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2 April 2024  •  Lucien Bienvenu

Brand Integrations: A Key Opportunity for the Australian Grand Prix to Reach Australian Open Levels of Attendance

Lucien Bievenu

The Formula One Australian Grand Prix (AGP) is fast becoming one of the largest events on the Australian calendar. The record 452,055 punters that walked through the gates over the course of the four day event this past week highlight that it is starting to gain the same status and grandeur of the Australian Open (AO).

However, for it to truly reach the dizzying heights of the AO, the AGP will need to continue this growth trajectory into the long term and keep giving fans a reason to make their way through the Albert Park gates year after year. To achieve this, increasing the capacity of the event site, attracting new fan demographics and enhancing the event experience outside of the race itself stand out as core opportunities. But given the potential it has to contribute to each of these opportunities simultaneously, creative brand integration may actually be the main lever that the AGP needs to pull to take its place next to the AO at the front of the grid.

Increasing Event Capacity

Current capacity restrictions mean that the AGP site at Albert Park can hold approximately 130,000 punters each day. Representing a maximum total attendance that can be achieved in the vicinity of 520,000 and capacity already being reached on the Saturday and Sunday of this year's grand prix. A clear avenue to continued growth for the AGP is finding ways to expand the event precinct or to fit more fans into the existing precinct without hindering the event experience. 

It goes without saying, but increasing capacity without impacting the experience is easier said than done. Simply expanding the precinct has the potential to disperse crowds - detracting from the atmosphere, spreading out and making it more difficult for fans to reach key amenities, and creating additional logistical costs to ensure adequate security and safety measures are met. The alternative approach of simply releasing more tickets has its own set of difficulties as it puts pressure on lines for food and drink outlets, makes it more difficult for fans to see the race and puts further demand on an already strained public transport system to ensure easy access to and from the event. 

Despite the need to address and mitigate against these risks, if the AGP is to move towards the colossal 1.02 million attendees mark that the AO achieved this year or even near the 687,630 mark that was achieved in the first week of the tennis tournament this year, it will need to find a means of increasing its capacity without making any trade offs to the fan experience. In successfully doing this, the AGP can not only bring more fans through the gate, but can ensure that these fans keep coming back year after year.

New Fan Segments

While increasing capacity will allow the AGP to meet the heightened demand the event has seen in recent years, to continue to grow the event's popularity it is crucial to engage and attract new fans. To date, this is something that the AGP have been incredibly effective at. The event has captured new audiences through the hype of Netflix’s ‘Drive to Survive’ series, with the behind the curtain insight into the Formula 1 (F1) landscape garnering a celebrity status for the drivers and team bosses featured on the series. Namely this has contributed to the AGP seeing upswings in both attendance from younger demographics and female fans, with female fans making up 39% of total attendance in 2023, over indexing against a global F1 average of 28%.

Additionally, pent up demand for live events post-COVID has seen the AGP deliver record attendances in each of its past three iterations. A 29% uplift in attendees from 324,000 in 2019 to a then record 419,114 in 2022, after back to back cancellations in 2020 and 2021, highlighting just how much growth the event has experienced. Not just a flash in the pan, this record has been eclipsed in both 2023 (444,631 attendees) and 2024 (452,055 attendees), indicative of the growth trajectory the AGP appears to be on.

Continuing to attract new fans and drive demand in underrepresented segments stand out as a crucial priority for the AGP. Ensuring they can keep existing fans coming back and provide new reasons for untapped audiences to experience the event for the first time will allow the AGP to continue to achieve record breaking attendance into the future.

Driving Attendance to an Event, Not Just a Race 

The AGP saw capacity attendance throughout the weekend in 2024, with 130,806 and 132,106 fans passing through the gates on Saturday and Sunday respectively for qualifying and the race itself. Not far behind, Friday brought in a crowd of 124,113 for practice. However, with no F1 cars on the track, Thursday was a long way behind - with only 65,030 attendees for the AGP’s opening day. Without changes to event capacity, this clearly highlights that for the AGP to grow attendance it needs to do so by bringing fans to the event on Thursday. With no flagship F1 racing, this can only be achieved by having an event experience so strong that fans are drawn to the event itself, and not just the race.  

On the flip side, the AO sees some of its highest daily attendances during the first week of the tournament. While the higher number of games on outside courts that are accessible with a general admission ticket does play a role in this, the ability of the AO to deliver an event that can stand alone as an attraction to fans outside of seeing major games and players cannot be understated. In being able to drive the same attraction to the AGP event, and not just to the F1 racing, there is ample scope for attendance on Thursday to match its race led counterparts.

The Opportunity for Brand Integration 

Increasing event capacity, attracting new fans and enhancing event experience stand out as key areas in which the AGP can achieve growth. But, what levers can be pulled to help achieve these objectives? One opportunity that stands out is the improved integration of brands into the event. 

The AO sets the benchmark in how brand integration should be done; driven by a commitment to innovate and change a minimum of 50% of the tournament experience year to year. Across the 2024 tournament, brands at the AO catered to the diverse needs of a range of different fan segments. From a Chemist Warehouse activation letting fans grab event essentials on site, to countless branded bars that each year seem to have new levels and more space for punters to enjoy them, to retail outlets from the likes of New Balance and Polo that let those who have travelled to the event grab a memento to remember it by, the AO truly has something for everyone.   

Furthermore, the effectiveness of these activations and integrations creates a cyclical effect where more and more brands want to be involved each year and existing brands are constantly looking to out do what they’ve delivered in previous years; creating a seemingly never ending rotation of activities for fans to enjoy. It is this focus on enhancing the event experience at every opportunity that has seen the AO continue to draw in record crowds year after year despite being over 100 years old.

The AGP has around 40 local brands involved alongside global F1 partners such as Heiniken, Rolex and DHL. However, there are greater opportunities for how these partnerships can be leveraged in a way that mutually benefits the event and brand simultaneously. In doing this, the AGP can continue the growth trajectory it is on and continue to attract fans to attend the event year after year as it starts to challenge the Australian Open for the mantle of Australia’s largest annual sporting event.  

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