Victoria Rowley: “No matter what you want to do, there is opportunity here”
Victoria Rowley, Global Partnership Manager for Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula 1 Team, has had a long and varied career in motorsport. From not believing there were roles for women in F1 to now being in charge of some of the biggest partnership deals for her race team, she tells Females in Motorsport about what the role takes, its challenges, and how the sport is changing from the inside out.
Growing up near McLaren’s base in Woking with a family obsessed with cars, Victoria Rowley watched a lot of motorsport. What she saw on TV were male drivers and male mechanics – not women.
"As a girl, I didn’t think it was anything I could achieve," Victoria says. "I didn’t think there was an opportunity I could pursue.”
Now, she has spent the last decade working across motorsport from Formula E, to McLaren Racing and now in a role at one of the most exciting teams on the grid after making a historic comeback – Aston Martin.
“We look after all of the partners of the race team," she says. "We are the ambassador for their brand within our race teams, and all the partners have different objectives.”
From images and logos to adverts or events, anything partners do has to go through Victoria and the team.
Victoria joined Aston Martin’s team for its entrance into the 2021 F1 season. Yet, being part of a team in the midst of turning itself from BWT Racing Point to Aston Martin brought its own unique challenges.
“Overnight, we went from one of the smallest teams on the grid to being compared to the likes of Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull because we are such a big name," she says. "Size-wise, you're still the same team, car-wise you're still pretty much the same team, but suddenly there's that massive expectation that you will be delivering the same results as other big teams.”
This surge in expectation was also accompanied by a rush of new partnership deals.
“Aston Martin is such a huge name in the automotive industry and world of motorsport, so a lot of businesses wanted to attach themselves to that,” she says. "We're building a foundation, but it’s a long journey, and that doesn’t happen overnight.”
They've dubbed this the ‘hill climb’, a clever metaphor to say to partners and fans that “we are still very much on our way up, we still have a long way to go and we want to bring you with us."
THE PERONI PARTNERSHIP
Victoria manages the Peroni Nastro Azzurro 0.0% x Aston Martin F1 partnership - a huge and exclusive deal consisting of global advertising and content campaigns.
Everything Peroni does in regards to their partnership has to go directly through Victoria. Part of this includes creating content for Peroni over a race weekend, particularly centred around 'passion' and 'flair' – Peroni’s buzzwords.
“We activate on behalf of our partners as well; we get more involved in this side – that’s the side that drives me," Victoria says. "The ideas I might have come to fruition - they all come together and it gives me a lot of drive.“
F1 has changed a lot since Victoria first began working in partnerships. Her role used to be more of a facilitator, or “professional middle-man” as she calls it. However, now the role is a lot more strategic.
“That’s what I really enjoy,” she says. “We're the experts when it comes to the teams, and when it comes to F1, so we play a pivotal role in the activation of the partnership.”
Victoria Rowley and Sebastian Vettel
AND WHAT DOES IT TAKE?
What is crucial to the job is knowledge of the world of F1.
“Navigating the world of F1 is tricky," Victoria says. "There are a lot of intricacies to it, and it’s a completely different industry to most out there.”
The role itself requires “strong communication and relationship-building skills". This is because partnerships are very different to sponsors. Whilst in advertising or traditional sponsorship it’s about brand exposure and visibility, modern-day sports partnerships are more about the integration of brands into the team, and leveraging the team as a storytelling platform.
And, yet there are real challenges when it comes to the demands of a global role that can be 24/7 in the “travelling circus of F1”.
“From a personal perspective, I am a mum, I have a two-year-old so trying to manage the job and be a parent to a toddler – that’s my biggest challenge,” she says.
A CHANGING ROLE IN A CHANGING SPORT
Working in the sport for so long, Victoria has seen her role change.
“The digital side of partnerships didn’t really exist when I started,” she says. “Teams, themselves, didn’t use to market themselves, but over the last five years, teams have really started growing their own brands.”
Part of Aston Martin’s brand is “to be one of the most inclusive teams for fans and make sure fans are part of everything we are doing”.
And this is evident. Since the team’s return to the sport, they have appreciated the importance of a strong fan base – interacting, engaging and prioritising fans in their journey.
They’ve also been a team committed to trying to make the sport more inclusive, both by partnering with Racing Pride and recruiting W Series driver, Jessica Hawkins, as a driver ambassador last year.
This also makes the Aston Martin brand more attractive to partners, which brings in the money they need to go racing – a win-win on that front.
“We're seeing women come into the sport all the time now," she says. "F1 is massively male-dominated and that will be a long time before that massively shifts.
“F1 is showing women that we are open to females to have a very successful career in motorsport, no matter what you want to do – there is an opportunity here.”
Finishing up the interview, Rowley is all smiles.
“I'm so passionate about what I do, I find it such a privilege to be doing what I am doing," she says. “I'm one of those sad ones that loves coming into work every day.”
We don’t think it’s sad at all. She’s found her own seat in motorsport, and that’s more than enough to be passionate about.
Remember: See it. Be it.
Images are courtesy of Aston Martin.