LAS VEGAS — WhatsApp and the Mercedes Formula One team have entered a multi-year sponsorship agreement, allowing followers of the eight-time world champion to access exclusive team content and in-race updates through the Meta-owned private messaging service.
This partnership marks WhatsApp’s first foray into sports sponsorship, with the platform being widely used outside of the United States, where iMessage on Apple devices is more popular. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff revealed that he often receives messages from Mercedes board members discussing race strategy in WhatsApp group chats.
Wolff shared, “I’m trying to turn the phone upside down so I’m not seeing the board members texting me, ‘What the hell is the strategy department thinking?’ It’s quite fun. Sometimes.”
The collaboration will showcase the new WhatsApp Channels broadcast feature, which Mercedes began using in September, amassing 656,000 followers ahead of the Las Vegas Grand Prix.
Will Cathcart, head of WhatsApp, expressed his amazement at Mercedes’ reliance on the platform to operate and revealed his pride in working together to showcase how WhatsApp brings the team together and engages fans.
The broadcast feature enables Mercedes to share behind-the-scenes experiences, in-race updates, and content highlighting drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell exclusively.
Additionally, the broadcast channel allows for reactions to posts but does not support commenting, creating a feed without toxic or random arguments.
WhatsApp, which was acquired by Facebook for $19 billion in 2014, has become an integral part of Meta’s portfolio and its fastest-growing service among the 18-to-35 demographic, especially in cities like Miami, New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle.
The platform supports both longform and bite-sized content, as evident in its collaborations with NBA star Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Afghan Youth Women’s national soccer team.
Wolff emphasized the invaluable role of WhatsApp for Mercedes, revealing that he can communicate with the entire company through WhatsApp channels, including his children who are students at the University of Southern California.
He added, “It brings the team closer together. It also helps accelerate the speed of communication and decision-making across the organization. Our sport is all data driven, and I am getting screenshots in real time on what is happening in the car, temperatures, or over-limits. This is literally much bigger, faster and efficient than email or any other messaging service.”
AP auto racing: