How a Formula 1-themed Airbnb represents motorsport’s thriving fan base

How a Formula 1-themed Airbnb represents motorsport’s thriving fan base

Every sport is a business, but few are as closely tied to its budget lines as Formula One: wipe away the oil and champagne, and you see an entire economic world – one. The athlete A map will be drawn in F1 worksOur series revolves around this increasingly important element of this thriving sport.

SCOTTSDALE, AZ — This modest Airbnb is located just off Highway 101, not far from Old Town’s entertainment district.

It looks like a regular house from the street, with a one-car garage and desert landscaping that includes gravel, cactus and grass. But a doormat with crossed flags hints at what awaits beyond the front door.

Inside, guests are greeted by a neon sign reading “She Loves Formula 1,” sandwiched between portraits of Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton. Scattered throughout the short-term rental property are various Formula 1-themed decor, such as the pop culture image of Ayrton Senna in the master bedroom or the Valtteri Bottas-themed bathroom – including a sign that says: “Time to strip your boot. ”

There is Formula 1 racing decor in every room. (Patrick Breen for The Athletic)

The decor is intentionally subtle, attracting not only die-hard fans, but also bachelor/bachelorette travelers and non-motorsports guests who will book into an Airbnb. The accommodation reflects what the She Loves F1 brand and company aims to be – welcoming and inclusive. It’s a sign of Formula 1’s growth into new markets and what it means to be a fan of the sport.

“There are many different levels to being a fan, and it doesn’t mean that anyone is better than another,” said Michaela Kostaras, Airbnb owner and the person behind She Loves F1. “But there’s so much potential and opportunity to grow and create something bigger than yourself. And it’s something that will hopefully support you financially or bring you a lot of self-empowerment, because I think in life, it’s really important to feel good whatever it is that you do.”

Fan for life

Costaras launched She Loves F1 in October 2021, shortly after attending the US Grand Prix.

She has been a long-time fan of motorsports, starting with NASCAR and IndyCar before eventually joining Formula 1, and has attended all but one of the US Grand Prix in Austin since its inception in 2012. Over the years, Costaras has watched the fan experience change, not only in terms of the growing number of fans but also the number of women attending race weekends.

“When I was there in 2021, I was so excited to see people like me, but I was getting all these comments like, ‘Oh, you’re only there for the drivers’ and being questioned, like the typical fan experience of the race,” she said. “It’s kind of like having to prove “Your knowledge, which I find ironic because I’ve been watching sports for a really long time.” “And even though I may not look like someone they might think knows a lot about things, I really do.”

Motorsport is typically dominated by men, and Formula 1 is no exception. Earlier this year, More Than Equal, a non-profit initiative focused on increasing female participation in sports, found in its research that only 51 percent of respondents knew that women were able to compete in Formula 1. This is after the boom in Sports during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali revealed earlier this year that around 40 percent of all F1 fans are women. But the culture of gatekeeping, as highlighted by Costaras, persists.

Thus, She Loves F1 was born: a company and brand that aims to create a welcoming community for motorsport enthusiasts.

“I really wanted to create a platform where I could talk to a lot of people about motorsport the way I like to talk about sports, which is a very unusual way to talk about a sport — astrology or pop culture or fun little things, Thirsty Thursday,” Kostaras said. For example, the expansion did not come until a year later.

building a house

The idea for this Airbnb came about while finding a way to combine the Kostaras’ experience in hotels, hospitality and real estate with her love of Formula 1. She had invested in real estate before, but the Scottsdale house marked her entry into the short-term rental market, a riskier move. I thought of making it a themed property since it’s a city popular for bachelorette parties due to the nice weather.

She opted for a hidden F1-themed Airbnb with She Loves F1 branding and small business decor.

Formula 1 race tracks decorate the wall above a TV. (Patrick Breen for The Athletic)

However, Scottsdale is not a major market for Formula 1. The closest race is approximately a five-hour drive to Las Vegas. “I was really hesitant for the first six months,” Costaras said, wanting to see if the idea would work. Eventually, back-to-back bookings and five-star reviews started rolling in — likely thanks to her background in hospitality. Kostaras takes a different approach to its Airbnb than many guests might expect from other short-term rentals.

