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Daria Marina -Communicating success in the GT-series

It has only been a few days since Mark Weber, former F1 racing driver, called for a need to protect the professional drivers from overexposure and ensure they are not “trivialized” through interaction with fans, both personally and on social media platforms. However, the core financing of motorsport, remains with sponsors and a lot of the value is returned back to the corporations, through this interaction. This is true for F1 and GT series championships, as much as it is for rallying and even local events, with endemic sponsors. Teams need sponsors; sponsors need exposure to the motorsport fan-base and the fans love their heroes. Rationalizing this circle, I have come across one of the most interesting and experienced professionals in the field, Daria Marina.

Daria, is the person responsible for PR and media communications at Grasser Racing Team, a GT3 outfit standing out by the grass-green livery, on the Lamborghini Huracan cars they race at Blancpain GT series and ADAC GT Masters.

Her professional profile includes brand names such as Kaspersky Motorsport and Porsche to name a few.

Black: So, Daria, is Mark Weber making a good point or is it an imperative for teams to continue this interaction?

DM: Well, I think the sport is here because of the fans. However, it is also important to note that the GT and GP are two very different worlds. The system with paddock passes in F1 is much more regulated. On the other hand, at GT races we have free access to the paddock.

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If free entrance to the paddock were allowed in F1, it is unlikely anyone would be able to walk, let alone work.

Black: Perhaps this is where the social media come in handy.

DM: The digital interaction in motorsport is crucial. However, in my opinion, the personal interaction is very important as well and is efficiently managed with autograph sessions, Meet & Greet’s and other initiatives.

Following news through social media brings the fan base closer to the team, but meeting the team at an event is a different experience altogether.

Black: Weber mentioned that: “Roger Federer is not doing any interviews before Wimbledon. Access has absolutely got to be kept an eye on.”

DM: Obviously, it’s a different sport and to be honest I’m not familiar with tennis. But I have worked in motorsport long enough to know that the loyalty of the fan base is unique among all sports. According to Performance Research’s original studies in measuring fan loyalty [U.S.A.] 72% of NASCAR Sprint Cup fans almost always or frequently purchase a series sponsor’s products over a non-sponsor’s products. Compare this to the respective 15% for Olympics fans and all the sponsor exposure initiatives in the racing world start making sense.

Black: What do you think of the short interviews on the grid just before the race and while everyone is busy getting ready for the race?

DM: We are here to win the races, right? And we don’t want to distract our drivers 5 minutes before the race.

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The crucial point is concentration before the start.

We have media days during the race week; we are following the media schedule. There is always a struggle trying to find the balance between media and drivers, so both parties feel comfortable, while obligations are met. Again, the GP is a different beast…with 352.3 million unique TV viewers in 2017, one can understand the importance of a few extra minutes of exposure before the race, when the suspense is highest and each interval for advertisements is “weighed in gold”.

Black: You have worked for a number of racing and rallying teams. What do you believe is the biggest tangible and the greatest intangible for a sponsor? How is a successful sponsoring campaign carried out and what needs to be taken into consideration?

DM: The motorsport is about teamwork. I think it’s not just about who’s first on the podium, but also about the overall performance of the team. To win the season, team members must work closely together and trust each other’s expertise. Mutual respect, passion and support create a strong bond between members of the team. With this in mind, sponsoring a race team shows your business mindset to partners and clients. Having the same goals, working hard to achieve objectives and trusting in all people involved is the message you convey.

I mean, that sponsoring is not just about funding. It is engaging in a powerful relationship with mutual trust. It is another world that you connect to your business. It adds emotion to your brand.

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Look at our Grasser Racing Team’s partner, Orange1Racing. They are part of the team, they are passionate, emotional with a strong team spirit, they are able to connect directly to the fans and that’s what makes them so special.

So, if this is what your company stands for, joining the “motorsport arena” is the right commitment for growth.

Black: Can you profile the sponsors in Blancpain GT? Apart from the iconic watchmaker, there seems to be an influx of “newcomers”. Is the sponsor “geography” changing do you think?

DM: The audience habits are changing. Sponsoring brands are seeking out new pockets of fans, whether by geography or demographic. The most successful rights holders are flexible and willing to adapt to meet the audience’s demands, both in terms of media strategy, but also the format and ‘look’ of their product.

SRO recently added the Pirelli World Challenge (PWC) to its portfolio of international series, with a lot of events in North America. Last week at the press conference in Spa, Stephane Ratel presented an exciting new program for SRO Motorsports Group, with more than 28 events in Europe and around 10 events in Asia and Australia. So let’s see.

Black: Which is best? Rally or circuit?

DM: I have very good memories and have enjoyed both equally. But to be honest, I prefer circuit to rally.

Black: Watching you and your colleagues from other teams at races, one can tell it is a very stressful experience. How do you deal with it?

DM: First thing I want to say is that my job is fantastic! [great beaming smile] During the race I have a lot of responsibilities, which means I take care of everything and anything that has to do with PR and communications.

I have to make sure that drivers are in time for all different appointments on track, keeping the contact with the media and taking care of the drivers’ media schedule.

I do digital, marketing and any other form of communication. I love planning; I always prepare a schedule in advance and always come to the event well organized. Still, each day I face a hundred of urgent situations to which I have to react immediately. That feeling of never knowing what’s coming next keeps it really exciting.

Black: …and really exhausting, I presume…

DM: What you get is many sleepless nights, irregular hours during the season, road trips… You constantly have a bag packed and for some people I guess that would make it the worst job on the planet. It is exhausting and stressful; no doubt! However, for me it’s the best positive stress ever.

