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Q+A with Thomas Villette

Meet our Deputy General Manager PR

Meet our Deputy General Manager PR

Deputy General Manager PR Thomas is no stranger to leading race and rally communications programs, having worked in multiple motorsport series prior to joining our team. He is responsible for the establishment and day-to-day running of public and media relations for our WRC, WTCR and Customer Racing operations, including digital content creation, liaison with international journalists and Hyundai stakeholders to generate as much positive exposure for our company as possible.

What does your role as Deputy General Manager PR entail?
My role encompasses all external communications from our company, including media relations and social networks across WRC, WTCR and Customer Racing activities. In a world where we crave information and content with increasing immediacy, it is important to communicate fast and accurately. Our playground extends across the entire world, so it’s important to keep consistency. We are responsible for creating videos, photos and texts that tell a captivating story about our company, brand, products and drivers. I personally love this eco-system, which is always in motion. The job also covers reputation management, to keep an eye on what is being said about Hyundai Motorsport.

What value does PR bring to Hyundai Motorsport?
PR helps us to generate coverage across all our operations and ensures our brand is seen as a successful force in the motorsport scene and beyond. We have an incredible worldwide audience not only with motorsport fans, race car buyers and media, but also throughout the entire car industry. The more fans interact with our posts, or read about us in articles or reports, the more potential Hyundai lovers or Nthusiasts we can entice through motorsport. The best PR comes from success and for sure our experience and titles in WTCR and WRC have largely contributed to the promotion of the N brand philosophy and models.

How does your on-event strategy differ to communications between events?
Events are newsworthy whether it’s a win, a podium or leading a championship. This is where we have audience peaks for our content. In between events, we get more creative, producing stories and content that is not date-dependant. We work together with Hyundai distributors in order to support their needs, i.e. our stunt with Top Gear in 2019 when our WRC car was racing against the best GTs in the world. We invite journalists and influencers to Alzenau or test sessions, we took them to South Korea, visited the drivers at home, driven with them in their N models, the sky is the limit!. During a normal season, we hardly ever stop.

Are there unique challenges you face in motorsport communications?
Social media has changed significantly even in the time we have been in business. We started focusing mainly on Facebook but now there are many more options. We produce a vast amount of content now compared to Monte Carlo in 2014. Fans are curious and always welcome new ideas, especially in the times of home isolation around the world. For example, we tackled the COVID-19 situation head-on; instead of going quiet we have actually ramped up our content creation. We use the full capacity of social networks and you can see more of the drivers and management to help the fans beat the boredom.

How has Hyundai Motorsport’s PR strategy evolved over the years, from starting out in WRC to expanding its Customer Racing Program?
When we created Hyundai Motorsport, I was the 25th employee and there was no media website, no photo archive, no PR plan, no social network accounts, not even a driver! We had no reputation nor a presence in motorsport. We had to bring the media attention to us, so we have built our credibility from scratch. For sure the messaging is different now as to when we started as we do not just run a unique WRC programme anymore but also major Customer Racing project in WTCR and national series. We are much more established as a business in motorsport and beyond. Now with electric motorsport on the rise, it brings with it the opportunity to showcase future-oriented technologies and cleaner racing with our ETCR project.

What was your first work experience in motorsport?
It was at Prost Grand Prix F1 in 1999 where I developed all the marketing tools such as the website, visual identity, yearbooks, merchandising, and the fan club. My first boss was a four-time World Champion, and my colleagues and I were racing in the most incredible places. Honestly it was hard to find something more attractive. I have loved racing from day one, and as I could never make a career by driving or designing cars, I found my way through motorsport by specialising in sponsorship management in marketing and then later in the PR field. Throughout my career I have worked for agencies, teams, sponsors and car manufacturers in order to build up activation programs worldwide with incredible people. This is such a great environment to be part of, but as a condition you always need to be on the move and reachable almost non-stop.

Do you have a favourite moment of your time with the team to date?
I think there are a few “first” moments that come to mind which make great stories. The first WRC podium we scored in Mexico with Thierry and Nicolas, those last kilometres back to service were epic. I will remember forever the double podium in Germany in 2014 after an eventful shakedown. There is a special taste of our first international achievement when we clinched the WTCR driver and team titles in Macau back in 2018. These moments in time are priceless.

Take a trip down memory lane with the reveal video of our first ever electric racing car – the Veloster N ETCR.


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