“I tried to be a steward who kept costs down,” Kostaras said, adding that she did a fair amount of the renovations and maintenance herself, such as replacing drywall once after learning how to do it on YouTube. “I try to say yes to everything I try to accommodate, like late check-out and early check-in, and I try to have drinks in the fridge. I try to do things and touches like that that make people want to come back, regardless of whether they’re a motorsport fan, or they’re looking Just about a nice place to stay with lots of amenities.

Don’t leave a laundry list of tasks guests need to complete before checking out. When I was there, the bathrooms were stocked with common necessities, like shampoo, conditioner, body wash, soap, cotton pads, cleansing tips, makeup remover, and feminine hygiene products. The refrigerator holds a variety of beverages, and the Keurig pod coffee kit will appeal to any coffee lover, as will the Starbucks Pike Place. The backyard has a covered patio with a TV and various seating areas (plus a fire pit) and corn hole. Even though the entire space is only 6,803 square feet (0.156 acres), it feels spacious.

Even the coffee has an F1 touch inside Michaela Costaras’ Airbnb in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Patrick Breen for The Athletic)

It’s attractive enough that people have wanted to host parties or events in the backyard. This is where Costaras legally has to draw the line due to short-term rental regulations. However, declining these types of requests is not the biggest (or unexpected) challenge.

“Honestly, I don’t think I understood how many linens and towels you go through.”

Shift within F1

The term “fangirl” has long carried a negative connotation. It’s a phrase often used to mock women in an attempt to diminish the legitimacy of their fandom, focusing on “obsessiveness” and portraying it as immature or superficial. But using the word as a weapon is why the work of people like Tony Cowan-Brown (who created Sunday Fangirls), Maria Sherman (who wrote The Fangirlification of F1), and Kostaras, is so crucial and powerful.

“I think a fangirl is someone who unapologetically and enthusiastically celebrates everything she’s passionate about, whether it’s a person, place, thing, motorsport or anything else, and gets excited about it and talks about it in the way she wants to talk about it,” Costaras said.

This idea of ​​what a fangirl is — a market that has long been around Formula 1 but has never been embraced — matches the way Costaras approached creating Airbnb and her brand, such as providing feminine hygiene products and eye makeup remover in the bathroom. With She Loves F1, Kostaras has strived to create a community where anyone can “come and be unapologetically themselves and participate and talk about the sport in a way that feels authentic to them.”

“I think this is really important because, traditionally, there is one way to talk about motorsport,” Costaras said. “If you don’t talk about it that way, you’re going to get ridiculed and ridiculed. And I think now we’re starting to see a shift where people are talking about it in many different ways.”

“I try to do things and touches like that that make people want to come back, regardless of whether they are a motorsport fan,” Costaras said. (Patrick Breen for The Athletic)

The booming creator economy and Kostaras’ Airbnb are just a few examples of how the larger ecosystem around the sport is changing. Fashion and pop culture topics are now regularly discussed online, and drivers, unlike Lewis Hamilton, are turning more towards their brands and trends. Take Esteban Ocon, for example. When he took the podium in Monaco in May, he said, “Este bestie on the podium, baby!” Costaras coined this phrase, (along with other SheLovesF1 phrases, such as the “Pierre effect”) and Okon later gave her credit. “For the brand, (it was) really exciting to be yelled at by someone who has such a big platform, but I want it to really be for all of us because I believe that when one fan wins, every fan wins,” Costaras said. This is how we’re going to make strides in this society that has been male-dominated for so long, and now we’re starting to see that we’re kind of gaining power.

“I think 2024 is the year of the fangirls.”

Inside the 1,207-square-foot home in Scottsdale, Arizona lies a physical representation of the transformation within Formula 1. Etched in neon and sandwiched between Formula 1 greats is the phrase She Loves F1. It’s not just Costaras, though, that manages and profits from the brand and company. It is the community and the larger meaning behind this phrase and Airbnb that holds hope for the future of sports.

The tone changes – slowly – around F1.

“Of course, there’s always a little bit of monitoring that we’ll work through, but mostly I think we’re seeing more diversity, celebration and inclusion.”

(Main image: Patrick Breen for The athlete; Design: Ray Orr/The athlete)

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(Tags for translation) Formula 1

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