GETTING THE MESSAGE ACROSS
In the late 1960s, when Lotus famously changed their colours from British Racing Green and yellow to red and gold, in deference to their tobacco-company sponsor, racing cars became high-speed billboards. Today the livery of every single car on the grid distinguishes that team’s brand and incorporates the identity of whichever sponsor is paying top dollar for the privilege of a global shop window. But as Chris Murray, Williams’ marketing director, explains, partnerships with companies now extend far beyond decals on a car.
“As an independent team, all of our partners are important to us, but the old-fashioned model of brand promotion is just one aspect of the relationship,” he says. “Take Unilever, who own a number of brands – one of which is Rexona. Yes we deliver visibility for them, but we also help them drive sales in local markets. For example, in China, Lance Stroll went out to a Carrefour supermarket to meet the local media and guests to boost a promotional activity that we had been running in store. But beyond that, there is a third aspect to our partnership – and that’s a synergy programme.
“We’re now able to share some of our technical know-how, so some of Unilever’s engineers have been helping us and, in return, through Williams Advanced Engineering, we’ve been working with Unilever to help them create better, whiter washing powder and crunchier ice cream – primarily through computational fluid dynamics modelling around flow.”
Murray also cites the JCB digger firm as another brand that wanted to tie up with Williams thanks to a similar philosophy – and one of their values in the relationship is to invite key customers to races. “Like Williams, they are a classic British firm, family owned with secondgeneration family management, and the value they get from the relationship with us is through the further relationships they can establish in meeting CEOS of other companies at races. Both the Paddock Club and our own motorhome can be great places to do business.”
All the drivers’ many media commitments are carefully scheduled in by the comms team