Formula 1 is using Salesforce’s platform to get a tighter grip on its data and to develop personalized experiences for millions of fans around the globe.
Zarah Al-Kudcy, Head of Commercial Partnerships at Formula 1, says F1 has been through a period of digital transformation since the sport was taken over by Liberty Media in January 2017. As part of this programme of change, she says the sport is looking for tech-led ways to develop deeper relationships with fans, both at the track and at home:
For over 70 years, F1's been a sport that’s been built on technology, but it's been built on technology around the cars themselves. Now it's about using technology for our fans, marketing the sport in the right way and enhancing the experience.
While the sport is famous for using innovation to develop high-performance cars, Al-Kudcy says the past few years have also been about digital transformation off the track. The sport has more than 500 million fans worldwide, but less than 1% of those will attend a Grand Prix each season. As a global sport with huge appeal, she says F1 needs to find a way to reach millions of people who can’t attend a race in-person each year:
It's a two-fold thing. One is to understand the 99% of fans that won't attend a Grand Prix each season better and give them a more engaged and personal experience. But we also have a lot of catching up to do versus other sports. We didn't have Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, so we've spent six years growing at a rapid pace. And now it's about understanding and using the data.
That’s where Salesforce comes in. F1 is using Salesforce Genie Customer Data Cloud across the Customer 360 to create a single, real-time source of truth about its millions of fans. The aim, says Al-Kudcy, is to try and understand the behaviours of supporters and to make connections between the information held within F1’s technology ecosystem:
The key piece is about providing personalisation to remain relevant. It’s also about recognising that we're a sport that’s pretty much always on – we race for 10 months of the year almost every other week. We also recognise that our fans are hungry for data. So, it's about making sure that we harness the right data in the right ways.
F1 ran an 18-month RFP exercise for its marketing stack and Salesforce came out as the preferred supplier. The organization started using the technology giant’s software from April last year, having already spent a considerable period of time building a roadmap and implementing the technology.
According to Al-Kudcy, additional opportunities to work with Salesforce have been discovered, including in the area of sustainability:
We knew that Salesforce was a company built on a sustainable ethos – and they made that very clear when we were working through the partnership. But, at the time, we didn't know for sure how we'd use them as part of our own sustainability strategy. That's taken six months – working with our head of sustainability and showcasing their expertise and their platform – for us to work out how best to use their technology as part of our sustainability strategy.
When it comes to technology implementation, Al-Kudcy says the biggest challenge her organization has faced is ensuring the Salesforce platform is integrated effectively. F1 was already using a broad range of systems and had to replace some of those platforms when it introduced Salesforce. She says the transformation process was made easier by building a close relationship with Salesforce:
That’s bread-and-butter work for their professional services team. So, they helped us move through that work quickly, to get us up to speed and up to the standard that we're expecting. That work continues, too – because, as with most of these things, they're never completely finished when it comes to innovation.
Al-Kudcy says the big priority in year one of the implementation has been understanding data from a fan point of view. She says it’s been fascinating to see analytics around some of the key moments in a race and to follow supporter sentiment. She believes the big benefits from the implementation will be generated during the next race season:
Last year was about putting it in place. There's a few things I can't talk about, which the marketing team are rolling out for the start of the season that will be driven by Salesforce. That means we won't really get a true understanding of the impact of the platform until later on this year.
While some of those project details are confidential for now, Al-Kudcy says all sports fans expect a much deeper level of engagement with teams and professionals these days. That’s as true in F1 as in other sports – and providing that high level of engagement in motor racing comes with specific issues:
The bigger challenge we have, and that’s also one of the reasons why we looked at Salesforce, is that we are a global platform. And, therefore, the way we communicate and engage with fans in the UK is very different to the US, China or Brazil. And that’s not just a language issue – it's a cultural thing, too.
Al-Kudcy says the more successfully her organization is able to communicate with fans, the more likely it will be to keep those supporters engaged. Ensuring that kind of interactivity takes place provides benefits for fans and the business as a whole:
There are so many different ways to engage with us right now; a fan could look like five or six different people. And the whole point of Salesforce is that we have one identifying fan marker that engages with our multiple platforms.
When it comes to advice for other professionals who are thinking about implementing Salesforce technology, Al-Kudcy says it’s important to have a clear understanding of what your business wants to achieve:
That might sound basic and obvious, but actually understanding what you want is really important to developing an awareness of which tools you need. Salesforce has many different tools that you could use, but if you don't know what you want to achieve, you could end up using the wrong tools and getting the wrong results.