Meet the Teacher
Very little is known about the dark art of sponsorship by the average fan, and consequentially its importance to the sport is downplayed by most. But, if you don't have the money, you don't go racing - it really is as simple as that. The marketing departments of the ten teams in Formula One are the most vital components because they get the money, and everything else flows on from there. Atlas F1 needed an expert to make it all clear, to teach us all there is to know about the art of selling.
It had to be Jim Wright.
One of the most influential money men in the Formula One paddock, 43 years old Wright is the Head of Marketing for the BMW Williams Formula One team, and is responsible for all sponsorship servicing, merchandising and licensing. If you follow the money trail, you'll find him at the end of it doing another deal for the team.
Born in Reigate, Surrey, and now married with two young children, Wright has a long involvement with the combination of money and racing - starting off with tracking down sponsorship for Belgian driver Thierry Tassan (now the race commentator for Belgian TV) before a brief period of running "my own little Formula Ford team", as he calls it.
Wright had his first taste of Formula One in 1981 when he worked for the ATS team for a year. He then became commercial manager for Eddie Jordan Racing, working with the team for five years through their Formula Three and 3000 programmes before setting up his own business in 1986, a motorsport consultancy, where he focused on finding sponsors, managing drivers and coordinating national series for eight years. A chance meeting on a train changed that.
"I met [then Arrows team boss] Jackie Oliver on a train," Wright recalls, "and he said 'would you ever come and work in Formula One?' I said I'd love to - that's what I've always wanted to do. So I got an offer to come and work for him in an acquisitions role, but I wasn't sure [about it]; Arrows didn't have the best of reputations then - they never have had, have they? - so I phoned Richard West, who was at Williams as head of marketing at that time and I'd known for some years, and I said 'what do you think?'
"Richard said, 'Jesus, you're actually thinking of giving up your own company?!?' I said 'yes, I am'. So he said 'don't go and work for Arrows - come and work for me'."
Wright accepted the offer, and the following year, as West moved on, Wright himself moved up, taking over the role which he has held at Williams ever since. And, despite the fact that his name is not known to many of the fans, he is considered by far one of the strongest and most involved men in Williams - and in the F1 paddock as a whole.
In fact, WilliamsF1 have come a long way since Frank Williams and Patrick head set up the company in Didcot, Oxfordshire, in 1977. One hundred and eleven wins, 122 pole positions, seven World Driver' Championships and nine Constructor' Championships make them the most successful team, on a per race basis, in the history of the sport. The success continues to this day, and the team is in strong positions in both Championships this year. To cap it off, the team has been making headlines this year with new and innovative sponsorship deals, further contribution to an image of success.
"Yes, we're doing well - on the track and off the track, so there's a good feeling and buzz about the place," Wright says. "But when you work for Frank and Patrick you're always reminded that you're only as good as your last result."
Appearances can be deceiving, and for all WilliamsF1's success they do not have anything like the resources some of the other teams enjoy. "You saw last week - Ferrari had four cars [testing] in three different locations. To support that from a position of having personnel, engines, chassis, spares - whoa! - we couldn't do that. I mean, we ran two cars on four days, which are eight-car days. They did twelve car-days last week alone! In one week, twelve car days!"
Can Williams hope to match such an effort? "Pfft," Wright smirks. "Not a hope in hell. No way.
"People write about us and they perceive us as a big team, and we are in comparison to a Jordan or a Sauber or whatever, but I think people don't understand how big a gap there is between us and Ferrari and Toyota in terms of personnel and resources - it's a massive gap. And McLaren as well - McLaren are way ahead of us in terms of resources and personnel.
"You know, in football parlance, it's Aston Villa taking on Manchester United or Liverpool or Chelsea, and I think it's easy to think of us as one of the big teams - and I guess we are relative to the others - but we ain't the size of the big ones. People say, 'oh, Williams have gone off the boil', 'Williams haven't won a championship since 1997', blah blah blah, but no one says 'they're doing a good job with the resources they've got', and you know, the gap is huge - we're not talking five million dollars between us, we're talking tens and tens of millions of dollars in income between us, and that's terribly difficult to make up."
Think Outside the Box
Most of the smaller teams have been complaining this year about the cost of going racing, and FIA President Max Mosley made a swathe of changes to the rulebook to try and save all the teams a few dollars. With the world economy tightening its belt, new sponsorship opportunities would seem to be few and far between. This notwithstanding, Wright and his team have managed to bring a few new sponsors into the team over the last six months - most notably NiQuitinCQ and Budweiser - seemingly bucking the economic trend of the recent past.
But how hard is it to find money for the teams these days? Says Wright: "Well I think the first answer is that it's hard not just these days; it's always been tough to find money. The kind of money that we need to look for is millions of dollars, and those decisions aren't made lightly. I think increasingly, over the last five years certainly, there's so many checks and balances within companies now that you never convince one guy and he says we're going to do it and the deal's done."
Wright is most likely alluding to the case of Jordan versus Vodafone that is now awaiting the decision of the High Court in London. The Jordan team are suing mobile phone giants Vodafone for $150 million UK pounds, claiming that Vodafone had a binding agreement to sponsor Jordan Grand Prix, after global branding director David Haines told Eddie Jordan 'You've got the deal'. Vodafone deny there was any binding contract.
"Ultimately," Wright continues, "if you can convince one guy - and it's normally a marketing director - he then has to go to the other board members and convince them that it's the right thing to do. And that's the tricky part, because quite often we're not given that opportunity to make that presentation, so you're reliant on someone to do that for you second hand. And a question could be asked from the board, or a negative response from the board, and if we were there we'd probably have a good positive reply to it, and you sometimes find yourself in that situation where deals break down because you're not able to communicate to the other decision makers.
"To answer the question, it's always been difficult to find money. At the moment, yes, it's more difficult, but it's difficult to find money in any form of advertising medium - ask the guys who are selling advertising on any television station in the world and they'll say it's more difficult. But I think what this means is that you've got to have more initiative, you've got to think outside the box not only in terms of which companies you are approaching, but also in how you make that approach.
"You have to try and make it easy for them by thinking through why they may say no and have the answers for them. And the way we do it is that we have a team of three guys in acquisitions, and they are responsible for going out and selling. These days I don't do very much in the way of selling, but some of the deals where I had a personal dealing, like some of the sponsors that I brought in, and some of the new leads do still come to me and I will follow through on them. But ultimately it's three guys who work on it, and they work flat out."
