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FT inks F1 ROKiT Williams deal to 'challenge perceptions' and drive subscriptions


By John McCarthy | Media editor

April 25, 2019 | 5 min read

The Financial Times is continuing its aggressive pursuit of subscribers with a sponsorship of Formula One team ROKiT Williams Racing.

The multi-year partnership is in place to raise awareness of the organisations on a global scale, both benefiting from combined audiences, marketing assets, and integrated sponsorships. Speaking to The Drum, David Buttle, FT global commercial marketing director, said there are two levels to the partnership.

Rockit Williams

The Financial Times partners with Rockit Williams

First, there is Williams's relationship-building and branding assets paired FT's audience data and storytelling which will be used to offer luxury and B2B brands integrated solutions in content and advertising. On top of that potential revenue driver is the reach benefits, the FT is placing itself in front of around 500 million F1 viewers.

"Aligning the FT brand with this high-performance, global sport will challenge perceptions about us and excite a new audience of potential readers."

On the surface, it may look like an unusual pairing but the brand's research found that "25% of top-tier sponsorship deals involve B2B brands".

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"These businesses want the broad brand-building that they get from an F1 sponsorship deal, and targeted storytelling capabilities like those offered by the FT. Together we can create something new, and which neither of us could do alone."

It comes, as Buttle said, while "many media owners are retrenching". With the title bypassing one million paid subscribers recently, this partnership is an indication the FT is in "growth mode".

The objective is to position the brand, as per its recent marketing campaigns, for "curious, globally-minded audiences". He added: "The increased brand reach we will get through this partnership will place our brand in front of a new group of potential readers, and on a truly global scale."

As official partner of ROKiT Williams Racing, The FT will be placed on the inside of the rear-wing endplate of the FW42 during the rest of 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship. The team is currently placed 10th in the standings after three races but a lot can change over the course of a season. But performance aside, Buttle claimed the partnership is a "natural fit".

He concluded: "It brings together two iconic British brands, both operating globally and in the top flight of their respective fields. We also have complementary, dovetailing commercial assets which, brought together, will create exciting opportunities for existing and new partners.

Claire Williams, deputy team principal of ROKiT Williams Racing, added: “In only a few short years, the landscape for marketing and brand exposure has changed significantly for all sports, including Formula One. The opportunity to collaborate with the FT to embrace these new forms of media and digital opportunities is hugely exciting for both our team and our existing partners, and I am looking forward to seeing how the partnership develops.”

Telecoms firm ROKiT became the partner of the Williams Racing team back in February, and now the FT joins the side. The ROKiT branding adorns the new Williams Mercedes FW42 race car, and features prominently on the race suits and helmets of Williams’ race drivers, plus all trackside personnel team kit. The car debuted 17 March in Melbourne, and will now undergo some alterations to adopt the prestigious media title.

It comes as the title looks at unusual ways of getting its brand out into the world. Most recently, The Financial Times leaned into live experiences by taking its journalists to the big stage for a theatrical premiere where it will look to experiment with new ways for fans to engage with the brand.

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