Have Caterham missed something with their crowd funding offering? Last week Caterham F1 Team launched a campaign on Crowd Cube, a crowd funding platform, to help raise funds to get them to the grid in Abu Dhabi. Crowd funding is a process of offering something in return for fund donations from fans or people interested in your development project. It’s an ambitious attempt by the struggling F1 outfit to complete the season, having already had to miss out in Austin and Sao Paulo, but have they taken the right route. Many have already criticised the crowdfunding route, not least F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, although admittedly shortly after saying the loss of Caterham and Marussia is ‘probably my fault.’ Probably? But should we be critical of what they are trying to do or should we look at how they have gone about it? You don’t have to go far to find fans, and F1 insiders, who feel that the sport is seriously lacking in its social and digital engagement, with many suggesting the future of the sport may even depend on how it can utilise the power of social media. We tend to agree with this way of thinking too. Having said that, the teams, and a few of the drivers, have seen the value of social engagement and have spent the last couple of years investing time into their online presence. It’s great for the fans to get inside information and feel a part of a sport that quite frankly, doesn’t want you to be a part of it. The exclusivity, mystery and wealth that surrounds F1 is there to make us dream of being involved, looking in, longing to be accepted like we did as kids outside the toy shop. It clearly works too, as their follower numbers can back up. Caterham have amassed a huge 240,000 twitter followers, remember they are a ‘back marker’ team. But their 23,000 tweets have certainly been interesting enough to draw us in, share what they say and talk to them over race weekends, hoping for that reply or re-tweet to come. So what now for those 240k followers? Well they were left with nothing for over 2 weeks whilst the team was obviously making some important decisions about their future. That time could surely have been spent in better ways, not mention why social media has not become a bigger part of their crowd funding campaign. Digital and social marketing is now vital, especially for on-line businesses who rely on internet traffic for sales and clients. It gives them a platform for targeted advertising at, in most cases, an affordable cost. What this essentially means is businesses worldwide are paying £££ for impressions, engagement and likes with the hope of turning them into conversions (sales). Costs can range depending on the advertising platform, the website or the influencer being used, but prices usually fall within £1.50 to £5 per 1000 impressions. So with Caterham being a Formula 1 team with a big brand name behind them, it is safe to say they have some influence, trust and authority when it comes to their 240,000 followers. This makes them an attractive advertising channel, especially for those looking to sell to a demographic with Motorsport interests. Not to mention F1 is one big, very fast, advertising billboard. Yet no sign of advertising, affiliate schemes or partner offerings as part of the crowd funding campaign? They are only in F1 due to sponsors (advertisers looking to promote their product) and it is safe to say they also did not maximise their online accounts to promote those sponsors effectively throughout the season either. Caterham have opted for selling goods to fans, rather than selling online marketing to small businesses, which is a decision they may have reasons for. Or it is something they overlooked completely, another sign that F1 is still yet to truly understand the value in digital and social marketing. Caterham and their drivers, along with Marussia and theirs, have been in a position all season where they could have worked with businesses to offer great content to their fans as part of effective advertising campaigns for the advertiser. Instead that seems to have not been an option, but crowd funding selling off spare parts, is seen as a viable one. Certainly if they succeed, then Caterham have got what they wanted from it, with some fans getting a piece of memorabilia along the way but we can’t help but feel that a B2B solution has been overlooked. Is it a case of why help advertise others when we are struggling or potentially the F1 arrogance sneaking in to it? Let’s hope not. It makes you wonder what the likes of Caterham and Marussia planned to do with their following having worked hard to grow it? Maybe they just wanted to give something to fans, to build a fan base for Caterham, and maybe, just maybe, that is why we may not see them on the grid again. It has now come to light that Caterham, should they make it to Abu Dhabi, are looking to run 21 year old Alice Powell. 3Dom Wraps are firm believers that females are more than capable of running in F1, we are just waiting for the right one to be given a chance, like Suzie Wolff. So is Alice the right decision for Caterham or is this purely another desperate attempt at finding funds. Well it makes sense in some crazy way, to do something unique and go out with a bang in a fantastically put together advertising campaign, great for existing sponsors and potential one off ones backing Alice. But is that what is happening here? Unfortunately, it seems not. Alice has racing ability, as do many others, but she also has a family willing to bid for a drive in Abu Dhabi. Yes most drivers are now pay drivers, but really, is Alice as talented and experienced as GP2 Champion Jolyon Palmer or even Suzie Wolff? not even close. What else can she bring to the table? Great fan base? Unique digital content? Big You Tube channel? Awesome website promoting sponsors? Well, it certainly seems this has not been fully thought through from either side, neither are prepared to be in Abu Dhabi, from promoting talent, females in F1 and sponsors to racing in F1 and for once, Bernie is right to criticise. It’s bordering on the embarrassing.

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