagement is shifting to something slightly different. 

"So people might be making use of more highlights that are available online, or streaming live online. But it's difficult to get a way of measuring this that's equivalent to the TV situation.

"There's a benefit in more established, syndicated methods of measurement as we can continue to compare ourselves to other sports, events and other entertainment entities, which helps build commercial stories. There?s also the fact that it?s more transparent, whereas if you only use your own figures, they may get questioned externally.

"We are only in the early days of the process, but what we'd ideally like to get to is some form of engagement metric that would look at things like total reach across all touch points with the sport, or potentially even something like time spent with the sport as well."

For more information on the Digital Transformation in Sports Summit Visit : www.digital-transformation-sports.com

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