Formula One has long been an extremely popular global sport, attracting drivers, fans and sponsors from markets across the world. According to Repucom’s SportsDNA, there are 485 million fans of F1 worldwide. Another indicator comes from Hollywood – Ron Howard’s racing drama Rush has recently opened to critical success.
The last Formula One driver to be fatally injured was three-time World Champion Brazilian Ayrton Senna, who was killed while leading the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. Nearly 20 years after his death, Senna remains very alive in the minds of both fans and the general public. In the first half of 2013, more than 600,000 people in key Latin America and European markets mentioned him on social media such as Twitter and Facebook. In fact, more people in the Americas and Europe mention Ayrton Senna than any other Formula One driver – including current stars Sebastian Vettel and Felipe Massa.
With 99% of the Brazilian population aware of Ayrton Senna, he is considered the most appealing celebrity in the market – surpassing legendary athletes, current players and TV stars alike. According to Repucom’s Celebrity DBI, Senna’s fame extends to other markets. In Italy, he has 92% awareness and despite never being part of Scuderia Ferrari, is liked just as much as Valentino Rossi and Alessandro Zanardi. In Spain, he outshines Justin Timberlake and Usain Bolt.
According to the Aryton Senna Institute, Senna’s brand was worth R$21.3 million (US$9.6 million) in sublicense agreements in 2012. Athletes are powerful figures, but this data indicates that athletic legends may resonate more powerfully with today’s audience than we realize.