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What's with the Williams-bashing?
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What's with the Williams-bashing?
Posted By:   |  16 Feb 2009   |  6:21 pm GMT  |  13 comments

I’ve seen a fair bit of negativity around Williams lately in the media. I guess you can see why on one level, when you look at some of their sponsors; Royal Bank of Scotland, which is 70% owned by the British government, Baugar the Icelandic investment vehicle which was hammered by the credit crunch and Phillips, which recently announced thousands of redundancies.

They also burned through a fair bit of cash in the last few years trying to keep up with the front-runners. So on the face of it, they seem to be a target, a team which must be under threat.

But Williams is actually quite well placed to weather the F1 recession. Because of the deal it did with Bernie Ecclestone and its long history in the sport, it’s share of the commercial revenues is fairly high and as budgets come down, forcing the front running teams to learn how to do it with less, Williams has a head start in the area of running a tight ship. But they need to rediscover the art of building fast cars.

The team is quite dismayed by the impression being given at the moment that they are in trouble. I’m told that four of their partners have upgraded with sponsorship deals, with Phillips leading the way.

And 2010 sponsorship is already at 90% of the 2009 level, which is more than Renault can boast at the moment, following the news that title sponsor ING is pulling out. So if there is such as thing as an ‘at risk’ list in F1 at the moment, I think Williams is some way down it. What you have to admire is that the team refuse to accept playing in the second division, they still have top team ambitions even if they cannot afford to back them up with cash at the moment.

ING’s deal is a great example to companies of how you can use F1 make a huge difference to your worldwide brand recognition. It’s been a very well managed sponsorship, which is coming to an end because of the crisis in the banking sector.

What will be very interesting in the next few seasons will be what the teams tell the sponsors when they ask for a discount because the team’s budgets have been slashed by up to 50%. The value of a sponsorship is based, not on a team’s budget but on the return on investment they get from the media value of their on-screen time. That figure won’t change in the coming seasons, even if the budgets come down. So teams argue that the sponsorship fee should remain as high as ever. It’s a lot cheaper than advertising, basically.

This particular point is one of the main reasons why McLaren are always cool on talk of budget cuts, because they don’t want their blue-chip sponsors asking them for half their money back..!

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13 Comments
  1. Robert McKay says:

    “The team is quite dismayed by the impression being given at the moment that they are in trouble.”

    They don’t help themselves with their operational figures showing large losses and comments along the lines of “we won’t be able to/be allowed to borrow any more money”, along with being advanced some from Bernie (that they are owed, to be fair).

    Maybe they are in reasonable shape, but I think it’s natural that people worry about them a bit. Their position is more or less unique in Formula 1 now, and in a way Williams are just about the most important team in F1, as I still believe their model (i.e. get prize money and some sponsorship and go racing) is the model all the teams should be running to. Rather than this being reliant on either wealthy individual with successful business or wealthy manufacturer with very successful business.

  2. This has nothing to do with Williams and everything to do with Formula One. I doubt that had RBS been sponsoring a Premiership Football team such a fuss would have been made about how they spent their money. The same issue was evident when the BBC won the rights to F1, with everyone complaining that they didn’t want to pay for F1.

    If this is not the case then why are RBS’s other sporting commitments in tennis and golf not being mentioned? Ok, so they are not worth as much as the Williams deal but it all comes from the same pot.

  3. I don’t think it’s aimed squarely at Williams. I think it’s transference from RBS, who are getting a pasting at the moment, and quite rightly too you have to say.

  4. rpaco says:

    1) Philips are shedding 10,000 staff this year worldwide. I would strongly suspect that the 2010 and onward, promotional budget will be drastically amended. Have Williams got the money for 2010 in the bank? If so which bank is safe?

    2) For the UK market, the switch to the BBC (dare I mention it) with no ad breaks, will affect the OTS (Opportunity to see) rate and reduce it directly to track-side hoardings and staged views (ie the the podium presentation of huge cups and/or medals and the drivers themselves who are walking billboards) as well as the cars themselves. The cars for me are mostly ineffective because wordmarks and/or logos need to be recognisable from a distance at odd angles and whilst moving fast, most simply are not. How much is a side pod which flashes past for a fraction of a second? If pit stops are reduced in future this will lessen the OTS even further.

    Only the main sponsor gets full recognition by defining the body colour of the car.

    The very best in my view was the JPS Lotus closely followed by Marlborough McLaren, these were immediately recognisable at any distance purely from the colours . If any car was run in Marlborough red or JPS Black and gold now, with no wordmark or logo at all it would still invoke instant brand awareness. Remember too, that all the ad breaks were also topped and tailed by the ITV sponsor (which was Honda one year and I think Sony last season (who have shed even more jobs))

  5. Colin S says:

    “Only the main sponsor gets full recognition by defining the body colour of the car.”

    Often the main team colour is the reason sponsors go to them. Williams has historically done a pretty good job keeping its white and blue colouring for the most part.

  6. gabal says:

    Pit stops will not stop to exist, unless 2-compound rule is droped cars will still have to pit for fresh rubber…

  7. rpaco says:

    Colin S says: “Often the main team colour is the reason sponsors go to them. Williams has historically done a pretty good job keeping its white and blue colouring for the most part.”

    Nah! It’s money, if Coca-Cola came and offered to sponsor Williams their cars would turn into Coke bottles pretty quickly! :-)

  8. Robert McKay says:

    “I doubt that had RBS been sponsoring a Premiership Football team such a fuss would have been made about how they spent their money.”

    I think there were some mutterings about Northern Rock and Newcastle FC, to be fair, although probably not in the same league as the RBS/Williams bashing.

  9. Steven says:

    The Williams team will always be one of my favourite teams in the modern era of Formula One. They are the last of the independent teams really (Foce India has a billionaire owner). I hope Frank Williams keeps the team going into the next decade. Formula One without Williams would be a sorry state.

  10. antonyob says:

    Im suprised Williams have stuck with Sam Michaels for so long. The downturn in their fortunes starts pretty much when he took over from Patrick Head. Ok Patrick was a genius but all the same, why no media ruffling of Sam’s feathers?

  11. rpaco says:

    antonyob: Perhaps the Black Prince is still there and in charge of media relations. ;-)

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