Prior to becoming Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One™ Team’s Head of Brand Strategy, Kate Dalton had never worked in motorsport. However, a love for all things four-wheeled and a transferable skill set saw her land the role of her dreams last December.
With a background in fashion marketing and luxury brands, Kate has worked alongside global companies including Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein. Then, when she received an email out of the blue from the newly formed Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One™ Team, she knew she had to pursue the rare opportunity.
“They were looking for someone who had experience in the luxury space and understands automotive in this new team,” Kate tells Females in Motorsport. “I have family in Oxford, so I’d spent some time at Silverstone. Nostalgic traits brought me closer to motorsport - this is a pivot for me in my career, in terms of industry, but I’ll never look back.
“I absolutely love it, I love F1, and love being in motorsport. I’ve found a new home.”
It may sound like an unusual transition, moving from brands that are best known for their high-end fashion to the world of V6 engines, but the two have far more in common than what initially meets the eye - especially as far as brand strategy is concerned.
“I previously had global partnerships that gave me a framework for how we work here in a sense of the level of money and investment - what’s on the line is quite translatable for me,” she says.
“When I was working in marketing in fashion, I needed to know the shopper. That absolutely goes the same for any sport. Here, we’re very fan-centric. There’s a strategy behind it but it's also very reactive, a lot of social listening and finding the route about what the fan cares about, and delivering that for them.”
Kate has faced an added challenge in getting to grips with her new role: changing jobs during the middle of a global pandemic. Despite its tests, she has utilised it to her strengths and taken the time to really hone in on what the Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One™ Team fans want.
“Sport is emotionally driven, so even though we’re not able to see fans in person, there are ways we connect with them emotionally through our content,” she says. “We pick up on social media comments that someone wants to see Sebastian [Vettel] do this challenge or see a new hat in our range.
“We work for that person as a surprise and delight. That has been really key to us during Covid; finding ways to connect with people emotionally even though there’s the distance between us.”
The importance of brand strategy should never be underestimated. Kate’s role is pivotal to the commercial success of the team, enhancing important growth in several aspects.
“Our partners get on board with us, and they don’t want to just be a sticker on a car - they have objectives to reach new audiences and to optimise their own branding performance,” she says.
An element that the team can use to their advantage is their brilliant driver line-up consisting of podium-winner Lance Stroll and four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel. Both of them carry large fan bases, and it has been the outfit’s job to convert them into Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One™ Team fans.
“Aston Martin is a 108-year-old old brand, very rich in heritage, and has this incredible experience and craftsmanship yet today there’s a really new perspective,” Kate says. “The way it works with our drivers is that their personalities are not totally similar, but you can see synergy.
“We make sure they connect with audiences, that it’s dynamic. It’s getting them together and showing how they can work together, and get along. We do driver content pieces and challenges against each other. People absolutely love them.
“Lance is very adventurous and loves extreme sports, and that’s something that’ll definitely play in our marketing going forward. Sebastian is into sustainability and it's very high on his agenda. That’s very important for us to share via him and our brand too.”
In the nine months that Kate has been a part of the team, she has got to experience many key milestones. However, one content series called ‘Voices’ really stood out to her.
“They’re small statements of human interview-based stories and for us that felt like a bold move to start to hear people in an intimate way, as a regular because especially on social media channels you are seeing across the grid incredible and super engaging content, a lot of it is similar,” she says. “The point of it is to show various perspectives in the world of F1 from fans, from teams, media. That’s what I am really proud of as a piece of content.”
Her role now may seem like a completely different world to studying geography and sociology at university, but it’s a testament to the fact that hard work and determination can land you the job of your dreams.
“There came a point in my career where my experience and what I’d achieved was far more important,” she says. “If the question is if you need to go to university to have the career you want, I don’t believe you do.”
Kate now receives messages from students wanting to follow in her footsteps and work in Formula 1 and she firmly believes that even being a fan of the sport could put you in good stead when progressing in your future career.
“As an F1 fan, you have an intuition that could build into a really valuable skill in marketing because you know the insight, you know what F1 fans have as a routine, what channels they use or consume, favourite teams and why,” Kate says. “That’s translatable as a skill.”
With key partnerships formed with the likes of Racing Pride UK, Kate echoes the team’s commitments to support inclusivity and diversity.
“That’s what we work towards and everyone should be treated fairly no matter what background,” she says. “Keep pursuing your dream and keep reaching out to people if you want to get into motorsport as it’s a great place.”
You can find current careers available at Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One™ Team here.
All images are courtesy of Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One™ Team and Glenn Dunbar.