OP-ED: Digital transformation at the 2021 Dutch Formula 1 Grand Prix

16 Nov 2021

By: Sport Industry Group

The Formula 1 World Championship returned to the Netherlands for the first time in 36 years in September and cloud software provider CM.com was on hand to deliver a truly digital-first, mobile-centric fan experience.  

As the venue of a titanic scrap between Dutch driver Max Verstappen and his title rival, Britain’s Lewis Hamilton, the race didn’t disappoint and neither did the venue’s tech infrastructure. 

After such a long layoff, and the investment needed to bring the circuit up to modern standards, the event needed to be both a critical and commercial success from day one. CM.com was key to bringing Formula 1 back to the Netherlands as the main sponsor of CM.com Circuit Zandvoort, and official event sponsor of the Formula 1 Heineken Dutch GP, and part of CM.com’s wider remit was to ensure the event capitalised on every revenue opportunity. CM.com’s Conversational Commerce platform was pivotal in maximising the event’s commercial strategy. Part of that strategy included an automated, data-driven ticket ballot that delivered record-breaking sales, along with multiple solutions that enhanced spend per head at the track. 

“The partnership stems from the successful cooperation that CM.com started with the Formula 1 Heineken Dutch Grand Prix. Both partners are of Dutch heritage and share a similar vision for the future of sports and leisure events where the need for innovation has become more relevant than ever. But passion and nostalgia for the event had to be coupled with a deliverable commercial strategy and we put CM.com’s technology at its heart to deliver this,” said Rogier Aarts, Field Account Executive, CM.com. 

The personal touch 

F1’s long awaited return to the Netherlands was originally scheduled to take place in 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the decision was taken to delay the event's return until 2021 rather than stage it without fans. 

Given the challenges of running an event during the pandemic, CM.com was crucial to fans’ safety, with CM.com’s suite of messaging tools allowing for personalised communication with fans throughout the entire event, creating a smooth and safe flow of guests at the circuit. 

“Relevant and constant communication helps visitors remain confident in the organisers and builds trust. With so much uncertainty this year, it’s important fans are kept fully up-to-date at all times regarding the event,” continued Aarts, “The Mobile Marketing Cloud has been instrumental in helping the circuit do this.” 

Big problems for a small town 

One of the biggest issues the event organisers faced was the logistics of handling thousands of visitors arriving in the small town of Zandvoort, and the fact that they had no historical customer data to draw from.  

CM.com’s technology set about solving these problems, with Mobile Marketing Cloud and our Customer Data Platform collecting data and building customer profiles to drive ticket sales and assist in event logistics. 

To give fans the information they needed in the build up to the race, CM.com used its chatbot platform to develop ‘The Race Engineer’, a WhatsApp chatbot that allowed attendees to ask questions and receive automated answers. 

COVID-19 hadn’t quite finished with the Dutch Grand Prix however, and just weeks before the event, the organization was told that only two thirds of its allocated capacity would be able to attend. With CM.com’s ticketing and Mobile Marketing Cloud solutions in place, informing fans who’d be able to attend and who wouldn’t was at least simple, if still a difficult piece of news to deliver. 

Mapping the journey 

Providing meaningful customer data was a key part of CM.com’s involvement in the event. At the start of the partnership in May 2019, CM.com began work on a pre-registration solution to manage the huge demand for tickets and to capture customer and potential customer data. 

Captured data was recorded by CM.com’s Customer Data Platform to allow personalised communication with attendees and the pre-registration process was designed specifically to weed out fraudulent applications.

With a wealth of data behind them CM.com’s solutions allowed customers to be proactively informed with relevant, personalised information about the event as soon as they received their digital ticket. 

CM.com’s messaging platform was put to the test throughout the customer journey, with communications across channels used all the way from pre-registration to post-race aftercare. 

Once the customer has scanned their ticket, an SMS was sent with a dedicated landing page. This included customer-specific information including which gate to enter, where to find their seat, and where retail and food outlets were situated.  

More to come 

James Matthews, CM.com Country Manager for UK and Ireland added:This partnership goes beyond the Dutch Grand Prix. It shows our long-term commitment to digital transformation and the development of the sports and events industry, ensuring a guest-oriented focus.  

“We intend to help similar organisations and clubs as we look to the rest of 2021 and beyond. By helping the sports industry invest in new technology and focus on the fan experience, we can help them take the next step in their digital transformation strategy.   

The 2021 Dutch Grand Prix is just the start of CM.com’s commitment to global sports and I’m excited to increase our presence in the UK sports market, alongside our European presence.” 

Written by CM.com