Tag Archives: Techeetah

Formula E: Raising the Bar in Motorsport Sponsorship

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Season Four of the FIA Formula E World Championship resumes this weekend with the third round in the calendar coming from Marrakesh. As the first major motorsport event of 2018, now is a good time to reflect on the success of the championship and explore how Formula E’s approach to partners is changing the face of motorsport sponsorship.

As motorsport goes, Formula E is a Championship still very much in its infancy. When considering the achievements of the championship, this fact is something many forget. Over three seasons Formula E has established a global audience in excess of 200M, this compared to Formula One which using the same metrics reported an audience of 350M across 2017 is hugely impressive. On average, Formula E appeals to a younger audience, with a gender split whilst still leaning towards males is far more balanced than any other form of motorsport. The city-centre, single day format has proven successful, as have affordable ticketing policies. Attendance of an ePrix is successfully positioned as a family event.

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The level of manufacturer support Formula E has achieved since its inception has exceeded all expectations. Championship management targeted 4-5 OEMs to have committed to the championship by season five. With DS, Jaguar, NIO, Mahindra, Audi, Renault (set to run as Nissan from next season) Venturi, BMW, Mercedes, and Porsche now involved, the championship finds itself in the position of having the most manufacturer-backed entries in any form of motorsport. Of course championship management acknowledge manufacturer support is cyclical, but Formula E represents a unique platform for manufacturers to showcase Electric Vehicle technology in a cost-controlled environment. The appeal of the championship goes beyond racing, Formula E gives manufacturers access to an audience demographic they would otherwise struggle to connect with. There is every reason to expect the current level of manufacturer support to be sustained.

Season Five will see the most significant change in the championship to date. In a bid to keep team costs under control, Formula E limits the development of components on a season by season basis and in some cases mandates the use of standard equipment across all teams. Through season five, two of the most significant standard elements will be upgraded, in the battery and the car itself. Whilst both elements will remain standard items, significant improvements in battery technology will remove the requirement for a mid-race car change, alongside delivering a sizable increase in performance. With the new car, Formula E promises to amaze fans with a futuristic design incorporating FIA mandated cockpit safety structures in a fully integrated design concept. The new look championship promises to leave other forms of motorsport looking old-fashioned by comparison.

Following the lead of Mumm Champagne, long time partners of Formula One including Allianz and Hugo Boss continue to transition towards Formula E. This shift is due in part to the way in which Formula E engages with its audience and has positioned itself at the forefront of the conversation around Electric Vehicles. The technology demonstrated within Formula E is perceived to be of greater relevance to the future of the automotive industry and as a consequence, has positioned itself as a sport which a broad and diverse audience can engage with. Free from shackles of history, the Formula E message evolves with it’s fans. This open and dynamic approach sits well with the marketing teams behind the championships growing list of partners and continues to attract new partners to the sport.

Formula E and its approach to fan engagement has not gone unnoticed.  2017 saw Formula One announce a partnership with premium partner Carbon Champagne. In attempts to build awareness of the F1 – Carbon Champagne partnership, CEO, Alexander Mea has acknowledged taking inspiration from the Formula E podium celebrations. Carbon have already employed ideas such as the use of a DJ to build atmosphere around the podium (as seen at the Mexican Grand Prix), to branding the cool down room and presenting drivers through the crowds to increase visibility. Formula E and its partners have inspired the established brands to up their game to maximize any return on investment.

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Engagement extends far beyond the podium ceremony, for race attending fans the eVillage supporting every ePrix provides an area for championship partners to engage with fans, delivering both tangible sales and the ability to build brand awareness. Formula E encourage championship partners and local partners to embrace the eVillage and its captive audience of fans. Beyond the eVillage is the The EMOTION Club.  Formula E’s unique take on the VIP paddock life experience. In contrast to other forms of motorsport where team and championship guests are hosted in separate motorhomes or paddock buildings, Formula E, through the EMOTION Club, have created a shared environment in which all guests and partners are together, facilitating an environment which truly lends itself to the development of new business to business partnerships and allows guests to maximize their experience from both an entertainment and commercial perspective. Formula E has always been keen to ensure all brands and partners involved with the championship have every opportunity to maximize their position in the sport. Success in this open approach is evidenced by the fact that to date, all partners joining the championship have chosen to renew and extend their commitments.

Another great asset of Formula E is its relationship with the media.  Of course the sport has it doubters and critics, but media reporting from within the championship hold Formula E in high regard. Motorsport will be criticized irrespective of any decisions taken, but Formula E seeks to balance this by engaging with the media, explaining the strategy of the championship, ensuring a feeling of inclusion and community. Many journalists have been a part of the championship from the very beginning, they feel part of the championship and their value in its continued growth does not go unnoticed by championship management.

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With the imminent announcement of title sponsorship of the entire Formula E Championship, Formula E management can be proud of what has been achieved. Formula E continues to outperform rival motorsport championships in terms of its reach and engagement. Founding partners including Qualcomm, DHL, Michelin, and Mumm Champagne continue to be rewarded for their willingness to embrace a new form of motorsport. As the championship grows, so will their return on investment.