With the sheer variety of business sectors that have been or are involved in Formula One, it is a difficult task to track down a new one, but with the pending removal of tobacco sponsorship the marketers have had to search for alternatives. The Allianz deal was one such solution found by Wright, although pitching a sport involving cars at speed and potential crashes to an insurance company was not an easy sell. "Well you're right, and on one of the occasions we were looking after them at the Nurburgring, Pedro Diniz had his massive shunt at the first corner, and we though 'oh my God'.
"But you know, he stepped out of the car and he was unhurt, and we said 'there you go, that's precisely what we're talking to you about - this is a risk management'. And we were talking about developing a risk management image for Allianz which was based around safety in Formula One, and you'll notice all of their exploitation work is to do with safety of cars, safety of drivers, safety of circuits. One of the things they provided to journalists this years was the lexicon of safety - A is for Armco, G is for Gravel Traps, K is for Kerbs and so on.
"I can't pretend it was an easy sell - it wasn't, it was very, very hard - and we also tried to involve the FIA, because the FIA is obviously the governance of safety, and we were keen for them to get involved. And they did to begin with, but some of the other teams complained that the FIA was helping us to get sponsors. I find that small minded, because here we are bringing in a new category of sponsor to Formula One, and there are a lot of insurance companies out there."
Wright did such a good job of selling Formula One to Allianz that they have now extended their sponsorship to include on-track signage at a variety of the circuits, although naturally he feels this is not of much value to a sponsor. "We would contend that the on-track signage is not something that we would support - we have evidence to show that that doesn't work. Paddy McNally, who does sell on-track signage, probably has research to show it does work.
"I think what it does do is give people in the corridors of the companies that take on-circuit advertising a warm feeling, because they turn on their TVs and they see the circuit advertising, and because they are looking out for it they see it and say, 'okay, that's great, it's massive', and maybe also at a time when we weren't winning races that gave them a feeling of comfort.
"I think there was also a lot of corporate one-upmanship going on in Germany at the time, with Deutsche Post taking a lot of on-circuit advertising, and if Deutsche Post did it, Allianz should do it. But certainly we can prove through research that the value of circuit advertising is zero - it's wallpaper. I mean, you watch a football game, can you honestly tell me who was on the perimeter boards?"
You Don’t Ask, You Don’t Get
Most sponsorship deals are initiated in-house, with the team doing their research and then making a pitch to the company they decided on. If you don't ask, you don't get. The initial research is demanding and time consuming, but there is no better way of preparing for the approach.
"Yeah, it's reading the Financial Times, marketing publications… and the web is obviously now a fantastic tool, because any company you can think of that might be interested, if you read that such and such a company might be interested in promoting its product on a global basis you can instantly jump on the web and you've got a handle on who this company is. You've also been able to work out if there are any clashes with any of your existing sponsors, and it even tells you who to make an approach to - the World Wide Web was a godsend to sponsorship seekers.
"We have to also deal with agencies; we don't have any exclusive arrangements with agencies - never have done, never will. There are literally a handful of agencies who we deal with on a regular basis, but you have to be careful because one, you have to pay a commission on an agency introduction and we don't like paying commissions, and secondly you are at the mercy of the agency because obviously the agency wants to make as much money as possible.
"So we could be offering x percent commission while other teams further down the grid will be offering far more generous commission terms, and some agencies will be swayed by that because they're going to make more money so they will persuade the client to go to a team that perhaps is paying them more commission but is not necessarily best for the client. You have to be wary of that, but we would be naive to think that we can cover every corner of the globe and every possible sponsorship opportunity, so we have to be [open] to agency introductions, and we have to have a good reputation with agencies and work with them. But clearly we'd prefer to do it ourselves if possible."
One of the problems with sponsorship agents is that there are so many of them, and some may not be all they appear to be. "There's quite a few [agents], but there's not many who have actually done deals.
"It's interesting because BusinessF1 did a review of sponsorship agents, and if you read that at least three agencies there claim to have got the Compaq deal for us, and yet we don't pay, and never have paid, a single penny in commission to any agency for the Compaq / HP deal. So work that out. So what I'm saying to you is that there are many people who claim to be involved in Formula One sponsorship, and claim to have links with this sponsor or that sponsor - in reality I think very few of them do."
Moreover, in-house approaches or sponsorship agencies are the way to go for deals; the days of a company making a cold approach to a team are pretty much over. "Do companies ring us up and say they want to sponsor us? A few, but they tend to be companies who either don't know really what it costs to sponsor in Formula One these days, or they're companies who you probably wouldn't want to be associated with. The sponsors that you see here" - Wright indicates towards the sponsors logos on the wall of the Williams motorhome - "there's not one of those who rang us up and said 'we want to sponsor you'."
Moreover, in all forms of sales the potential for having a proposal refused is high - salesmen have to develop a notoriously thick skin to survive in the business. Marketers are salesman with a different product, and the risk remains, but Wright suggests there are ways to negotiate a no.
"I think because we're experienced, and the sales group is a very talented and experience group of people. They wouldn't have a machine gun effect - they wouldn't just pump out dozens and dozens of sponsorship proposals each week - it's more a rifle effect.
"But I have to say that at least 80% of your proposals that go out would initially be [answered with a] no - certainly initially. But you'd expect that, I think; I think in any form of sales, no matter what you're selling, it's 80% or more. We've never sort of measured it. You get a feel for what's right and what's going to fly, you develop a nose for it - it's a bit like Inspector Morse, who has a nose for 'this guy did it', and he goes to his boss and he'll say 'where's the evidence, Morse?' And he never had that evidence but he had a nose for it, and then he'll work on finding that evidence. And we're a little bit like that, in that we have a nose for it.
"Allianz is a good example: the guys had a nose for it being right for Allianz, the timing was right, they needed international expansion, and they said 'no' but they kept working on it until they said 'yes'. And I think that's the case - they felt we were going to crack this company and they kept working on it, and that's exactly what happened. So I think you have to develop that, and you develop that in your targeting and therefore your approaches, and if you do that then the waste or the chances of a rebuffal become smaller."
Work the Deal
The timing of a deal is different depending on the company the team is dealing with, but a long lead period of a deal brewing is the norm rather than the exception. "These days the normal gestation period is well over a year, and it's quite normal that the first answer is no. But you try to plug away at it, you try and find out why it was a no and if there was a particular reason for it being a no, and you try and overcome that. If you take Allianz for example, that took over two years to crack, and twice it was no. But we knew that it was a matter of time with them, of convincing them and overcoming the hurdles.