Black: Positive as in creative?

DM: Creative and self-fulfilling. And you know what? When your team wins, it gets to you. For PR people, emotions are felt first hand after the race.

Black: When you win. And when you lose?

DM: Win or lose, it is exciting to be a part of something that you cannot control in the end. You have to be enthusiastic and passionate, because it’s really a way of life as much as it is a job. But if you feel you’re made for it, there’s nothing else like it.

Black: That explains quite a lot of the motivation quotes on your Instagram account. So, what is the driving force behind everything you do?

DM: I mostly read books about our mindset, such as learning to live here and now, how to control our thoughts and keep them positive, always believe in ourselves and much more. Once you start reading about this kind of topics you can’t stop, because it helps you change your life for the better.

Black: Surely there must be some difficult times; a bad result or tension and uncertainty at work. How do you deal with that?

DM: Yes, sometimes I am so physically and mentally drained, after all these weeks of hard work. However, I cannot wait to follow up with new ideas and make my next steps my best work ever. Time that I don’t spend at the track or on a business trip, I enjoy with my family and closest friends. That brings a balance. Sometimes I just need to leave the phone at home, grab a bike and go to the river-side to spend some time with myself and recharge my batteries.

Black: I understand your higher education was at Karelian State Pedagogical University and then Russian State University for the Humanities. How do these credentials enable high performance in your field of expertise?

DM: A degree in psychology is a versatile asset to have on the side, for almost any career. Psychology is this knowledge that helps me understand people, emotions and actions. It provides an opportunity to sharpen the research skills, exercise the analytical mind, learn more about our audience and the potential clients , as well as their mind’s inner workings. While psychology and sports might seem only distantly related at first, they actually make up a major specialty area known as sports psychology, which I also studied.

Black: But the scope for activity was vast. You could have worked for the marketing department in any one of the massive conglomerates based in Moscow. Why did you choose motorsport? Were you introduced to it or was it fortune?

DM: But I have a sports background! From the age of 4 to 19, I followed the path of rhythmic gymnastics as a professional sportswoman. Naturally, I truly love all kinds of sports.

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Now in motorsport, just like in any sport, motivation is so important because you must be willing to work hard in the face of fatigue and sometimes failure.

It felt like the right place to be. Literally the minute I walked on the paddock I fell in love with motor racing. I loved the whole environment, being in a team and being around racing cars – and I still do.

Black: You started in Russia 11 years ago. At the time it was hardly the place to flourish as a motorsport communications expert. However you positioned yourself and grew out of your role into a global environment. Was that your aim all along, or was it something that came naturally and you followed your destiny working hard?

DM: Yes, it was challenging. And it still is. One day I just decided for myself who I wanted to be and then started working to become just that. I failed a few times, I made my mistakes and was disappointed, but I never gave up. Sometimes I feel that I am unstoppable. Maybe it is because I am a Taurus. [giggles] But I know exactly where I want to be in a year, in five and ten years, so I just keep working hard to accomplish my goals.

Black: This is all very exciting. But tell me…what are your plans for the summer?

DM: Eight races, one test, around 5 business trips and much more. Exciting, right?

Black: Better you than me! No holidays then?

DM: Not more than I want. I’ve chosen a lifestyle with 3-5 days of holidays, but more frequently, rather than two-three weeks once or twice a year. I never plan my holidays, they are happening spontaneously.

Black: I like that! A very dynamic approach on leisure.

DM: There is only one thing that does not change – I visit my motherland every August and for New Year. It’s a beautiful place called Karelia Republic, which is between St. Petersburg and Finland.

Black: Do you find any time to hone your skills and further educate yourself?

DM: One of my big goals in life is to constantly feel inspired. Inspired to get better in every single aspect of life. To achieve this, one needs to exercise both the body and mind. Reading and learning is essential. If you want to be successful, you have to work harder than everybody else. I am studying as much as I can despite my sometimes overwhelming schedule. I do a lot of self-studying at home and attend online courses. However I’ve always made time for everything else that’s important to me as well, such as spending a lot of time with my family and closest friends, go to the gym, travel and have fun. For me life is about working towards dreams and feeling excited and alive. It isn’t easy but it’s achievable!

Black: What do your friends and family think of your work?

DM: They only want the best for me and it wouldn’t be possible to reach my goals without them. Certainly there are two sides to every story and only my family and the closest friends know the challenges I have encountered progressing to my current status. Let’s just say I have never felt this peaceful and content in my life and this is apparent to everyone I am associated with, both in my professional and my personal life. 

Black: What are your aspirations for the future?

DM: I don’t believe in limits. Limits are made in our own minds.

After over a decade of involvement in motorsport, having worked for various outfits, I decided to set up my own company and build on my experience and contacts, specializing in the motorsport communications and management. This is a huge change in my life and makes me move forward. I always dream big!

 Black: The performance car business and motorsport in particular, is a very dynamic area and new, highly motivated people – racing drivers, designers, engineers, marketers, etc. – are always breaking new ground. What would be a word of advice from someone with your experience?

 DM: Don’t wait until you are confident to do something that scares you. Just do it and confidence will follow.

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One characteristic of highly motivated professionals is their vibrant aura. A vibrance that can still be felt long after this interview is finished. Regardless of the future challenges for motorsport, posed by economics, demographics or even regulations, I cannot help but feel that Daria’s winning mindset and passion for performance, competition and ultimately victory,  will continue to deliver immense value to her team in a seamless manner and world-class content, which inspires and motivates.

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