If you've been on Netflix recently, you may have noticed a new docuseries – Break Point. From the producers of Formula 1: Drive to Survive, Break Point gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the tennis world and its up-and-coming stars.
And while I was immediately sold – I've been a huge tennis fan since I was a kid (shoutout to USTA for unknowingly being my first foray into the association world) – I was more curious to see if it can have the same impact on the industry like it did for F1.
For context, before the launch of Drive to Survive, Formula 1 was predominantly a European market sport, with most races being held outside of the U.S. Add in the fact that NASCAR dominated the American motorsport scene and that F1 didn’t invest heavily in a stateside race until the United States Grand Prix in 2012, and you can see the problem.
But that all changed in 2018 with the launch of Drive to Survive, a 10-part docu-series focused on recapping the F1 season from inside the paddock. While it had an uphill battle from the start, with Mercedes and Ferrari opting out of participating, the show focused on the human elements, particularly grittier teams, as they battled for relevancy.
Fast forward to 2023, and Drive to Survive is in its fifth season, and F1 has launched two more U.S. races – the Miami Grand Prix and the Las Vegas Grand Prix – growing its reach further than ever before.
In 2022, the United States Grand Prix had over 400,000 in-person attendees, with another million watching from home. And on a global scale, F1 has seen a 20% increase in viewership, particularly amongst younger viewers, with an average of 2.7 million 16- to 35-year-olds tuning in monthly.
So what does this all mean for the association space?
While we don’t recommend launching a Netflix-scale docuseries of your organization (although that would be pretty cool), there are some lessons to be learned for associations looking to attract new members and grow their reach.
For many associations, content is often focused on education – how do you learn this skill? or how do you solve this problem? And while this is helpful and usually one of the main reasons people join associations, we often overlook the most fundamental content tool: storytelling.
For these shows, people aren’t just watching for event recaps. They want an inside look at the sport and its stars – from the personality behind iconic F1 champion Lewis Hamilton to the future of women’s tennis post-Serena Williams.
Finding the human elements in these amazing stories is what we crave, and there’s a way to do it in your association. Your members and member organizations have stories to tell from their own experiences and making it a part of your content strategy can be huge.
Interviews, deep dives into unique programs or mastermind chats allow your members to share their expertise and story with the rest of your audience. Not only can it go a long way to foster a community, but it recreates that powerful storytelling element they’re craving. We don’t just want to know the result; we often want to connect with the journey it took to get us there.
Members often interact solely with your website, content or conference rather than with the people behind the scene. Just like you want to highlight your members and “characters,” you also want to create a connection with your organization.
In both shows, they take the time to highlight the inner workings of coaches, team principles, PR teams and event coordinators.
Whether you’re taking the time to document the event planning process for your annual meeting, want to explain the reasons for a platform rebuild or detail changes to your association’s mission or core values, don’t be afraid to open up and show vulnerability as an organization.
A barrier to entry when watching F1 or tennis is that rules, technologies and event formats can all be confusing – especially if you have zero experience.
Part of the brilliance of these shows is that they’re an opportunity to outline and explain the basics, making it easier for new viewers to feel a little less lost. This helps drive engagement and increases the chance they’ll tune in beyond their Netflix binge.
For associations, you have new members, association newcomers on staff and people who don’t even have your organization on their radar – yet. Take this as an opportunity to explain the ins and outs of your organization, all the things you offer, how your organization makes a difference (policy, community impact, etc.) and insights into your events and conferences.
Remember, you know everything there is to know about your association because you live it every day – but your audience? Not so much. The more they know, the easier it is for them to develop that connection.
Now that you’ve produced all this fantastic content – how do people see it?
You may not have a Netflix-scale distribution platform, but you can still get pretty creative with your distribution model. For starters, one of the benefits of relying on interviews and human-centered stories is that your subjects are more likely than ever to share it on their own profiles, giving you access to larger audiences.
Similarly, you want to make this content as flexible as possible. Whether it’s bite-sized video clips on Twitter, interviews in podcast format or slide posts on LinkedIn that share the highlights, repurposing and re-cutting content helps get more eyes on your stories regardless of their attention spans.
For Netflix, these two docuseries have quickly become popular amongst watchers and have brought all-new audiences to their respective sports – and it's not just because of the world-class athletes and high-end production value.
By focusing on human-centric storytelling, offering a glimpse behind the scene and spending the time to explain the basics so audiences can more easily engage with the subject matter, they’ve created an all-new marketing strategy for growing audiences.
While you don’t have to worry about matching these shows' scope and production value, you can easily adapt these strategies to help foster a better connection between your association and its audience.
Jose Triana joined the Sidecar team as the Content Manager in 2021. He is a writer and creative focused on helping purpose-driven organizations learn and find value online. When he isn't working on content, you can catch him going for a run or resting with a good book.
If you’re ready to increase your membership organization’s revenue, connect with an entire community of purpose-driven leaders and grow yourself, we’re ready to help you do it.Learn More