Interviews

Robin Fenwick: Motorsport marketing

10 min read

12 August 2013

Robin Fenwick hopes to establish Right Formula, the only marketing agency that specialise exclusively in the world of Formula One sponsorship.

Name: 

Robin Fenwick

Role and company: 

Managing Director at Right Formula

Employee numbers: 

20

Company turnover (and most recent ebitda/most relevant profitability metric): 

We have doubled the revenue of the company each and every year since its creation in 2009. This year we are set to treble our turnover compared to 2012.

Growth forecast for the next three years: 

It’s challenging to predict how we will develop over the next three years, but we are putting all the necessary measures in place to continue grow at the same pace as we have for the last three years.

In under 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace: 

Right Formula are the only Sports Marketing Agency that specialise exclusively in the world of Formula One Sponsorship; working for brands who want to achieve a strong ROI. We employ individuals with vast experience in the sport who are solution orientated and can navigate what can prove a complex industry.

What’s the big vision for your business? 

To become established as the first point of call for any brand wishing to investigate motorsport marketing. In order to do this we need to increase our profile with the right audience – word of mouth is still vital as it’s a relatively small industry, but ultimately we want our work do the talking and communicate the positive results we’re delivering for our clients. It helps that we are becoming known as a truly strategic agency within our industry given how we are measuring and articulating the results against our clients’ objectives. Today it is essential that KPIs are set in advance of embarking on any relationship and we assess the effectiveness of their activities. If we can’t record and present the outcomes clearly, the sponsorship is not worth embarking on in the first place.

Current level of international business, and future aspirations: 

We’re fortunate to work with some large global clients, such as Hilton Worldwide, BlackBerry, SAP, BSkyB, Aon and Avanade, which allow us to operate internationally. The Formula One central hub will always be in the UK because of the location of the teams and the governing body’s commercial arm; Formula One Management (FOM). There is a desire, however, to have on the ground presence in important markets such as: New York, Singapore and Dubai. It is vital that we continue to keep a small agency mentality by offering a highly personalised service as this is what has led to our success to date. So often we see small companies grow quickly, but not manage their growth effectively. This often results in their service and ultimately their reputation suffering. As we (hopefully) continue to expand, it’s important to remember what made you flourish in the first place.

Biggest career setback and what you learned from it:

I’ve been fortunate enough not to have any major setbacks in my career. But Right Formula nearly went down a number of routes that would have forced us to diversify, which may have given us a wider appeal, but also increased our competition. Looking at a variety of revenue streams from different areas of sports sponsorship seemed very attractive initially, one of which we seriously considered was running mass market hospitality packages in the form of a tour operator. This would have been extremely time consuming and would require us to work within a crowded market place. We realised that if we move away from our core expertise, where we can be market leaders, we run the risk of being ordinary at many activities and exceptional at nothing.

What makes you mad in business today?

Individuals who accept ‘No’ as an answer, really bothers me. One of the most important pieces of advice I give my team on a daily basis is to be solution orientated. There are always complexities within business which may mean you have to change your direction and think on your feet. This is what keeps the job interesting; these challenges should be seen as opportunities rather than a blockade.

What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years?

There is a chance Bernie Ecclestone may not continue in his current role as head of the commercial arm of Formula One, FOM. It might seem strange to be talking about one person having such an influence on the business, but over the last few decades he has been at the centre of; where the races are taking place, which teams are taking part, deciding on the broadcasters that provide coverage and of course who will be global partners (sponsors) of Formula One. The sport is robust and has a strong foundation, but there is no obvious successor. So, there will certainly be changes when Bernie departs.

Can businesses in your sector/industry access the finance they need to grow? If not, what can be done to improve things?

Broadly speaking, Formula One appears an extremely expensive and exclusive industry from the outside. This view is actively encouraged by the individuals and entities involved, so it remains a prestigious sport. But under the skin, the picture can be very different and some of the companies involved have to operate with very limited budgets. Like any business, accessing funds is not easy and any investment must represent value for money. We are fortunate that even investors can be emotionally attracted to the sport given how close they can get to it (which is also what makes F1 such an attractive hospitality proposition). Our particular company, however, doesn’t require large finances in order to grow. Our success is based on relationships and reputation, meaning more pressure on finding the right employees for the roles we want them to perform, as well as working alongside the right industry partners who can help deliver the results clients are seeking.

How would others describe your leadership style?

Adaptable! I would say that it depends on the individual that I’m working with. If it’s a more junior team member, it would be more authoritative to provide a greater level of direction and assertiveness to ensure they learn the best way of working as they are (quite understandably) less experienced. I’m more democratic with senior team members as quite honestly I have surrounded myself with individuals who are better than me at certain tasks. If I don’t collaborate and accept their opinions, they will be less motivated and, ultimately, slow the growth of the company. In line with this, I believe it’s vital to empower team members and give them the authority to make decisions and if they’re senior enough, manage team members in their own style.

Your biggest personal extravagance?

Sad as it sounds, I don’t have many personal extravagances – we’re actually reinvesting the profits into the business at the moment. I did purchase a Range Rover Evoque last year….although my wife uses it more than I do!

You’ve got two minutes with the prime minister. Tell him how best to set the UK’s independent, entrepreneurial businesses free to prosper:

Most start-ups fail because the owners haven’t prepared for all the areas they will need to be competent. Those wishing to start a business for the first time should attend mandatory government funded ‘entrepreneur’ sessions that allow them to fully understand all the elements that go into running a successful business. There would also be benefit in running an ‘elite programme’ for individuals with the best business plans (judged to be most likely to succeed) who would be allowed to trade for the first three years of their business tax free. These companies could also be provided with a mentor to monitor their success and guide the owners as appropriate.