"Compaq, obviously now HP, that was eighteen months. Budweiser was only a couple of weeks, but the difference there was Budweiser had already made up their mind that they wanted to come into Formula One, and had made their approach to Ferrari. We heard that perhaps all wasn't going well with Ferrari, and our guys moved in and made a move, and because the decision was already made to come into Formula One it was all pretty straightforward. But that's unusual - from a cold approach you really have to think in terms of over a year."
And the reason for these long delays between first approach and completion? It all comes back to the money. "Because you're talking about a major marketing decision to come in and spend millions of dollars, or tens of millions of dollars in some cases, to then commit to go in a particular direction for what would normally be a period of at least three years, and probably more like five, it is a big decision for any company to make.
"And clearly people don't have that kind of money just lying around - budgets are planned - and so therefore if you start to talk to someone in March then clearly the budgets have already been planned for that year in most cases, and really if you talk to them, you are talking already for 2004. In some cases if you don't start talking before September then budgets have already been set and then you are talking about 2005.
"So that's one reason, budget planning reasons, but also because it has to be such a thoughtful decision from a company. NiQuitin is probably a good example. We came up with the idea and made the approach [to them] in August, and we managed to track them and set up a meeting in Monza, which was remarkably quick; we were very, very fortunate to be able to do that - the set of circumstances were already in place because they were already in Milan doing a seminar. We got them to Monza and made our proposition, which was 'look, this is a sport that's had thirty years of tobacco messaging - it makes eminent sense for you to come in with smoking cessation products and anti-tobacco messaging'.
"And they got it immediately - they just saw it and said 'yeah'. And it still took from there until April to conclude the deal, and that was because of budgets and convincing people that this was a good thing, there were regulatory problems to overcome, etc. That was fairly straightforward and remarkably quick - from August to April - bloody quick."
Because of the massive amounts of money involved in sponsoring a top running team, there will always be some problems internally for the companies to actually find the budget, and it is something that a team has to be aware of. Often a company will have a number of existing sponsorship programmes in other areas which will need to be looked at again, or even replaced by the Formula One programme. "It's a question of priority, and if a company commits to a programme like this then it's a high priority programme, largely because of the scale - it's clearly a worldwide programme, it's clearly a high expenditure programme - so I think that it's a case of either doing that or other things.
"In order to make a decision 'yes, let's go to a Formula One programme', other things probably have to be sacrificed. What Formula One does, is deliver a global programme, but it also delivers local programmes too, because each of the geographical areas have their slice of Formula One, either through having an event or through having a driver come to their region. There are so many things you can do, so the great selling point of Formula One is that it's a very flexible marketing platform, which clearly is very appealing."
The key to helping a company find the budget to put together a sponsorship programme is these geographical areas - almost no multinational company has a centralised sponsorship budget, and as such it means negotiating with the various regions to pull a budget together. "That's right, and it takes a lot of coordinating. Sometimes you'll find that companies actually don't have a central marketing or a central budgetary control, and that's bloody difficult because then you're in a position whereby you've convinced them of a strategy, and let's say they're in the European / Middle East / Africa region - which is quite a common geographic area for many companies, and then they say 'yeah, we want to do this but we couldn't justify the costs on our own'.
"You've then got to get the Asia / Pacific guys involved, and we'll have to get the South American guys involved, and the North American guys involved. First off you start to wince then, because with the North American guys it's doubtful that they'll get Formula One - Formula One just isn't on the radar in North America. So you think, 'well, we're going to struggle to get anything out of them'. Asia Pac - yes, they have a lot of races there, but you're dealing with enormous time differences and you have to go through the whole convincing process again.
So that's yet another hurdle you've got to overcome - sometimes you can get a concept in, and one division saying 'yeah, we want to do this' but the other divisions saying 'no', and they could be more interested in golf or athletics or whatever, and you just don't know."
Marketing vs Aerodynamics
In a fight between the marketers and the aerodynamicists, the money wins every time - maybe not immediately, but long term the money men will have their way eventually. Aerodynamic changes can affect the look or visibility of a sponsor's logo, which can cost a team money - this cannot happen for a sustained period in today's Formula One. Here's how sponsorship can change the look of a car: "Obviously tradition plays a part, because you've got research from previous years, but regulations change and the aero guys will stick a fence here or a little winglet there and that will render what was previously a pretty good position pretty poor.
"But you have research that tells you certain areas work, and what we've been working very hard at behind the scenes is to change some of the technical regulations so that our sponsorship works. If you look at the moment at the rear wing; at most of the circuits teams run a forward mounted guide vane in front of the main elements of the wing, and that has completely stuffed the visibility of the rear wing in the last four or five years. Because, since some bright spark came up with that, you've got a completely flat plane here right in front of the vertical planes, and obviously the vertical planes are the ones where you see the sponsorship recognition, and a flat plane blocking that.
"And okay, you put repeater stickers on there, but getting that all to marry up is very difficult, and you noticed it last year when we switched from Compaq to HP it just looked awful on the rear wing, because they've got a circle and a lozenge shape and if you put it on a vertical surface[it looks] fine, but when you've got a horizontal surface in front of it, then trying to get it to match up from all angles is a disaster. That's one of the reasons why they've changed to 'invent' on the rear wing this year.
"And for next year, through our work, we've managed to get them banned. So the rear wings will now just have the vertical elements and it'll be similar to how we race in Canada, the kind of circuit where the downforce you need you don't want to have a turning vane in front of it. And we're delighted with that - absolutely delighted. We've got bigger engine covers next year, and bigger rear wing end plates, and that's something which Williams, and McLaren in particular, have forced through.
"Because, clearly, you've got sponsors saying 'look, that rear wing you sold us is not doing a lot for us - at certain circuits it's great, we love it, but other circuits it's just not working for us - and next time around I don't think we're interested in buying that position'. So you say 'hold on a minute, we've got to do something about this'. So Ekram will go to Ron (Dennis), I'll go to Frank and say 'we've got to do something about this bloody rear wing. And it's the same for everyone, so let's get rid of the things'. So what, we lose two percent, three percent downforce, but if everyone loses that…"
Which means the aerodynamicists hate it whenever Wright comes walking down to their end of the office. "Yeah, of course they do! This big engine cover that everyone's got to have for next year was a horror for them, because for the last few years they've been making these engine covers smaller and smaller and smaller, chipping away at it and making the whole car tiny, and obviously getting aerodynamic advantages that way. Then we've come along and said 'no, we need a big engine cover, massive', and they don't like it, but at the end of the day they know that there's no racing without the money coming in, so they understand. And it's the same for everyone."
