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Venturi Formula E team to ensure value for title sponsor ROKiT in disrupted season

(Photo by FIA Formula E, Zak Mauger/FIA ABB Formula E via Getty Images)

ROKiT Venturi Formula E team principal Susie Wolff will hold discussions with Jonathan Kendrick, co-founder of title sponsor ROKiT, on any return of value due to the brand given the disrupted Formula E season.

Wolff and US-located Kendrick were speaking remotely to a group of invited journalists ahead of the final two rounds of the six races staged in Berlin – the rescheduled series staged behind closed doors because of the Covid-19 pandemic:

Asked by SportBusiness on the potential for discounted fees, Wolff said there would be discussions when Kendrick returned to Europe. She said: “It’s all about being realistic – we are in our first year with ROKiT and they are a very, very valuable partner and we have high respect for Jonathan and what he’s achieved with his brand.

“The championship isn’t what he signed up for originally and as soon as Jonathan can get over to Europe there will, of course, be a discussion in terms of have we delivered what he’s expected, and what we can roll over to next season if we can get back to normal racing. But it’s also looking at ways we actually manage to provide and deliver on the partnership even in the pandemic – doing as much as we can over digital technology.”

Wolff added: “Venturi’s philosophy and my philosophy is that this a long-term partnership. I’m not here to maximise in the short term and I want Jonathan to be happy and happy on his return on investment…there’s absolutely no doubt that we’ll find a solution.”

For the Berlin series, the team has added ROKiT’s German ABK Beer brand logo to the side pods of both cars to promote the brand globally and in northern Germany where the brand is not so well known.

But ROKiT’s key activation point in Formula E is around the brand’s ‘ROKiT Cities’ product – a multi-billion-dollar initiative to install mesh wifi networks across the world.

Kendrick said that ROKiT Cities had now signed up 72 cities to the network and since joining the Venturi team, it had signed up cities in countries such as Mexico, Chile, Guatemala, Colombia and Argentina. “The fact that it races in cities has helped us promote ROKiT Cities and it has done brilliantly,” he said.

Kendrick added that he was happy with his first year in Formula E and had seen “fantastic” coverage of the sport live on Fox Sports and ESPN in the US in recent weeks.

Wolff added that the sport will also be broadcast on free-to-air television in Germany next season, as F1 goes to pay-TV in the country. The series yesterday (Tuesday) announced a multi-year rights deal with commercial broadcasting group ProSiebenSat.1.

ROKiT acquired the Venturi title position in 2019, in a three-year deal, from 2019-20 to 2020-21. The brand was also title sponsor of the William F1 team in a deal worth about £22m (€24.4m/$28.7m) per year, which was terminated early in May.

Industry sources told SportBusiness that one of the disputes between Kendrick and Williams F1 deputy team principal Clare Williams was the extent to which the red colours of the ROKiT brand should dominate the blue colours of the Williams team.

Kendrick told SportBusiness the ability to brand the Venturi colours entirely in ROKiT red was ‘pivotal’ to the Formula E deal. He said: “It was the most important thing – we normally look as if we are the whole sponsorship package, we just don’t want to be a little badge on a car somewhere, that’s not really our scene.”

ROKiT group operates in the drinks, telecoms, film and mobile phone industries, and Kendrick said his businesses had been protected and unaffected by the pandemic but that the Paul Mitchel-branded haircare business of ROKiT co-founder John Paul DeJoria had been badly hit.

Kendrick said that he would “love” to become more involved in the Venturi team by buying a stake at some point. Wolff said the team would consider it if it was “something that was right for the team and the mid to long-term future of the team”.