George Russell drives a Rokit-sponsored Williams car during Formula 1 pre-season testing in 2020.

George Russell drives a Rokit-sponsored Williams car during Formula 1 pre-season testing in 2020.
Photo: Rudy Carezzevoli (Getty Images)

If you’ve followed motorsport — honestly, just about any form of motorsport — over the past few years, there’s a good chance you’ve seen a car sponsored by a company called Rokit. Rokit has dipped its toes into everything from IndyCar to Formula 1 to Formula E, and it’s also secured deals with other sports teams, like the Oakland Raiders, the Los Angeles Chargers, and the Houston Rockets. Except, as Sportico writes, the company has left a path of lawsuits, bankruptcies, and abandoned deals in its wake.

If you’ve ever wondered what, exactly, Rokit does, well, you’re not alone. The company purports to do just about everything. It sells alcohol and e-bikes and cell phones. It’s introducing gaming platforms and WiFi in cities. Rokit funds multiple radio stations. You can also, inexplicably, purchase Rokit healthcare and burial services.

While some companies have succeeded in offering a diverse range of products, those companies usually don’t appear out of nowhere, signing multiple high-profile and multi-million dollar sponsorship deals with major sporting entities. Now, after several of those deals have fallen through, we’re finally getting the deep dive into the company that we deserve.

From the Sportico article:

The Raiders’ due diligence, two people familiar with the process told Sportico, focused on the financial heft of the prospective sponsor’s biggest backer, Patrón Spirits Co.’s billionaire co-founder John Paul DeJoria, who’d just sold his 70% stake in the tequila giant to Bacardi in a $5.1 billion deal. At the same time, DeJoria, who also co-founded and runs the Paul Mitchell haircare juggernaut, was working with his longtime British business partner, Jonathan Kendrick, to boost their mercurial, 20-year-old ROK brand into Rokit.

DeJoria, though not an officer nor employee, was an active part of the Rokit discussions with the Raiders, the sources said. They added that his involvement, in addition to multiple conversations with counterparts at the Rockets, Chargers and Williams Racing, made the Raiders comfortable signing a long-term agreement with a relatively unknown entity.

(If you’re not familiar, that DeJoria surname is well known in racing. John Paul DeJoria’s daughter Alexis competes in NHRA events.)

That comfort level didn’t exactly last. After talking through a 10-year deal worth more than $60 million, Rokit soon owed the Raiders $5.9 million that it never paid.

Much of the article talks about other sports, but because this is a car website, I want to focus on the motorsport deals. Rokit’s highest-profile deal came as a title sponsor of Williams Racing, for which it signed an $18.59 million deal only to default. This year, Rokit sponsored A. J. Foyt Racing in IndyCar, using its money to field both Tatiana Calderon and J. R. Hildebrand in the team’s No. 11 machine. It then proceeded to miss payments, and the team was forced to pull the car from the running.

But one of the biggest and perhaps most confusing storylines — and a question to which no one really has an answer — is why Rokit managed to be so successful in some sports and why it totally defaulted on payment in others. For example, Rokit’s title partnership with Venturi in Formula E not only lasted a full season, but it also helped lead the team to a second place in the overall Championship.

The full article is available behind a paywall on Sportico or for free via Variety. It’s one hell of a ride, so make sure you give it a read.

By Kelli

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