The term clutter was developed to describe the effect of something being overbranded, where too many sponsor logos are added and as a result they bleed into each other, causing a melange of unrecognisable colours. Look at the side of most Nascar vehicles for an example of this. Clutter is the enemy of a team's marketing department, and WilliamsF1 have been at the forefront of amending traditional on-car signage to minimise the effect. "If you look at research of the visibility of cars with a lot of clutter, then the brand recognition of individual sponsors is pretty poor because of the clutter.
"The way we've structured our deal with BMW is to identify a certain number of positions that can be sold, and you might look at the car and say 'why haven't they put a sponsorship sticker there?' and that's because that area of the car is deemed fallow - it's not for sale. BMW are paying us a lot of money to have the blue and white colour code, to call it the BMW Williams Formula One team, and to have a restricted number of spaces for sponsorship. And that's a right we sold them, and in return they are giving us a lot of cash.
"But what that means is there are fewer brands that can be associated with the team, and the way the livery is designed there is a framework around each sponsorship and there is an exclusion zone around each sponsorship so you don't get this clutter, you don't get sponsors bleeding into each other and this confusion. So it's part common sense, and part because of the deal we have arrived at with BMW. It is difficult, and we have lost deals because of it. We've also had to accept that some sponsors will pay less because they can't have their corporate colours - FedEx is a prime example.
"But that said, I think people do accept that the blue and white and the BMW styling has produced a modern day icon - I wouldn't claim it's in the league of the black and gold JPS [Lotus], but I think it's certainly envied, and it's a very distinctive styling which has been admired. And I think the benefit - and this is something we talked about earlier - is having a limited number of brands within the team, and having those brands in a clear space with an exclusion zone around it to create clear visibility, and what they lose on colouring they perhaps gain on placement and clarity and recognition. So it's a balance. It's tough, but I repeat that BMW have paid for that right, so we gain there, we lose there."
Is colour coding the future of sponsorship in Formula One? Probably; many of the teams are already looking towards a similar move for their on-car signage, if they haven't already. "Well I think they have. McLaren - it hurts me to say it! - probably were the forerunners of this, and they have done a fantastic job and I'm full of admiration for Ekram Sami (Head of Marketing for McLaren) and the work he does. Ferrari have a different approach, but I think they've realized having hundreds of stickers on the car without clear, defined areas doesn't work, so they've had to clean it up over the last few years, but it probably still looks a little bit messy in comparison with our car or McLaren.
"I think that the other teams will follow, but it's difficult because if you go off in a particular direction and say 'that's what we're going to do' and then someone comes along waving a cheque at you and says 'I'll go with you but only if you break that rule', if you're struggling for money then you have to take the cash. And we have to take the cash - we have to find the money.
"The difference with us is we're operating from a higher platform, and we go into battle - or negotiations with sponsors - saying this is a prerequisite. Budweiser is the most recent example, and one associates Budweiser with red, but actually if you look at the bottle or can Budweiser is actually written in blue, on white - it's just the surround that is red.
"So what we say is 'on the car it's got to be blue and white, and these are reasons why, but in your communications, your advertising, your poster sites or whatever, you can clearly introduce the red colouring as long as the car remains faithfully blue and white'. And most smart marketing people accept that, and realise the value of it, and they may negotiate a better deal by saying 'look, we can't have our full corporate colours here therefore we're going to devalue it and pay x, because that's the value we put on it', but that's a compromise you have to reach."
Deliver the Package
Ron Dennis once commented that there was an unofficial rate card to sponsorship in Formula One, whereby it was a simple process to work out a sponsor's bill by looking at where their branding appeared on the car, adding up the total spots against the rate for them, and pressing the equal button on the calculator. But the array of services now offered to potential sponsors has thrown the rate book out the window. "I think it's more complex than that - we don't just sell a position on the car, we sell a package of rights.
"Take a company like Accenture; they don't need branding because they're not selling their services to a consumer market, but they want a hook to hang their hat on. So the programme we would sell to Accenture is based far more on corporate hospitality, advertising rights to use the name, fame, image and reputation of the team, access to key personnel, and using Accenture's service within our business to highlight their skills, and they then clearly follow that through with public relations and advertising. So branding to them is of little consequence.
"Change to Allianz - Allianz wanted to make their brand internationally known; in Germany it's got 95% recall, everyone knows who Allianz are, but outside of Germany up until a few years ago no one had ever heard of Allianz. So branding is important to Allianz, and the other thing that's important for Allianz is for the message which is all about risk management, hence their focus on safety issues. They're an insurance company - insurance is about risk management. So the package of benefits which we would sell to Allianz would be very, very different to those of Accenture.
"So I don't subscribe to a sidepod's worth this, front wing end plate's worth this, whatever - we prefer to look at it and figure out who we are trying to sell to; what actually would suit them? Do they want small visibility or high visibility? What package of benefits would be needed to go with that?
"Another example of this would be Veltins, who we had for five years, and in terms of corporate hospitality they had virtually nothing, so the resources we had to apply to that side of it were minimal, but what they did want was large branding spaces. So we structured the deal according to that, and as such the rate card has to move.
"In simplistic terms, when it was just tobacco money, they were only interested in exposure - never mind the quality, feel the width - just any TV, camera, press, and get the brand on there as bold as you can do. And they've since tried to create a little bit of lifestyle to create an image for that brand, but it's about exposure. That's very, very simple and easy to do; any mug could do that.
"With non-tobacco companies getting the exposure but getting the message across is very, very complex, and getting the correct messaging across for HP is very different to getting the messaging across for Allianz. And so it means that we have to apply a far greater resource in my opinion for a non-tobacco sponsor than for a tobacco sponsor. I guess that some of the other teams, when they actually do come out of tobacco, will have to understand that."
Wright is very careful to ensure that there are no potential clashes between the various sponsors, and to that end the team will never have more than one sponsor from a business field at any given time. Having ensured that, the potential for the various sponsors to pick up business from each other is enormous, and adds value to the sponsorship deal.
"There's two points here. First, there's the point of exclusivity - and every sponsor that we sign with has a clearly defined business group in which they have exclusivity: Castrol is lubricants, Petrobras it's fuel only. Now, Castrol is owned by BP, so clearly if we allow them to have a wider remit then you'd find BP using the image of our team in their forecourts, which they're not allowed to do because we sold that right to Petrobras. And, equally, Petrobras make lubricants, but they're not allowed to associate their lubricants with our team because that's Castrol. So we ring-fence the sponsor's business group and give them exclusivity in that area.
"The second point is what the other sponsors feel about [a new sponsor] - say, Budweiser - coming in. Well, we would forewarn them that this is likely to happen, we would even make introductions before, and we have what we call a sponsor workshop on a regular basis where all the sponsors sit together and they will discuss different areas for mutual cooperation and collaboration.
