The Australian F1 Grand Prix wanted to build its presence among the Chinese audience, positioning this iconic event as a ‘bucket list Melbourne experience’ for Chinese visitors and residents. It wanted to increase ticket sales to the Chinese, but to do so we had to take a careful look at its entire brand strategy to identify how it could best execute a sustainable and successful China expansion strategy.
We started by reviewing the Grand Prix’s existing initiatives related to China, identifying where the current challenges and opportunities were and how to get started.
From this process we developed a three-phase strategy that started with the Grand Prix harnessing a brand narrative that leveraged both the global F1 and ‘clean, green Australia’ brands. We developed strategic pillars for Chinese marketing and helped craft an experience that has Chinese characteristics rather than a Chinese experience with Melbourne characteristics.
Phase 1 in 2018 was establishment and included the creation of a WeChat in-language Mini Event Program, which was used 3,300 times during the four-day event with users spending an average of 5.18 minutes within it. This helped to deepen understanding of the event, while ticket sales partnerships and new payment options helped to drive sales.
In 2019 the Grand Prix moved into phase two of its China Engagement Strategy, building on the success of the previous year.
We started by upgrading the Mini Program in order to take engagement to the next level. This revamped program enhanced the user experience by allowing Chinese spectators to view daily event listings, create a favourite menu and understand what to see and do prior to arriving at the Prix. Visitors could also view circuit information via GPS-enabled interactive map to support wayfinding for Chinese spectators.
The second challenge was to identify key commercial opportunities. Based on Bastion China’s recommendations and networks, the Grand Prix were able to establish key partnerships with prominent international travel agencies such as Ctrip and SmartFly to speak directly to inbound visitors prior to departure. This enabled offshore ticket sales into new areas of China. In addition, local onsellers and media were engaged to communicate with local Chinese audiences in ways familiar to them.
The final piece involved creating a dedicated Weibo account to support the existing WeChat channel. As Weibo is estimated to be used by 25% of mainland Chinese, activating this channel was a key growth opportunity. These two channels worked hand-in-hand for three months leading up to the event. Follower growth for the WeChat account grew by 120% over this period.
Bastion China has truly put the Melbourne Grand Prix on the map for Chinese consumers, both locally and internationally. Our three-year strategy set the pace for the organisation and helped it strategically ramp up its Chinese offering. In 2020, our third year on the job, COVID-19 unfortunately impacted and led to the cancellation of the event – but not before we were able to work with some fantastic KOLs to drive awareness.
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