Student Placement Blog

Me-and-JeromeAfter graduating with an MSc in Marketing Management, I chose to study for the Swiss Management Center (SMC) University Motorsport Management Certificate. I have followed Formula 1 (F1) from both a sporting and business perspective for over 20 years and always dreamed of working in a Sponsorship Acquisition role within an F1 team. Subsequently, SMC University’s partnership with the Marussia Virgin Racing F1 Team was a key selling point. Their promise to reward top performing students with a unique work placement within the Commercial Department of an F1 team was particularly appealing. In October, I received an e-mail from the Motorsport Division of SMC University informing me that I had been selected for a work placement. It was one of the happiest moments of my life and I would like to share with you some of the highlights from the time I recently spent with the team.

The Marussia Virgin Racing F1 showcar seized my attention as I entered the Marussia Technical Centre (MTC) for the first time. It is a beautiful piece of state-of-the-art engineering, and provided me with further motivation as it is symbolic of all of the hard work from the team and its partners. After a tour of the MTC and Health & Safety presentation, I was introduced to the Commercial team and immediately felt welcome and at ease. It was apparent that the placement had been well organised as I was presented with a folder containing a detailed syllabus which exposed me to each commercial function:

  • Sales (Sponsorship Acquisition).
  • Partner Services.
  • Branding & Graphics.
  • Public Relations.
  • Merchandising & Licensing.
  • Events.

Reception-4My first task was to develop a presentation titled “The Business of F1” to demonstrate my knowledge and understanding of the commercial history of the sport, and the role of each of commercial function. This would also be my last task, the idea being that I would later amend the presentation to incorporate the new knowledge I had acquired during the placement. On my third day, I was provided the opportunity to present my initial presentation to the whole Commercial Department. This was a fantastic experience; I believe that it helped improve my confidence and I was raring to get working on my next task. I spent the following day creating a database detailing each competitor team’s sponsors on specific sections of the car (around 50 spaces!). On the final day of my first week, the team invited me to assist with a partner (Quantel) event. Employees from the company had been using an Marussia Virgin Racing F1 simulator to record fastest laps at the Monza (Italian) circuit in exchange for donating money to Children In Need. Jerome D’Ambrosio, the team’s F1 Driver, attended the event and needless to say, quickly jumped to the top of the F1 simulator leader board! However, he was not only present to show off his driving skills. Jerome also presented prizes to Quantel employees, which ranged from F1 car components to official signed merchandise, and dealt with questions from the audience very professionally. He came across as an extremely determined yet grounded individual and even joked with me that he was relieved that he was not the only person present with a strange British accent (reference to my Northern accent)!
The event also gave me the chance to speak to some of Quantel’s employees in relation to how they feel about their partnership with Marussia Virgin Racing. Their Creative Director provided me with some unique insight, explaining that both brands are innovative and technology driven i.e. have a brand fit. Furthermore, he emphasised that staff morale had improved because employees were either already interested in F1 or had become engaged because of the partnership with the team. Another benefit he made reference to was business-to-business (B2B) opportunities, explaining that the company invite prospects to Grand Prix, which provides a chance to market their products in an informal environment. I feel that this is an aspect of sponsorship I had perhaps overlooked prior to the placement as in my opinion, the majority of academic sports marketing literature focuses on brand awareness and image transfer.

race-bay-4During the week following the final GP of 2011 in Brazil, Pat Symonds, Technical Consultant, gave a very detailed debrief of the team’s race weekend as well as answer questions from the whole team relating to next year’s car development. Andy Webb, CEO, then provided insight into how the team was progressing and justified how it will achieve the goal of being in a realistic position to battle with teams further up the grid in the next few years. Timo Glock, the team’s F1 Driver, was also present and visited each department of the team after Andy Webb’s presentation. As with Jerome, he presented himself very positively and took the time to speak to each member of the team. It was a surreal experience to be so involved with the team and listening to true leaders up close. I felt I was in an extremely privileged position and tried to absorb as much as possible.

SANTOSH-111118-5160On my final day, I presented a hypothetical sponsorship proposal to MVR Senior Commercial employees. The proposal was for a household consumer brand and focused heavily on creative content, which the team generally approved. I received some constructive feedback regarding sponsorship evaluation tools which I had overlooked. This was particularly useful for my knowledge, understanding and personal development. I then presented my amended presentation “The Business of F1” which incorporated the new knowledge I acquired during the placement. To summarise the presentation, I have learned that to be successful in a Commercial role in F1, the person must be:

  • Resilient 
  • Diplomatic – the ultimate politician
  • Able to contribute to team spirit
  • Demonstrate leadership skills, particularly in their area of expertise.

391090_10150410400248014_510058013_8640189_1375759545_nMy time with the team concluded at the team’s Christmas Party. The event was amazing, with entertainment provided in the form of free-runners and it was nice to be able to relax and party with the team on my last day. I would like to thank everyone at Marussia Virgin Racing and SMC University for providing me with some of the greatest experiences of my life. I am now more certain than ever that I wish to pursue a career in a Sponsorship Acquisition role within an F1 team.   

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