A Conversation w/ Marco Parroni, Head of Global Brand Programs, Partnerships and Sponsoring, Julius Baer

If you were to picture a 130-year old Swiss Bank, chances are you’d imagine a black and white photo with a bunch of bearded guys wearing suits and smoking pipes in a wood panelled room.

Fast forward to 2014 and imagine that you’re the head of marketing. How do you pivot the brand for a new modern investor interested in sustainability, technology, and impact, but maintain its history of maximising wealth creation? How do you offer your clients and prospective clients a truly differentiated platform and experience that engages them to lean in and learn about new technologies and new innovation? And how do you make a global statement that gives you brand reach and scale in your key markets?

The ever-smiling and energetic, Marco Parroni, Managing Director and Senior Advisor, Head of Global Brand Programs, Partnerships, and Sponsoring of Julius Baer shared some of his insights into the drivers and impact of Julius Baer’s global sponsorship of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship: 

Julius Baer had not engaged in large sponsorship before, why did it make sense for Julius Baer to come above the line with a large sponsorship deal in Formula E? 

The crucial factor in Julius Baer’s decision to sponsor Formula E was to increase awareness of our brand around the globe. At the time, our traditional sponsorships of art, culture and classical music events were no longer enough to help grow the brand internationally and attract new clients. From the very beginning we also recognised the higher purpose of the Formula E racing series to promote the adoption of electric mobility for cleaner, healthier, cities and communities. In 2014, electric mobility was still more of a utopia than an urgent reality, but we joined the founders and pioneers, Jean Todt and Alejandro Agag, and decided to support the new motorsport series and its higher purpose.

What was the business case behind it? How did you sell it to the business? 

There was no detailed business case behind it. We went full in – as a sponsor and investor – almost before anyone else seriously believed in Formula E—actually even before the first race took place! At Julius Baer, we are proud to be the founding Global Partner of the world’s first fully electric racing series. Our pioneering spirit has paid off tremendously – Formula E is now the most important racing series in the world and it also plays a substantial role in shaping the future of mobility.

What, if anything, do you think is unique about a partnership in motorsport versus other sports? 

Formula E is not only different from sports but even differs significantly from traditional motorsports. Formula E does not take place on a racetrack, but in the middle of a city, which makes things complex, but at the same time very entertaining. You are much closer to the action, the cars all have the same chassis, the same battery and same tyres, so the driver field is much more competitive than in other championships such as Formula One. This is truly exciting. On the other hand, Formula E is not just a car race, it is a race with a purpose, creating enthusiasm for electric mobility, and promoting research and development. As a sponsor we not only get to be involved with the great emotions and enthusiasm but also exposed to new innovations, technologies, and approaches to mobility.

When the business was budgeting for the sponsorship, did it add new funds to marketing to make it happen, or did you displace other activities to make room for it? 

As we were investing in a new and global platform and wanted to expand our brand awareness, we needed the funds on top of the existing budget at that time.

What business outcomes were you trying to impact with the sponsorship? 

As a private bank, we are always keen on offering ‘money can’t buy experiences to our guests,’ mostly clients and prospects. This is exactly what we are providing with the Formula E hospitality and learning opportunities. The feeling they leave with is completely unique—full of emotions and new insights about mobility and Industry 4.0. Over the past six years, not only have we succeeded in increasing our brand visibility, but also in linking the values of Formula E and Julius Baer. We truly achieve an optimal value transfer in areas such as visionary thinking, pioneering spirit, sustainability and our forward-looking Next Generation investment philosophy.

Are those the same areas getting impact from the partnership, or are there others that you weren’t expecting? 

We are particularly delighted that Formula E Championship has succeeded in mobilising an extraordinary audience and public profile in connecting with a younger, urban audience interested in new forms of sport and content. The electric series showcases how to activate social media, e-gaming and a range of communication platforms to captivate a younger fan base. These formats also allow us to present the Julius Baer brand in an unexpected and fresh light.

Did you add new marketing staff internally or bring in an agency to help you manage the partnership? 

Our dedicated sponsorship team manages the partnership. For some races, we rely on external agencies to assist with hospitality. However, it is essential to build out our internal skillsets and know-how.

What are your key activation activities? Customer hosting? Social/digital media? Internal events? Above the line advertising? 

This year we are launching a global brand campaign that will allow us to link our Formula E sponsorship with our expertise as a bank in the field of next generation investments under the slogan and communication of ‘How We Invest Today is How We Live Tomorrow.’

If you could only choose one activation activity, what would that be? 

It is impossible to make a choice, especially since Formula E is constantly evolving and creating new formats. Thus, as a sponsor, we also have to continually reinvent our activities.

If you had one piece of advice for a company exploring its first partnership in motorsport, what would it be? 

Whether in motorsports or other areas – it is of utmost importance for a partnership to meet the needs and requirements of the business with a sponsorship.

An international management consultancy with golf & motorsport at its core.