"Let's take Budweiser as an example - at the next sponsorship workshop they will be given the opportunity to stand up and say 'right, we've come into Formula One, these are the main geographic areas that we are interested in and this is what we are trying to achieve through the association. We will be doing TV advertising; we will be doing print campaigns'. And what we'll do is say 'how can this work for the other sponsors?'
"Let's take some examples: for BMW it may be very interesting at the trade fairs - like the Frankfurt Motor Show or the Detroit Motor Show - to have a Budweiser bar there and Budweiser provide the beer free of charge; more exposure for Budweiser, and for BMW they've got a partner coming in which is high profile and giving them beer at those motor shows.
"Let's take another example: the recent swap we did with Juan Pablo Montoya and Jeff Gordon - well, we might do that again, but it might be Dale Earnhart Jr, a Bud driver, and Ralf Schumacher. And it then may become a jointly funded programme with both Budweiser and BMW paying the costs rather than BMW, who incurred all the costs last time.
"Let's give another example: Budweiser may say that South America is actually a key market for them in terms of sales expansion, and we would be very interested in working with Petrobras - who have a lot of retail outlets, and I mean thousands of outlets across Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Bolivia. So I might put the two of them together and say here's an opportunity for both - from Petrobras' point of view they could get Budweiser in there and make good profit from selling Bud, and from Budweiser's point of view there's an opportunity to increase their distribution in four countries which they earmarked for expansion.
"That may work even further, and at the Brazilian Grand Prix you might get Budweiser and Petrobras contributing to a major forecourt promotion across 7,000 gas stations in Brazil, promoting the BMW Williams F1 team with on-pack promotions on Budweiser exclusively sold through Petrobras retail outlets.
"That hopefully answers your question on that one - that's the kind of things we'd look to do."
Name, Fame, Image and Reputation
Exploitation of rights is the current growth area of sports marketing, and simply put it's a package sold to sponsors which allows them to use the imagery of the team in their marketing campaigns. Recent examples include television commercials for HP, Allianz, Vodafone and Shell, which all included footage of the Williams or Ferrari cars being driven by the current race drivers, as well as the various tobacco companies having pictures of their cars placed in tobacconists.
There is a huge potential in these type of deals, and it is a difficult area to negotiate, as Wright explains: "it's horses for courses - some teams or some sponsors will want to leverage the sponsorship right through to point of sale or even to the point of packaging and labeling on the product; others will want to use the imagery of the team in TV advertising or whatever. I think it depends on who the company is and what their marketing objectives are, and we would sell them a rights package based on what their objectives were.
"And there are other things which we can include - we could include, for example, personal product endorsement from the drivers, and that's something that Castrol uses, for example; they've used it for two years with Ralf, and this year they've just switched to Juan Pablo, and you'll see Juan Pablo actually endorsing Castrol products. That's another avenue, but that's a right we've sold them because we've identified with them and said 'look, you could actually benefit from having our drivers endorse your products at the point of sale', and then you ask which territories are you talking about, because clearly if it's worldwide in all forms of media, all forms of communication, that has a value; if it's in certain countries or certain territories in limited forms of media - say, just in print - then that has a different value. So it's complex."
Which brings us to pricing. The biggest problem with exploitation of rights is that there are few guidelines to compare to in the paddock, which means looking towards other sports for a model: "I think what we've got to do is look at ourselves as a sports brand and compare ourselves with football, golf, tennis, whatever. And you have to look at what David Beckham could charge - Castrol is a good example, because he endorses Castrol in Japan, and you have to say that if David Beckham can command this kind of fee for endorsing this kind of product in this territory then on all territories and in all forms of media, TV, radio, newspapers, whatever, that gives you some kind of guideline.
"And then recently we came across a little bit of information about Luis Figo with Coca Cola in certain territories, and you sort of put all that together and from there you would come up with realistic proposals to put to your sponsors. But it's a matter of recognising that we are a sports brand and realising that our competition is not just the other nine teams in the paddock but that any sponsor can spend its money in golf or tennis or football or the arts or whatever, making that comparison and coming up with something that's plausible."
The most recent sponsor Wright brought onboard with WilliamsF1 is Budweiser, who were introduced to the paddock at the Silverstone Grand Prix. Various reports put the value of the contract at 50 million UK pounds for a five-year deal, which seemed extraordinary for such a small on-car signage. "I think you have to be careful about what you're defining as 50 million," Wright warns.
"That sum was quoted in Marketing Week - they broke the story four weeks in advance of the deal being officially announced, and they clearly have put a figure on it - that figure may be accurate or it may be inaccurate.
"But the point to remember here is, what does that include? Is that just a rights' fee to the team? No. Is it a rights' fee plus exploitation money over a five-year period? Maybe then it would start to make sense. So I think you have to be careful what you are talking about - it's like saying that Rio Ferdinand cost Manchester United 18 million pounds. He costs a lot more than that, because then he's on 70 thousand pounds a week in wages on top of that, so the real cost to Manchester United is far bigger than 18 million.
"So I think you have to be careful with what you're defining as the value of the sponsorship - and most sponsorships, especially of that nature, you would have a big exploitation budget in order to leverage the sponsorship."
The major sponsors of a team are fairly obvious to all - their logos are branded on the car and team member's clothing - but there are far more companies that assist the team in a variety of ways. These deals can be just as difficult to put together as the major sponsors.
"We essentially have three forms of sponsorship - on-car or on-driver sponsorships or something with visible branding; official suppliers that don't have branding on the cars or drivers but have branding within a team context; and then what we would term promotional partners, and they have further restrictions and no branding."
In the case of Williams, some examples of official suppliers include Western Union, Oris watches and Nike; promotional partners include Xilinx. Both provide goods and services to the team, and the remuneration can be either financial or in services. But without branding, it is a difficult thing to establish a price for.
"It's still a sizeable sum of money that we would charge for that, because, remember: the only thing we have to sell is our name, fame, image and reputation. So with a technical sponsor, official supplier or promotional partner we still are selling our name, fame, image and reputation in some shape or form, and there is a value to that. If we diminish that value then we're not being true to ourselves, and we're also undermining all the major sponsors' investment. So we protect that very, very carefully.
"The kind of companies that perhaps want to be involved as an official supplier and have a technical association may be smaller companies, so to them the kind of money we are charging is a lot of money, and at the end of the day they want value for that money. Whether you are the smallest sponsor or the biggest, you still want value for that money - there may be different degrees of value, but it's still value. So we have to work hard on those, and I think we have to put the same kind of resource into finding an official supplier as we do for an on-car sponsor - sometimes it's even more."
