The Neste Rally Finland eChallenge attracted both professional WRC and Junior WRC drivers as well as pro gamers from the WRC gaming community and top Finnish digital motorsport wizards to the Lutakko harbour in Jyväskylä on the second week of August. The digital motorsport super event was brimming with action, as both a place in the eSports WRC Championship final and the Championship title in the Finnish Digital Racing eSM 2020 series were up for grabs. Headlining the event were e.g. Finnish WRC stars Kalle Rovanperä, Esapekka Lappi and Teemu Suninen. The Finnish public service broadcaster Yle as well as the WRC were following the event both online and on linear TV.
- After this year’s Finnish round of the FIA World Rally Championship was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in June, we still wanted to provide rally fans with safe and entertaining motorsport in the comfort of their own homes. This event was a joint effort with the World Rally Championship, the Finnish Sim Racing Association (FiSRA), the City of Jyväskylä, Neste, Toyota and other strong partners and put together very efficiently, yet responsibly, in just 7 weeks. The day featured some world-class performances, and the spectators and experts alike were thrilled by the traditional motorsport drivers who gave the eSports drivers a run for their money. The event really brought together people from different motorsport disciplines. We as organisers received the warmest of thanks from the international participants, i.e. the WRC and the drivers. Encouraged by these good experiences, we are going to invest in engaging amateur series open for everyone in the near future, but are also going to continue to produce this kind of independent “finale events”, says the acting CEO of the event organiser AKK Sports, Markus Häkkinen.
The responsibility arrangements at the Neste Rally Finland eChallenge were also an overall success across the board. The strict coronavirus restrictions of e.g. no more than 1,000 spectators in the Lutakko harbour area were observed at all times, and the responsibility practices were being followed in an exemplary manner by the service providers and competitors as well as the spectators. Organising an event under exceptional situations also provided AKK Sports with a welcome opportunity to gain new specialised insight, experience and know-how.
Event hashtag #LifeHappensRallyHelps becomes hugely popular, Yle’s reach three times more than what the goal was
Based on the social media reports produced by the research company Sponsor Insight for AKK Sports, it can be concluded that the Neste Rally Finland eChallenge became a global online phenomenon. During the period of 22 July to 17 August 2020, the event hashtag #LifeHappensRallyHelps reached approximately 30 million cumulative contacts (29,939,155), which as paid social media advertising would correspond to approximately 332,377 euros worth of visibility.
The scale and popularity of the phenomenon are illustrated by the data that shows that the tags of AKK’s first ever eSports event were being used up to 25% more than the tags of the 2019 Neste Rally Finland that at the time logged a record-high online reach. Several major actors on the international motorsport scene, such as the FIA, star drivers, teams, influencers and partners, were delightfully active in sharing and commenting on the event content.
Based on the national visibility numbers, it was great news for the Finnish public service broadcaster Yle too: for example, at peak times Yle TV2’s live broadcast on Saturday evening, 8 August, reached approximately 224,000 viewers (data provided by the market research company Finnpanel).
- AKK’s digital motorsport event shot straight into the top 5 of the most watched eSports broadcasts in the history of Yle. Our repertoire of programmes has included some of the world’s most well-known mega events, so this is a very creditable achievement. When it comes to the Yle Areena and Twitch.tv streaming services, the commitment of the viewers was very noteworthy – digital motorsport really activates them and invites them to participate. It is entertaining and easy to follow, and that is why it also holds enormous potential for attracting the general public. After all, Finns are among the world’s elite in a number of eSports disciplines, and it is going to be great to see what kind of success stories we will still get to witness in the field of digital motorsport, explains the Yle eSports Producer Otto Rönkä.
- In the digital channels, the Neste Rally Finland eChallenge found its international audience in a magnificent way, and the audience reach on linear TV ended up being triple than what we were expecting. In part, the popularity could be explained by the star power and attraction of some of the drivers, the world-class production as well as the fact that this was an opportune time for this kind of an event. It was fantastic to see how the hashtag #LifeHappensRallyHelps that we have been using together with our title partner Neste in our joint campaigns since 2018 was now “making waves” online in connection with eSports; being inspiring and relatable. Through the positive and constructive feedback, we are constantly learning more and more about producing digital motorsport spectator experiences – not only online, but also live at different venues. It is great to continue to develop and grow together with our strong partners and to provide even more interesting content and events for different audiences in the future too, says the AKK Sports Marketing Communications Manager Rita Pasanen.