Formula One is known for being a team sport with each of the constructors boasting teams of hundreds of people working at their factories throughout the year to try and produce the best car they can. However, this is similarly the case for F1 itself who also has a team of hundreds covering all areas from Media Rights to Business Intelligence to their own digital and live production. I spoke to Commercial Business Intelligence Manager, Giulia Zecchini, who told me about her interest in sport, working with the Premier League and joining F1 following Liberty Media’s takeover.
As is the case with many working in the industry, sport has always been an interest of Giulia’s. “I played a lot of sports growing up, primarily basketball, and started driving motorbikes at 16. My father is big into cars, particularly classic cars so I was lucky enough to grow up surrounded by amazing motors and plenty of sporting activity,” she said. With this passion, Zecchini had always wanted to work in sport in some way, though she admits: “I didn’t think it would happen so soon!” “Initially I wanted to go into Sports journalism,” Giulia told me, “I did a PR internship for the London 2012 Olympics, in the Italian National Committee team, and fell in love with the whole environment.”
Following her internship, Zecchini secured a place on a Graduate scheme at Nielsen before going on to work for the company. “I was working there when Nielsen acquired Repucom, a sponsorship valuation and consulting company, and it became Nielsen Sports. They had a role available to manage their football accounts and through all the data analysis and client facing skills I had learnt, I was able to secure the job, even without having worked in sports before,” Giulia explained. With her transferring to the sports side of the company, her role became to work with some of the biggest football teams in the world as she continued analysing data, however with it then relating to sponsorship within the Premier League. “I managed Premier League club accounts and carried out all the sponsorship valuation analysis for them. This meant I was lucky enough to work with the Premier League, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and many more on their TV audiences, fan studies, and understanding how their partners performed on different assets in stadium,” she told me.
Towards the end of 2017, Zecchini was contacted about her current role in Formula One, and despite not looking for a new job at the time, felt it was an opportunity she couldn’t turn down. “I wasn’t looking to change roles but with the recent Liberty Media acquisition of F1, it sounded like an interesting time to join such a company!” Giulia said. Joining F1 as a Commercial Business Intelligence Manager, this is Zecchini’s first role in motorsport. Speaking of what her job involves, she explained: “I work in the sponsorship department and I am the primary research support of all our sales managers. This means doing research on different industries, brands and opportunities that are out there for potential global partnerships within the sport. Having a research and data analytics background, I focus on telling stories through data, to show the potential of the Formula 1 fanbase, and how effectively we could work with a brand. On top of this, I get to work with our Creative team on what activations would best work for certain partners and how we can create the best possible immersive experiences for our fans.”
With much of Giulia’s work being data and analysis based, her job isn’t usually affected by a race weekend, however she does attend Grands Prix if they are putting on special events. “My role does not change too much unless we have specific meetings we will be hosting at the races; therefore, I tend to carry out research on the specific brand or market we are in. Sometimes I also carry out research which is specific to a market or brand which will be used throughout the weekend,” she described. The research Zecchini does at races helps the sport to learn the interests and opinions of fans attending, whether they have VIP entry or General Admission. “I go to a couple of races a year to carry out our spectator research which is done on site to understand the enjoyment and behaviours of our attending fans, both in GA and Paddock Club,” she told me.
As a Commercial Business Intelligence Manager, Giulia gathers large amounts of information, however this can be one of the more challenging parts of her role with the reliability of the data, and then also how she uses it, sometimes proving difficult. “Data and research are never easy as there are so many different sources and methodologies to look at. I think the biggest obstacle is to be able to tell compelling stories with the data, and talk to brands in their language,” Zecchini explained. Although her job does present difficulties, it also offers her the chance to work with highly skilled individuals as well as travelling to some of the most historic and famous events in F1. “Going to my first GP race in the Paddock was absolutely amazing,” she said, “the atmosphere in Monza was like no other I have every experienced at any other sporting event so I look forward to attending many more.”
Giulia Zecchini grew up surrounded by sport, with her father passionate about cars and racing. From a young age she knew she wanted to work in the sports industry, but she didn’t believe it would happen so early. Having originally started her career in data analysis, Giulia transferred these skills and applied them to a sporting situation, going on to work for several Premier League teams and now F1. Speaking of the advice she would give to others looking to work in a role similar to hers, she said: “there are so many different roles within a sporting/commercial enterprise. I think it is vital to talk to people in the industry and see what is on offer out there because it is not as black and white as sales, marketing, PR. The sub-segments are plenty and you can play to your strengths!”
photo credits: Giulia Zecchini