To Steal or Not to Steal
The paddock is seemingly awash with technical spies, people who spend their time looking into and assessing new technical innovations on competitor's cars with a view to stealing the idea for their own team. All of the major team principals have complained about this practice at some time, and yet it persists to this day. Given this, it is not much of a stretch to suggest that there are financial versions of these people, whose job is to look into potential deals being done with a view to breaking into it to their own end.
"I'm sure there are - one of the things we learnt some time ago is not to take potential sponsors to races because word gets out very quickly that such and such a team are entertaining company X. They may not go around with branding of that company on their clothes, but you tend to find out; you tend to find out through a hotel room or a plane ticket or something."
Given the vast sums of money needed to run a team competitively, there must be a lot of temptation to try and step into someone else's deal, but Wright insists that it is not necessary: "In the first week of working with Frank he said to me, 'if you're as good as I think you are, you will never take a sponsor from another team', and that quite surprised me, but then it shouldn't do because he's come from the bottom and he had sponsors stolen from him.
"Frank, probably only with Ron Dennis, has a real feel and responsibility for the sport and for Formula One, and you see them on many occasions talking about this, and about the sport as a whole. Frank genuinely doesn't want to see the small teams suffering by us pulling a sponsor from them to our team.
"That said, if a sponsor was looking to move on we would make a play for them, but we would have to prove to Frank they are definitely out of wherever they are, that they're going.
"One such case was FedEx, which had been with Ferrari for three years, and we knew that Vodafone was coming in and we'd heard that FedEx, Telecom Italia, Mobile and Tic Tac were all being squeezed out. So on that occasion we said to Frank 'look, they are out of Ferrari and we want to make a go for them', and he said 'okay, fair enough'. And we went for FedEx and we got them. So that's fair game. But approaching a sponsor that is with another team and under contract, we would not do."
Is this just case of being holier than thou, or is it a case of there being an unwritten rule that all teams won't approach existing sponsors? "I think other teams would, and they do - our sponsors get approached fairly regularly by other teams, and we know about it. But as long as you're doing a good job and looking after that sponsor then there's nothing to fear.
"There are other occasions when a sponsor decides to come into Formula One and then goes shopping within the paddock, and that's normally when an agency is involved and the agency will walk them up and down the pitlane. But it's a pretty undesirable situation, because there will inevitably be other teams who offer them more branding, or a cheaper package for the weekend.
"Quite honestly, if that happens, my approach would be to say 'look, we're the wrong team for you because if you're comparing 50% of a Jordan with 20% of our cars then we haven't sold the value of coming with us properly, or you haven't understood that'. I'm not being derogatory there to Jordan, but clearly teams that haven't had the same success are not getting the same kind of share of voice" - the term used to denote the amount of timed exposure for the car on television during a race - "and if you've got a team that are getting five or six percent share of voice and you've got 50% of that car, is that better than having 10% of a car that is getting 17-18% share of voice?"
But it's not just the sponsors of existing teams that Wright will refrain from pursuing. There are many potential sponsors not in Formula One that are clearly going to be inappropriate for a team, but further to that there are others that will not be accepted by the team's partners and have been laid down as such in contracts.
"Referring to our BMW agreement, there are a number of product categories that we've said we're not going to touch, and that's in our contract - number one is tobacco, because we declared that we didn't want to be with tobacco and BMW doesn't want to be with tobacco; hard liquor - beer is a soft drink in Bavaria so that's fine! - but we would never sign a hard liquor contract.
"The obvious ones - pornography, religion, that kind of stuff - those we obviously won't touch. Then you get into the theoretic marketing associations where you say: is it appropriate for a company of this nature, selling these types of products; does this fit with the kind of image we've created here? What we've created here is a portfolio of sponsors who are industry leaders in their sectors, and if you then went into another business sector and took a company who were right down the bottom end, would that fit? So you might then say no, it doesn't make sense. So that becomes more theoretical then."
But what of legitimate companies who are market leaders but may lead to the other sponsors having philosophical problems with the link? It's a grey area, and as such Wright would err on the side of caution: "Let's say Viagra. We'd probably say that's not right, and that would probably cause offense to some of the other sponsors, so we wouldn't do it.
"And again, I'm going to use Jordan as an example: at the height of the Benson & Hedges sponsorship and when they had tits and bums draped all over the car, I think you'll find that MasterCard said 'we don't like this, this isn't right for us, it isn't fitting the image that we are trying to portray', and MasterCard left. But I guess Eddie has to say it was right for Benson & Hedges, that's what they wanted to do, they were the bigger sponsor - some you win, some you lose."
Keep Them Onboard
Sponsors leave a team for any number of reasons - their initial goals were met (or not) and the contract is finished; the company wants to move into other areas of marketing; or even that the team want to change their sponsorship slate for their own reasons. Ferrari rid themselves of a number of smaller sponsors last year and replaced them in a stroke with Vodafone, but this is not an approach that Wright necessarily agrees with.
"I don't really recall anyone we've booted out; that's not the way we do business. What we try to do is work with companies, and if you sell them a deal for a number of years then we will stand by that deal, and if someone came along offering more money for that position well we'd obviously try to keep them and put them in another position, or defer them for a year or whatever until the contract ran out. But Frank, the way he does business is a deal is a deal, and if it's signed that's what we did and we deliver it. We would never ever renege on a deal - that's something we would never do."
The other side of these comments is that sometimes sponsors need to renegotiate or renege on a contract for reasons not of their choosing, for example if the economy turns and the company's fortune flounder. Most teams have suffered this problem at some time over their existence, but there is an alternative to letting them walk away and leaving a team empty handed.
"If a company had been an on-car sponsor but were struggling or going through hard times and were not really able to stay in that on-car position or whatever, we might offer them the opportunity to downgrade, and one such example is Reuters, who had done three years with us on-car.
"Their business had gone through some lean times, their marketing focus had also changed, and they said 'we'd like to be with you but we can't justify the level of involvement'. So we said 'okay, why don't we look and come back to you with a revised package', and that's what we've done and they're still with us - they've signed for another three years. And that's great, we get to keep a sponsor for six years and that's fantastic.
"We really do pride ourselves on our ability to work with our sponsors, and the reverse of that is Petrobras - they started with us as an official supplier back in 98, and look at them now - they've got major branding within the team, they're a major partner of the team, and that's because we worked with them and brought them up. And clearly we're delivering more value, giving greater resources, greater benefits, but they've scaled up their investment with us as they've seen how it can work for them."
