As the popularity of motorsport racing escalates in North America, GridRival CEO Ross Fruin highlights how his motorsport gaming startup has identified a niche in the market.
With the return of football around the corner, sports betting operators are turning their attention to the NFL, which enjoyed a 10% increase in viewership last season (per CNN Business), and continues to dominate as America’s favorite sport.
Most of those North American operators, however, are failing to cater to the action that is attracting a younger and newer audience, while growing at a phenomenal rate: motorsports.
With the unique challenges that motorsport data represents and traders who are less familiar with how to price the action, motorsport remains seriously undervalued as a betting commodity.
Racing of any kind isn’t given prominence on the nav bar for most major operators, and both Formula 1 and NASCAR sit low on the pecking order with many of the current major daily fantasy sports sites.
GridRival, a multi-series fantasy motorsports app with over 200,000 registered users, aims to address that gap in the market by providing a dedicated sports betting platform for a loyal fanbase.
According to a survey carried out among GridRival’s user base, ahead of our summer launch as a real-money daily fantasy sports product, 78% of those who already participate in sports betting would prefer to use a motorsports-specific platform, as opposed to the offerings from major operators.
Our research at GridRival backs up the consensus within the industry: motorsports fans are loyal, highly engaged, and keen to improve their viewing experience with gaming—but a suitable gaming platform is not yet in place.
It’s also clear that motorsports fans are far from a niche group: they are growing in droves across most major series.
Formula 1, once the preserve of motorsport enthusiasts who would diligently set their DVRs for a premium cable broadcast of races from far-flung timezones, is now a significant network American TV event.
The inaugural Miami Grand Prix, broadcast on ABC’s main cable channel, gave the sport its biggest-ever broadcast numbers, with an average viewership of 2.6 million (per Sports Pro Media). The average viewership for the series in the United States has doubled in the last five years, and the appetite for international open-wheel racing is increasing across the nation: in 2023, a third American race will be added to the calendar in Las Vegas, while a fourth has been mooted in New York.
Although F1 is the dominant player, this surge in fandom is reflected across multiple series.
During the first half of the 2022 season, NASCAR’s TV viewership has reached its highest level since 2017 in the United States.
According to Nielsen, IndyCar—the open-wheel cousin of Formula 1—is experiencing 34% year-on-year audience growth this season, while clocking its highest ratings in nearly 20 years.
MotoGP, meanwhile, continues its meteoric rise among digital natives, by recently celebrating 40 million fans across social and online platforms. The motorcycle racing series has added 10 million of those fans in a little over a year.
The age of the internet has made the world a smaller place and opened up the American market to sports that have previously struggled to make inroads among the hegemony of football, basketball, and baseball. Hence, global players such as Formula 1 and MotoGP are finding new youthful audiences.
This rise in motorsports has occurred concurrently with the legalization of sports betting. In May, Maine became the 34th state to legalize gaming, while in the same month, American Gaming Association (AGA) data showed a 7.9% increase in year-on-year gaming revenue. In August, Massachusetts became the 36th state to introduce sports betting legislation.
With global fan bases in the hundreds of millions, and domestic products with a rich heritage, the betting appeal of motorsports is palpable—particularly when you consider the fact that racing fans are among the most loyal and engaged of any sports fan.
In fact, our GridRival survey found that 48% of respondents considered themselves to be mostly or exclusively motorsports fans. It’s hard to imagine that nearly half of football or basketball fans would consider themselves predominantly fans of just one sport.
Generally speaking, petrolheads tend to behave differently from mainstream sports fans. Their love of the sport isn’t always partisan, as they appreciate the skill of the drivers, the unique tracks, race strategies, and the incredible competence of the team engineers.
Hence, it is clear that motorsport fans deserve a product tailored specifically towards their favorite sport—especially when it comes to betting, where sports betting operators have yet to capitalize on the opportunities of the market.
According to the survey results, just 13% of respondents engage in sports betting on a non-GridRival app. Furthermore, 32% of users have never bet on motorsports before, but state they are likely to do so following GridRival’s summer igaming launch.
Additionally, among those who did not state a proclivity for sports betting, 73% said they would prefer a motorsports-specific platform were they to start gaming.
GridRival’s research has further reinforced the notion that motorsport fans require a tailored betting product to entice them—and that new customers would be easily converted with the correct product.
One might expect sports bettors who are already familiar with sportsbook apps to utilize existing, if imperfect, motorsport offerings. However, it is overwhelmingly clear that a tailored solution is preferable for the vast majority.
Motorsport fans want to deepen their engagement with racing, and sports betting through a bespoke platform is an ideal way to do so. The growth opportunities for a motorsports-specific gaming platform are obvious.