How can the WRC up its social media game?

Lia Block and Scott Martin offer different perspectives on how rallying can improve its social media presence


Social media is a contentious issue in the world of rallying. I know firsthand – we talk about the constantly shifting nature of the media landscape here at DirtFish on a near-daily basis.

Most of us working in the world of rallying were not born and raised on smartphones and social media. Me, I’m the very last of the non-digital natives. Free AOL CDs and dial-up modems were still a part of my childhood – but the next generation immediately behind mine was raised on the first editions of iPhones.

A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to chat with a digital native. And not just any digital native – one from a family who mastered the art of motorsport marketing. On the phone from Miami was Lia Block, Ken’s daughter, who recently embarked on a single-seater career in F1 Academy.

She’s not been in the orbit of Formula 1 for that long. But she’s been there long enough to notice the differences to the world of rallying she was immersed in up until last year.

I asked the question of what the biggest difference of all is, sort of expecting the answer I got: “I would say a bit on the social media side,” Block tells DirtFish.


Lia Block understands the importance of letting fans see into your world

“WRC is trying but F1 is just ahead of everybody right now,” she adds. In addition to all her racing pedigree, Block also has TikTok licked, sitting on 361,000 followers – and counting – for her own social presence. She posts a mixture of racing action and personal, fourth-wall-breaking content on her channel, all matched to the trending sound of the day.

Breaking the fourth wall was what sent F1 stratospheric. Drive to Survive’s format may have helped; it’s a block of 10 episodes, all released in one batch a week before the new season starts to be binged-watched by the masses at their leisure. But it’s that feeling of peeling back the barriers that made the biggest difference.

Short-form video on social media is helping Block and other young sportspeople to do something similar, but in tiny, regular doses. And unlike Netflix, where presence on the platform dictates how many people will see your video, the unique design of TikTok’s algorithm – which can send content viral when its publisher has only a few hundred followers – means who you reach is affected more by the content’s substance than who’s already following.

But as Block points out, finding ways to translate the long-form nature of rallying into the short-form is incredibly tricky: “I think that true motorsport fans do watch rally but it’s something that you can’t just turn on the TV and watch [in the same way] as Drive to Survive.”


Drive to Survive capitalized on former M-Sport director of engineering Guenther Steiner's outspoken personality

Block’s social media success is her own – her family name might have helped awareness at the start but her content is designed from the ground up for the platform it’s hosted on. And, as scary as it might sound for rally drivers, it’s the competitors that will have to make the difference.

“It’s about time that we take more rallying to social media but that is going to have to come with people wanting it, i.e. the drivers,” Block highlights. “It’s not my favorite thing either, but it will definitely help the sport.”

The good news is that the drivers are listening and willing to do more. They just need to be told how. If they can be shepherded through the murky world of social media algorithms, they’re ready to get stuck in and make the difference.

Elfyn Evans’ co-driver Scott Martin, as competitor representative to the WRC Commission, speaks on behalf of all the drivers and co-drivers at said commission meetings – but of course, he has opinions of his own too: “Speaking maybe personally, I wasn’t feeling like we were doing very well on a social media style of content – as a sport,” says Martin. “There’s fan footage out there, but we have to be very careful because we need to make sure fans and spectators are standing in a safe area.

“We feel like maybe there’s an area there where the promoter isn’t covering well enough. And the drivers, you know, some will do more social media than others and some will put more effort in, or to some it comes more naturally. I think the promoter needs to lead the crews a little bit here and do more.”

Seastien Ogier

Making more of the fans' perspective on events could be an area to explore

No one is advocating for Evans to suddenly turn TikTok-dancer. But there is a need for those promoting the sport and those competing in it to get on the same page. Martin has made some progress on that front – and wants to take further steps so the drivers understand the nuances of the challenges the series faces around the vast expanse of social media.

“Let’s face it, the promoter is the expert here – certainly more than I am,” Martin continues. “They know the figures, they know what’s working and what’s good. We need better communication between the promoter and us crews – we don’t necessarily need to be going through the teams’ media and communications people, because they’re all busy enough looking after their own employer, the manufacturer.

“For me, this is about the human connection we want to make, that’s what works. We’ve been speaking to the promoter about trying to get them to help us understand a bit about what they’re doing and what we can do to help them and what we would want in return. I think there’s been too much assumption going on. Like we assume they should do this or they can do this and they’re assuming we could and should be doing this or that.

“When I was in Croatia, I talked to some of the promotion team and there’s things I didn’t know about the process, limitations they have. I could help with that or we could all help with things like a moment in a stage or something like that – we could work together and we’re going to get some really nice content.

“The drivers are the ambassadors for the sport and while I don’t say we have to do everything to keep them happy, we do have to do everything to keep them in touch. If they understand more of the issues or challenges, they’re less likely to complain. And, yes, I think we’re all aware some of the drivers perhaps don’t do enough social – but are they pushed hard enough?”


Scott Martin (right) reconizes the role participants have to play

It’s easy to look at a 10-second video and think it’s the work of a moment. But I know from experience that blink-and-you’ll-miss-it viral content is crafted over months: the amount of pre-production planning can be immense. Social media as an afterthought simply does not work – it’s hard graft, just like any form of media production.

Social media is a double-edged sword because it removed a key barrier – access to an audience – but didn’t make any other aspect of media production on its own any easier. Yes, we’ve got lenses and sensors on phones that digital cameras two decades ago didn’t. But none of that makes the slightest bit of difference if you don’t have the first-hand experience of media production to leverage those advancements.

A key reason rallying hasn’t gotten this quite right yet is partly thanks to WRC Promoter’s focus on its core product: linear broadcasts to television networks.

Martin continues: “I think it’s about the promoter leading us in best practice for social media content. They’ve had this focus on TV and All Live and it’s been fantastic – it was incredible when it came, but that was 10 years ago. I don’t feel, as a sport, we’ve kept up with trends or the demands of today’s media consumer.

“Basically, we all want the sport to be bigger and better. Don’t get me wrong, I can see people working on this and we’re making some progress and I can see improvements already, but there’s so much potential.”