One problem that can arise with sponsors is when they associate themselves more with a driver than the team, as this can bring about a potential conflict of interest between the sponsor and the team. An example of this can be seen with the Jordan team - when they sacked German driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen it is thought that sponsor Deutsche Post were very unhappy, and certainly they did not renew their contract with the team at expiry.
It's a problem that Wright is adamant his team will not face: "we avoid that at all costs, because we have to have the best drivers regardless of creed, colour or religion. We do not discuss this with sponsors when considering drivers for the next year." This is not to say that he will not discuss potential problems with a sponsor, particularly in the face of media discussion.
The media is currently in a frenzy over Juan Pablo Montoya's future, with reports suggesting he could move from Williams to McLaren as early as next year. Wright will no doubt contact the sponsors to keep them up to date with events, so that they present a unified front.
"From the outset we try to make a situation where our sponsors don't have a knee jerk reaction. For example, (German tabloid) Bild published some pictures of Budweiser's logo on the car before the official announcement, and we asked them to leave it to the team to deal with it.
"We inform our sponsors before any announcement so they are informed - it's a matter of trust, and they realise we act in a responsible way. It comes down to a lot of communication, both one on one and in the quarterly sponsor workshops."
Use the Colours
Most of the teams are identifiable by their colours - Ferrari is red, McLaren is silver, Jordan is yellow, and so on. The move to blue and white reflected BMW's racing history (and, to a small measure, WilliamsF1's own), but this move has molded the team into an identifiable package, a brand, which has a flow-on affect on the team's merchandising and branding. It helps make the team itself easier to sell.
"I think it's the future of sports marketing, and in some areas we're well ahead of some of our competitors in this.
"If we compare ourselves to football again, in sponsorship we're miles ahead of football in terms of understanding, but conversely I think some football clubs have been well ahead of us in merchandising and licensing. We're catching up, and we've made mistakes - we first started trying to tackle merchandising and licensing as early as 1997 when we first started a concerted effort on our M&L programme. We made mistakes but we learnt from our mistakes, and I think we probably have the most sophisticated M&L programme now in the Formula One paddock.
"And that helps form a brand - the imagery of the team, the blue and white colour code, the portfolio of sponsors and then the merchandising and licensing, which is carried through to point of sale, carried through to the fans around here and whatever - all that builds up this brand identity. And we've been careful to preserve that, and to encourage it, to the point now where that's identifiable.
"There was a survey recently of the ten biggest sports brands in Europe, and unsurprisingly Ferrari was number one overall, the major football clubs were there - Manchester United, Real Madrid, Juventus - and we were sixth; we were chuffed with that, really chuffed.
"But there's more to come - we're working with good partners in BMW who are helping us in that area; all of our merchandising range is sold in every BMW dealership in the world, and that accounts for a large part of our merchandising sales. And every year we continue to refine our merchandising and licensing capabilities - this year, 2003, we've ventured into UK high streets and we've had a deal with Halfords and Marks & Spencers, and that's been pretty successful, particularly the Halfords one - it's exceeded our expectations, and more importantly it's exceeded Halfords' expectations.
"We're now in the high street, selling products with the Williams F1 brand on it, and if you'd asked me five years ago if that's possible I'd have laughed. But I think there's credibility in our brand, and because of that there's certain implications whereby putting our name to a product helps it sell, gives it a value. No one's cracked the global high street yet, and again I'll compare us to football - if you go into any shopping centre in the UK, Europe, or South America you will be able to find football strips for sale, replica football strips. And you can't do that with Formula One.
"Will that come? I'm not sure, because football is more tribal than Formula One, and I think a lot of fans come to a race without a particular allegiance to a driver or a team - they come here because they just want to see Formula One, as they do for tennis or golf. I think it has become a little more tribal recently, and that has to do with the brands becoming stronger and the identity with certain drivers - and people like Michael Schumacher staying with a team for ten years and whatever helps build that.
"But I think the major breakthrough will come when the major sports brands - Nike, Adidas, Puma or whatever - come to Formula One and say 'right, we've done football to death and there's little or no room for expansion here - Formula One's the next one'. And if they got hold of it and starting running Formula One then I think you'd see a different story. They won't do that with any tobacco-sponsored teams - there's too many problems with regulations - and I think it's generally harder to do with Formula One. If that came then I think you'd see a major difference; I think you'd see a big leap for Formula One."
A Word From Our Sponsor
Tony Ponturo, Vice President of global media and sports marketing for Anheuser-Busch, was at Silverstone for the launch of the new sponsorship agreement with BMW Williams.
DC: What was Budweiser actually looking for when you decided to sponsor a team in Formula One?
Ponturo: "It started with the fact that we were growing our business internationally. We realized that even though we're a strong American heritage beer, we have to start doing things and act in an international way - you need marketing properties that appeal to an international market. We have the World Cup, but that's only every four years and as big as that is we were only about to take advantage of that in a small timeframe.
"So we've been doing our homework and looked at Formula One for about three years now, and we realised the popularity of the sport, that it crosses many, many countries in interest, and that as we use sport as a platform for our marketing communications to beer consumers it fit. And even though there is a perception that Formula One is kind of high end - you know, there is the paddock club and everything - all you have to do is walk around the track and you'll see a lot of hardcore fans that look more like beer drinkers than champagne drinkers!
"So we felt that this was clearly our consumer base, and sort of the last leg in a sense is that it's every year rather than four years, so it gave our country managers around the world a very attractive marketing tool to communicate Budweiser as we go out each time."
DC: You said it took three years to make the decision to go with Formula One - what was involved in that timeframe?
Ponturo: "Well that's sort of when we started thinking that, okay, we're growing an international business; we may not be there yet from the threshold standpoint in the sense of market share and growth, a sense of more than one or two countries doing well and we wanted a broader breadth of countries. There wasn't anything magical about that timeframe other than that's when we started talking about it.
"We went to a race in Monaco just to understand what the opportunities were, and then out of constant communication someone said maybe it's time. And our country managers were saying 'we could use some more (help)' - if you use the UK for example, we have a very high image, we're an American import with a premium price, and that has created a great business for us, but how do we go to the next level of growth? And now you have to start bringing things to the consumer, hopefully that are relatable, and it just started seeming like the time was right."
DC: Formula One has a very large fan base, but also a reasonably intelligent one - was that something that particularly appealed to you?
Ponturo: "Certainly outside of the US, because I think there's two different plays here - as an imported beer with a premium price you're fitting a certain image and a certain niche, either from an aspirational aspect or certain people fit that personality that the brand projects. In the US we sort of want to be all things to all people, and if you reverse it out the import business in the US is attracting consumers who are or have a sophisticated image, that are high end, and they look at some sports that (others) are not interested in.
