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Why TE Connectivity is betting on Formula E’s first full-tim

When Swiss-based global technology company TE Connectivity went in search of a sponsorship opportunity, the classic conference and stadium gigs didn’t seem like the right fit.

Execs wanted to showcase the company’s products and applications, not just slap its name on an event. So they turned to car racing—what seemed like the ideal platform to demonstrate the capabilities of its connectors, sensors, and cables. Along the way, they found Simona de Silvestro, who this week became the first full-time female driver for the FIA Formula E Championship race series.

The Andretti Formula E team announced Monday that de Silvestro will pilot the No. 28 Amlin Andretti ATEC-01 all-electric race car in the series that begins in October. De Silvestro, of Switzerland, has raced in the IndyCar Series for the past few seasons and was a former Formula 1 test driver. Formula E is a new FIA championship featuring Formula cars powered exclusively by electric energy.

A STEM Opportunity

TE Connectivity, which generates $12 billion in annual sales, was introduced to de Silvestro in the lead-up to the Indianapolis 500 in May. TE Connectivity (TEL) was the primary sponsor of the No.29 car—one of five entries by the Andretti Autosport team at the annual Indy car racing event. TE Connectivity’s connectors, sensors, and cables were also in every Andretti Autosport Indy car.

Company execs had their choice of a few drivers, Amy Shah, chief marketing officer at TE Connectivity, told Fortune. De Silvestro had a good reputation on the race circuit and is from Switzerland, where TE Connectivity is based. Her racing chops mattered. But TE Connectivity also saw a larger opportunity in de Silvestro.

“As a technology and engineering company we want women and girls in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math),” Shah says. “For us, she’s a symbol, an example that there are exciting women doing exciting things and we wanted to partner up with her. She’s one of those people who you want to succeed.”

While de Silvestro has received attention as one of the few women in racing—and only one of two to compete at this year’s Indy 500—she doesn’t identify herself as a female driver phenom.

“She just sees herself as a race car driver,” Shah says. “I don’t think she realizes how rare she is.”

After the Indy 500, de Silvestro raced in a TE Connectivity-sponsored electric car at the Formula E season finale in London. She was one of three women who drove cars during the inaugural season of the Formula E racing series. However, de Silvestro is the only female, so far, who has landed a full-time contract for this season.

Looking forward to the upcoming season with @AmlinAndrettiFE ! Thanks to @FollowAndretti for the trust. pic.twitter.com/cksWaQ58D0

— Simona De Silvestro (@simdesilvestro) August 17, 2015

 

Formula E, which is only in its second year, aims to serve as a framework for research and development around electric vehicles, generate interest in the cars, and promote clean energy and sustainability. The global racing series launched in September 2014 in Beijing and was held in nine other cities.

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