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INSIGHT: Ethical Partnerships Bearing Fruit in Formula E

Partnership between DS Techeetah and Big Cat Sanctuary goes from strength to strength…

Photo: DS Techeetah

DS Techeetah announced last fall a partnership with the Big Cat Sanctuary, a UK-based company that has become renowned for its high-quality work in protecting some of the world’s most vulnerable Big Cat species.

For the past 19 years the Big Cat Sanctuary has cared for, bred, and helped to protect a variety of endangered big cats.

The relationship between DS Techeetah and the Big Cat Sanctuary is a symbiotic partnership which is centered around creating and further extolling messages of sustainability and the need to protect ecosystems which are affected by climate change.

Last month, Jean-Eric Vergne and Andre Lotterer visited the facility, spending two days at its base to gain an in-depth understanding of its work and the often delicate nurturing needed for its array of cats.

These range from white lions, Amur leopards, Sumatran tigers, jaguars and, of course, cheetahs.

E-racing365 went along with them to find out more about how the relationship between the DS Techeetah team and the Big Cat Sanctuary are helping raise awareness of its work.

One of the central figures at the Big Cat Sanctuary is Giles Clark who has a lifelong affinity and passion for the welfare of Big Cats.

Clark says that as well as his day to day job of ensuring the safekeeping and wellbeing of the site’s feline population, the Big Cats themselves are also a key figure in promoting its work with partners such as DS Techeetah.

Photo: DS Techeetah

“Forming partnerships, like we have done with DS Techeetah is really important because corporates and businesses have a responsibility to be socially responsible,” Clark told e-racing365.

“This allows us to have a platform to reach thousands more people and also to introduce us to their networks for investors.

“As much as I often talk about conservation on a holistic level in terms of us as a conservation and animal welfare organization, for us to form partnerships with other businesses that have a global reach is fantastic.”

Environmental Partnership Providing Immediate Benefits

One of the driving forces of the Big Cat Sanctuary partnership and other initiatives that are currently being formulated by DS Techeetah is its chief commercial officer Keith Smout.

The Canadian is a keen nature supporter privately and has combined this passion with his 30-year sports marketing and business background to ensure DS Techeetah leads the way in its commercial portfolio.

“It was important that we came up with a brand strategy for a new team like Techeetah when it was formed back in 2016,” Smout told e-racing365.

“Some of that was born naturally after the foundations were laid with the race between JEV and the cheetah which I think is still one of the most popular viral films done in the championship.

“Then we had to think how we align ourselves to that project and get going on some partnerships.

“The drivers really have to take some credit because both Jean-Eric and Andre have been super passionate about this developing.”

DS Techeetah is aiming to expand its demographic massively in the coming years. The momentum of its promotional work is already proving fruitful with new fans becoming engaged all the time.

“People have genuinely started watching Formula E races that probably would never have considered it before we started being involved with Big Cat Sanctuary,” explains Smout.

“The key is we have built our brand that helps with awareness of something close to many people’s hearts.

Smout gives solid credence to the theory that Formula E is tapping in to future race fan markets and demographics, and initially it has come from a quirky source.

Photo: DS Techeetah

“A good example is the purchasing of Willows [soft toy depictions of Willow, the 18-month-old cheetah at the Big Cat Sanctuary] which is the number one selling merchandise at Formula E races,” says Smout.

“What does this prove? Do you think that at an F1 race that would be the case? Of course not, because the strong demographic of 40 or 50 year old males at Grands Prix doesn’t want a soft toy, do they?

“So we are embracing a different demographic and at the same time we are doing a lot of good too in terms of highlighting and making people realizing some of the really important matters in the world right now.”

While Smout would not go into specific details, the DS Techeetah team is believed to be eyeing further initiatives centered around other global environmental efforts.

Some of these are believed to be related to deforestation and the crisis facing seas and oceans with plastic waste.

“Going professional racing just for the sake of it is just not responsible anymore,” concludes Smout.

“But if you can do it with messages such as these, and you have solid sustainable messages that supports future tech then you have a really potent mix of socially economic business that can make a difference in as many areas.”

Sam Smith is e-racing365's Formula E Editor. A 20-year veteran in motorsports media, including press officer roles in both the FIA Sportscar Championship and at Lola Group, Smith is a well-known face in the Formula E paddock, where he served as series editor for Motorsport.com from 2014-17. Contact Sam

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