"So as passionate as the NASCAR fan is in the US, someone who may be a beer drinker but may not be into NASCAR but has quietly been passionate about Formula One - and I think we're learning, because we don't have all the answers yet, that there's a lot of people out there in the US who are Formula One fans.
"And as we have looked over the years to broaden the personality of Budweiser, to say this brand does have a place in a more sophisticated environment. We're starting to use some non-sports things for this as well, like trying to tie in on entertainment things like sponsoring the Academy Awards and things like that, that this Formula One is kind of the same personality - high end, a little bit above the crowds, sophisticated.
"When you're tying in the sponsorships in many respects you are tied into the personality of that sponsorship, and I think it works for both sides because I think what we have felt from the BMW Williams people is that we bring a personality to the sport because of our heritage and our traditions. I think both sides feel they can benefit from that sponsorship."
DC: What was it that brought you to BMW Williams? It's a fairly open secret that you were in talks with Ferrari, but what made you come across, and how did the deal change?
Ponturo: "We did talk to Ferrari as you say and then obviously BMW Williams, and we felt that all the pieces of the sponsorship and the partnership had to work. Simply put, and probably the biggest motivator other than our respect for Frank Williams and his team - and we were incredibly impressed with his people - but they from the start were very impressed with wanting us to be a part as well, and they really wanted our marketing benefit as well.
"That intrigued us a lot, because there has to be a comparability and a respect for how you're going to market this brand, and also the combination of other sponsors; we are a beer company, how is that all going to work. And we just felt that their vision and their openness to say 'we want you to put point of sale up', 'we want merchandising', 'we want television commercials'. BMW, HP and FedEx - speaking to them - are looking forward to that additional exposure as well. You put that all together - the vision, the partnership, the people - and it all just made sense for us to go with this team, and it's been underlined ever since we signed the deal."
DC: I love the concept of sponsorship workshops that Jim told me about, where you can all brainstorm ideas together, and I guess that must have had a lot of appeal to you. But, I must say I was surprised at the size of the logo on the car - does that reflect that there was far more to the deal than just the exposure on the car that brought you over?
Ponturo: "I think that for the dollar investment we came in with the value on the cars and on the drivers sleeves was fair value relative to the costs of sponsorship in Formula One. The additional value we see is how we can market that association - we've already spoken with Jim about how we can do other cross promotions with the other motor racing programmes.
"They did the exhibition with Jeff Gordon and Juan Pablo, and that was sort of a fun thing, and we sit here with Dale Earnhart Jr and Brandon Bernstein within HRA, and I guess Juan Pablo wouldn't mind going down a dragstrip at 300 miles an hour either, so how do you sit down and have some fun with that? And of course with HP and FedEx there are ways to think creatively about how to use it. So, as you said, that's some of the stuff that intrigued us - we liked the fact that there's some fellow partners.
It's a bit of a disconnect from what people have known us for - it's a red car and you own the whole imagery - but I think in the perspective of what we were willing to invest today in Formula One that's the proper value of what you are going to get from what we invested, and then how we all work together to market this is the key. In our minds this is a 25 year play - when you get into Formula One you're not looking to get out even after the five year deal ends. So I think this is a very, very good step and where it goes no one really knows, but maybe in years six to ten the look or appearance on the car will be what people are more familiar with (laughs)."
DC: Does this represent a dip of your toe in the pool, to see what it's like, and then go from there?
Ponturo: "Yeah, I think one of the attractions for us is that you build up a partnership that you're going to build on, and in five years our business will be different and hopefully it grows and you'll see this as a bigger piece. So how you expand will be open to conversation, but from our standpoint we're not getting ahead of ourselves - this is something that will only grow, not diminish."
DC: One thing that intrigues me is the fact that all sponsorship on the Williams car must fit in with their blue and white colour scheme. Obviously, Budweiser is a red brand, albeit with blue writing. So how did that fit in with your ideas?
Ponturo: "Well, there was some apprehension, and we brought the conversation to them that 'wouldn't a red Budweiser look very nice on the car?'. Obviously well before we came into the picture the feeling was that blue and white was the theme, and to their credit it simply was a non-starter for them, so I think as a company we need to say 'okay, do all the other attributes outweigh the fact that Budweiser won't be red on the car?'
"What they were very open to was work red into anything you want as long as the car is blue and white, and that's were we'll bring in the red from a sense of point of sale, outdoor and magazines that we do, and I know that we want to work very hard to do a television commercial too - we've done something very quick for this weekend, that basically pieces together some footage and introduces Budweiser as a new sponsor, but that's something we're going to take great time with when we develop this.
"Because, you know, we want to respect the tradition of Formula One, the position of Formula One and the fans, who have probably been far more involved and interested before we are. And there are going to be people looking to see how we use this property and so we're going to want to put our best foot forward from the initial stages."
DC: I'll be interested to see how it works, as yours is the most notably different of the sponsors logos, but for what it's worth I think the blue and white clears up a lot of the clutter
Ponturo: "It seems that it's sort of an all for one thing, in other words lets make the whole thing work together, and obviously they've thought this out. So even though there's no doubt that BMW and HP and probably even FedEx have invested more in this team, we walked into this feeling that there was a 'how do you get your value out of this as equals' and that again was one of the uniqueness of this team - we weren't having to feel like we were earning our stripes the first day, it's more like you're one of the team now, and let's all work together to make this happen."
DC: As the newcomers to Formula One, how does this place strike you operationally? It's clearly different to anything you're used to back home
Ponturo: " I think you respect an organization that's been very successful and has a lot of heritage, and the last thing you want to do is come in and sort of be the know-it-all, because in this sport we're not, and coming back to respecting BMW Williams colour scheme you don't sit there and be a bully - first of all it's not going to work, and secondly you just accept it and move on.
"I think we feel very strongly, and I think it's worked for us, that it has to be a partnership and about building friendships, and that it's ultimately sell the beer - the product is not an expensive product, and it's something that people can change their mind about not only every day but every hour if they want to, and so you've got to project an open and honest image.
"We continually learn that the consumer is a pretty smart person and he'll catch on pretty quickly, particularly as the new generation comes through and they've been bombarded with advertising and marketing and everything going on and they weed through pretty quickly the imposters, and I think if you speak to the major sports in the United States - whether it's the NBA or football or baseball - they'll say for what these people spend they're maybe our most cooperative sponsor. I think we're smart, and I think we know how to get the right value out of it, but I don't think we're a prima donna."