Gabey Goh
Sep 21, 2015

Avanade’s CMO on the art of marketing and F1

As the first CMO for Avanade, Stella Goulet had to overcome a disconnect between internal and external perceptions of the consulting firm. Goulet tells Campaign Asia Pacific about those challenges and how F1 sponsorship fit into her plans.

Stella Goulet
Stella Goulet

It’s been just over three years since Stella Goulet joined Avanade, as the company’s first chief marketing officer, and the journey to date has been a “fulfilling” one.

“Personally, I would say marketing is unquestionably more of a science than an art,” she said in an email interview with Campaign Asia-Pacific. “The opportunity we have to use data to display insights, value and the impact of our work, has transformed how we influence the decisions made at the executive table.”

Goulet reported that marketing is a strategic priority for Avanade and she is a member of the Avanade Executive Committee, the company’s most senior leadership group.

Avanade was founded in 2000 as a joint venture between consultancy firm Accenture and technology provider Microsoft to serve an untapped market for Microsoft-focused consulting services. The company provides IT services focused on the Microsoft platform for mid-sized to large enterprise organisations.

Goulet believes that it is an “exciting time in the marketplace” as the world becomes more digital. The company’s buyers are shifting from being pure IT to representing the core business functions and the way clients procure and consume its services is evolving dramatically. 

“All of these changes shape how we tell the Avanade story in the marketplace and present plenty of new challenges,” she added.

One challenge the Goulet and her team had to overcome was to align the brand's messaging so it would be consistent internally and externally. Via initial research, the company discovered that clients and the market had a different perspective about its positioning than the internal team.

“It was something we had to address quickly,” she said. Key topics that the company wanted to be known for in the marketplace were identified and internal teams equipped with the materials and go-to-market campaigns that they needed to effectively have those conversations with their clients.

“The result was a smaller number of focus areas with a much more compelling story for each,” said Goulet.

Goulet believes the biggest shift for marketing is that it has become one of the buyers of IT services today, a real step change for the industry given the historic role of the CIO as the primary purchaser.

“At Avanade, I have a close working relationship with our CIO and together we believe in the CIMO perspective, where the CIO and CMO are aligned on achieving the key business outcomes for the organisation,” she said.

It is a new way of thinking, and one that Goulet reports has worked very well for her team to connect with their digitally savvy clients.

“Our teams have learnt to speak the same language, collaborate and share an appreciation of each other’s expertise. Because of this, we are delivering better results than ever,” she added. “Along the way, we’ve also taken an objective look at our marketing team itself, its functions and outputs at every level, to see if it we were operating as effectively as possible.”

Having the right talent to drive marketing programmes effectively as well has been, and will continue to be a focus for the company.

In addition to an internal creative services team, Avanade currently works with a number of agencies. Edelman is Avanade’s primary communications agency and the company also engages a number of other agencies to execute on campaign, digital and social activities at the global and local level.

Spending on F1, the rationale and benefits

In December 2014, Avanade announced a multi-year technology partnership agreement and sponsorship with Williams Martini Racing.

As part of the agreement, Avanade and Williams Martini Racing will develop a suite of tools to ensure that the team fully optimises its new enterprise platform.

Williams will also be drawing on Avanade's expertise to make sure that future digital and cloud investments lead to improved business performance both on and off the race track.

The partnership agreement and sponsorship will see the Avanade logo appear on the side pod leading edge of the team’s racing cars and team apparel from the 2015 season onwards.

When asked about what prompted the decision to jump into the Formula 1 (F1) arena, Goulet pointed out that the very nature of the sport continues to be technology and innovation-driven, which aligns very closely with Avanade’s focus on providing leading digital services, solutions and design-led experiences for clients and their customers across all industries.

“The F1 provided us with the opportunity to both drive strong visibility of the Avanade brand and tell the story of how technology can fuel results,” she said.

At the same time, Goulet noted that Williams has a strong development program supporting the next generation of engineers coming into the sport—and Avanade has a similar goal to help advance and support future IT leaders. Both companies are also squarely focused on promoting and developing women in industries where they have traditionally been under-represented.

These technological and cultural synergies make Williams the right partner for us,” she added, while declining to disclose the total value of the sponsorship.

In a prior interview with Campaign Asia Pacific, Adam Hodge, regional strategy director at sports and entertainment marketing firm Octagon notes that technology and motorsports go hand in hand.

He pointed to the recently ended sponsorship arrangement by American telco Sprint with the Nascar sport, which at US$50 million annually, represented one of the largest sports sponsorship in North America, as an example.

“It makes for a powerful marketing case as the nature of the sport is very reliant on technology from real-time communications to telemetry data from the cars—it’s a really utilitarian space—and a great opportunity for the technology brand to show off what their solutions can do to improve the team,” he adds.

Showcasing good work

Williams Martini Racing website

Goulet reports that the sponsorship and partnership with Williams Martini Racing F1 team is off to “a strong start.” 

“We have a good cultural fit and both companies understand the importance of having a compelling story to share with clients,” she said. “From a marketing perspective, working with Williams has provided us with a unique opportunity to engage with both our clients and our own Avanade team in new and exciting ways.”

Goulet said that partnership has been fruitful on multiple levels, including branding exposure, client events, employee engagement, speaking opportunities and client evidence/case studies. In addition, the company has been able to publicly discuss and share the business benefits of the work they have achieved together.

Avanade has already begun delivering on a pipeline of 50 digital, ‘cloud-first’ projects around the world in a matter of months – one example of which is the redevelopment of Williams’s website.

“This was part of the broader, strategic commitment to provide technology enhancements throughout the company,” Goulet said.

Williams is well known all around the world for the speed and performance of its F1 cars, but its website was another story. The design did not match the contemporary feel of the brand, it was hard to navigate, did not support the traffic surges that inevitably accompanied races and was expensive and slow to update as it being managed by a third party.

At the time of the project, the annual racing season was just one month away and Avanade needed to get moving quickly on building a new website that would excite fans to visit, was cost effective, could be managed easily in-house and aligned with the brand identity.

The company dedicated a team of onsite and remote resources to help Williams Martini Racing launch its website ahead of the 2015 F1 season.

“Since the redevelopment, the site now gives fans up-to-date information and the cost saving benefit of moving everything in-house has provided the opportunity to produce additional content and updates more frequently,” Goulet reported. “Fans now have more reasons to visit the site all year round.”

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