Increasing roles

Sadie racing in her 1929 Austin Seven, photo by Mike Mullard

Vintage car sprint and hill climber during the weekends and Formula 1 partnership guru during the workweek, Sadie Wigglesworth set up her brand partnership consultancy, Hatfits, in 2013. We’ve decided to talk to Sadie about her time in Formula 1 and what her business looks like today.

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During your time as Head of Sponsorship/Media at Force India Formula 1 team and as Commercial Manager at Aston Martin Racing, what tendencies have you noticed that you see flourishing today?

I think partners’ requirements remain diverse and there will always be brands that are looking for a large amount of all kinds of brand awareness, given their particular situation at that moment in time. Likewise, there will always be brands that, due to sudden growth, are looking for partnership programmes that can help them bring new employees together in a controlled and focused manner, and what better way than through a sporting platform? However, there is definitely a trend towards partnerships that offer a demonstrable return on investment, i.e. partnerships that include a licensing element, such as a fashion or timing partner. These types of partnerships, in my experience, offer easily measurable benefits to both parties.

Sponsors seem to be after fan numbers. In your experience, what other factors do they find significant when looking for a partnership with a Formula 1 team?

Again, it depends very much on each business’ individual objectives at that moment in time and will be largely based on their forward five-year plan. Emerging markets and a particular team’s fan base in those markets will always be important, based on a potential partner’s current and planned international presence. On-track performance of a particular team will also be a consistent factor, although it is only one consideration in a large mix of variables. In my experience, the quality of client service offered by each Formula 1 team is a key factor in a partnering brand’s decision-making. The process of pulling together these partnerships can be lengthy and the amount of due diligence significant, so brands (and teams) want to form relationships that can last the distance with people that they ultimately like and respect.

This reminded me of the power that relatively simple hospitality, race car demonstration and a Q&A exercise can have.

Is the role of such things as fan events, show car demonstrations, social media projects, creative marketing initiatives, interactive videos changing in motorsport?

I think it’s hard to deny the increasing role of social media in a fan interaction with any type of sport. The way that we collectively consume media has changed so much and so quickly that teams, brands and agencies have to work hard to both be relevant and innovative. However, it is important to continue to recognise the importance of some of the “old-style” activations. A recent motorsport event that my company put together for a drinks brand, who wanted to entertain their key distribution customers, reminded me of the impressive power that relatively simple hospitality, race car demonstration and a Q&A exercise can have. Those of us that are lucky enough to work in sport can so easily forget its ability to charm and bring people together.

As the owner of Hatfits, how would you compare working with Formula 1 and with other sectors now?

We work with many of the Formula 1 teams, along with teams in other motorsport championships, circuits, motoring clubs. We have also brokered partnerships in sailing, horse racing and the arts, which has provided a real insight into how rights holders outside motorsport pull together their partner families. There is no denying that the various Formula 1 teams have some very strong and diverse assets to offer partner brands. The sport itself continues to captivate, although I believe many brands discard the idea of a partnership with a Formula 1 team based on various misconceptions about investment levels, attitudes and audience engagement. Once you get past these misconceptions and encourage a brand to explore, the teams are, by and large, very well set up to prepare compelling proposals and benefits. Other rights holders can offer this level of service too, but in Formula 1 the experience is more consistent.

Is it easier or harder now to be noticed for professional companies like yours, since there is so much data on the Internet, but there’s also a lot of low-quality data?

Well, we are certainly relationship-driven, this means that many of the clients we work with are people who we have known and worked with for ten years or more. Of course, over time many of those connections have moved to other companies or recommended us to other likeminded individuals. Therefore, I would say that our reliance on the Internet for business is minimal. Our approach is to develop relationships with brands and then use our extensive network within motorsport to find the right solution for them, supporting them throughout that relationship, whatever it may be. There are, of course, a lot of companies that operate in the same space as us, but I feel that having personally worked at a senior level team side in Formula 1 and sports car racing, we are one of few agencies that are able to bring that level of insight to brands looking to form these type of partnerships. We are also very discreet about what we do and the introductions we make, which can make for a rather challenging time updating our social media channels! In essence, I guess we are less about promoting my company and more about doing the best job we can for our various clients, rights holders and brands alike.

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