n 2018, Bastion China partnered with the Australian F1 Grand Prix to find a way to attract and engage with the China market – and do it in a way that was professional, well-executed and would ultimately drive ticket sales. This ambition sat within the broader strategy to position this iconic Melbourne event as ‘a bucket list Melbourne experience’ for Chinese visitors and residents.
Tourist arrivals to Victoria have grown at 17% year on year since 2012. Of course, the China market plays an important role in that growth. The Grand Prix saw a significant opportunity in developing a strategy that would drive ticket sales from Chinese audiences. This is where Bastion China could add value. Bastion China organised the Grand Prix’s existing initiatives related to China, identified where the current challenges and opportunities lay, and ascertained whether it was possible for the company to execute a sustainable and successful China strategy.
The innovative three-phase strategy saw the Grand Prix harness a compelling brand narrative which leveraged both the global F1 and ‘clean, green Australia’ brands. Central also to the growth strategy were the three key pillars of Experience, Luxury and Food & Beverage; an experience that has Chinese characteristics rather than a Chinese experience with Melbourne characteristics; and an avenue to promote luxurious purchasing choices and food and wine options that are a combination of quintessential Melbourne offerings.
2019 saw the Grand Prix move into phase two of its China Engagement Strategy, building on the success of the previous year. The establishment of the WeChat powered in-language Mini-Event-Program for the 2018 Prix was a first for any Australian major event. It was used 3,300 times during the four-day event with users spending an average of 5.18 minutes within it.
The first challenge of the whole strategy was to upgrade the 2019 Mini-Program in order to take engagement to the next level. The revamped program enhanced the user experience 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 March Prix. Follower growth for the WeChat account grew by 120% over this period.