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Formula E: Jean Eric Vergne in profile

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2016 Shivraj Gohil / Spacesuit Media

Back in November I had the good fortune to attend the Marrakesh ePrix with the Techeetah Formula E Team and Jean Eric Vergne. Marrakesh played host to the second round of the 2016/ 2017 Championship and gave me my first behind the scenes experience of an ePrix weekend.

At 26 years old, you would still consider Jean Eric Vergne to be a young driver, so when you take a look back at his career in motorsport it’s incredible to think of what he has already achieved. As with many successful drivers, Jean Eric’s career started in Karting. At the age of just 4 years old he first got behind the wheel at his fathers karting circuit on the outskirts of Paris. At the age of 10 he entered his first competition and went on to become a junior French champion in 2001. He continued in karting competing in the European Championship and others until 2007 when he graduated to Formula Renault

Driving for Formula Campus, Vergne won the championship with ease securing 10 podium finishes from 13 races. His performance attracted the attention of the Red Bull Junior team, who navigated his career through the British Formula 3 Championship with Carlin where he won 12 races in 24 events securing the championship with 6 races remaining. Alongside his British F3 outings he also competed in GP3 and in 2010 Red Bull promoted Jean Eric to Formula Renault 3.5. A championship he secured his first win after only 3 races in the championship. He took the championship fight down to the wire and whilst ultimately lost out to another competitor, his skills in the championship were enough for Red Bull to bring him into Formula One initially in a test capacity then joining the Toro Rosso team as a driver in 2012.

Reaching Formula One can be the pinnacle of any drivers sporting career. From the very outset Jean Eric’s pace with Toro Rosso was unquestionable. More often than not Jean Eric would be found ahead of his teammates on the track, unfortunately he found himself in a situation of wrong place at the wrong time. Poor reliability  left Jean Eric seemingly trailing his team mates Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kyvat at the wrong time. Resulting in him being overlooked for the Red Bull Racing drive

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2016 Shivraj Gohil / Spacesuit Media

Despite these stumbling blocks, for which many insiders say were no fault of Jean Eric’s, 2015 saw him transition to Formula E with the Andretti team. The Frenchman instantly found a new home in the series setting pole on his debut in Uruguay. JEV went on to complete the season with Andretti and for season 2 moved to the DS Virgin Racing Team.  A team which with the freedoms offered to teams as the championship found its feet took an alternative approach to technical gearing and power delivery compromising the team’s ability to consistently compete at the front of the grid.

For Season Three Jean Eric Vergne has become part of the newly formed Techeetah Formula E team, a team built on the foundations of the Aguri team with power unit supply from championship leading Renault. Edmund Chu, Techeetah Team President on Jean Eric joining the team commented:

We are tremendously excited to have Jean Eric on board. He has a great experience in the upper echelons of racing and his experience in F1 and FE is going lend itself to us as being a competitive team.”

During pre-season testing Jean Eric showed the pace fans had become accustomed to in his early career, topping the time sheets on 5 of 6 days. Pace at the Hong Kong ePrix gave indications of the team and driver pairing potential, unfortunately with the team still familiarising themselves with their new surroundings the ultimate result did not quite meet expectations.

Bringing us full circle Marrakesh. Meeting Jean Eric on the eve of the ePrix the Frenchman comes across as relaxed and engaging. The characteristics of the circuit, look set to suit the Techeetah team, something Jean Eric demonstrated in shakedown testing setting the 3rd fastest time.

As we head into race day the air of quite confidence resumes, something which Jean Eric manages to carry all the way through qualifying, bringing his car into the super pole session setting the fastest time during the group sessions. Unfortunately, team teething troubles strike again leaving JEV unable to repeat his earlier efforts and he heads into the race starting P5, which later becomes P4 as Buemi is hit with a post qualifying penalty.

Between qualifying and the race Jean Eric and the rest of the grid compete in an eRace in preparation for the $1 Million eRace taking place in Vegas in the new year. Whist the crowds in Marrakesh are smaller than some may have hoped the fans that are at the circuit flock towards Jean Eric at any opportunity and relish this chance to meet their hero.

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2016 Dan Bathie / Spacesuit Media

Heading into the race as we circulate the grid Jean Eric has a quiet confidence about his ability to turn his P4 into something special. Early race performances vindicate this confidence with JEV moving into a strong P2 ahead of the car swaps. Then disaster, the pit lane speed limiter fails and JEV incurs a drive through penalty. Whilst able to recover and score vital points for the team. Jean Eric is left feeling as though a possible victory has been snatched from his grasp.

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2016 Shivraj Gohil / Spacesuit Media

After such a challenging result you might expect Jean Eric to be frustrated, and there is no doubt he is, not so much for losing a race win, but because he knows the team can do better. After a few hours debriefing, Jean Eric puts the race behind him, firmly resetting focus towards the next race. He is commitment undiminished, Formula E is his home. A home in which he is determined to win.