There was a time when Partner Manager, Bárbara Clemente, didn’t know what Formula 1 was all about, but after a short stint working in hospitality while at university, her world had changed – F1 had entered her life for good. There was no going back now.
Fast forward to now, and the Spaniard is now a Partner Manager at Williams Racing Formula 1 Team, based in Wantage, UK but with significant attendance at races and events. Her role revolves around organisation, travelling and implementing partnership agreements to ensure all needs are met: complex yet rewarding, Bárbara’s role is perhaps one that goes under the radar.
Speaking to Females in Motorsport, she says: “I’m the day-to-day contact to partners and sponsors, so when they sign the contact with us, they’ll get a package of rights, benefits and assets that they can use throughout the season.
“I make sure we plan a strategy and that those assets are used correctly in a way that’ll provide value to them. It’s using the rights to meet their objectives and also Williams’ internal objectives, and ensuring that we give value to the partner, so they’ll see at the end of the season or contract a written investment. The objective is to retain that partner for as long as possible.”
Bárbara previously worked for Universal Pictures in Spain in the entertainment industry but was offered a full-time hospitality role in the F1 Paddock Club after working for them during her time at the University of Madrid. This was a work opportunity that she sums up as “actually pretty amazing”.
At university, her degree specialised in marketing so was initially unsure what the sport had to offer but was soon hooked on the prospect of working in F1. Bárbara then took the gamble to break into the industry permanently.
“I thought long and hard and chatted to my mum about it,” she says. “I could travel the world for free in this amazing sport of F1, which I didn’t really know much about but I decided to take the opportunity. I ran the hospitality in the Paddock Club for the guests in the 2016 season.”
Bárbara was there for 18 months and in that time gained a very important skill: networking.
“I can’t stress enough how important it is,” she says. “I remember at university one of my professors said you always need your business card with you as you never know who you’re going to meet and that’s true, I ended up collecting a lot of business cards.
“Hospitality was great, but my real passion was in marketing, so I stopped doing that and then with all my business cards I started to reach out to people.”
Through meeting and speaking to the contacts she had made, Bárbara moved to London and worked for Right Formula - a sports marketing agency. Here she oversaw the Pirelli Hot Laps, in which various manufacturers took part in, including Aston Martin, McLaren and Mercedes.
She then wanted to move on again and ended up at the Williams F1 Team.
On race weekends her role changes to putting the plans and strategies into action and attending to the clients of the team; ensuring their needs are met and that if they don’t know about F1, that it’s all explained.
“It’s varied as you have different levels of partnerships - you’ve got suppliers for example, and you have partners, and they have a different commercial value so the packages are different and you need to align with that,” she says. “But you also need to be very mindful that the objectives are very different.
“For some it may be racing sales in certain markets, so your focus will be activation in those key markets, so sales go up. I always communicate regularly with my partners at least weekly to understand what they want to do.”
No day as a Partner Manager is the same and that’s something to remember. Each race event presents different challenges and big meetings at the beginning of the calendar year can help to lay out the whole season ahead.
“It’s to make sure that we can meet the objectives,” Bárbara says. “We do brainstorming so that key markets are being focused on, whether that’s social media campaigns or PR promotions.”
Over a race weekend, Partner Managers host partners trackside and make sure they go through strategy, and how they’re moving forward.
“We make sure they have a great weekend ahead of them; meeting the drivers and trying to get everyone to understand the world in which we work which is really nice,” she says. “Also not forgetting what got them there in the first place which is an awesome partnership with X brand.”
Bárbara has always felt “very welcome and cosy” at Williams Racing, which is a joy to hear about an industry which is often thought of as male-dominated. However, she firmly believes in promoting STEM opportunities to women and people from all walks of life.
“There are so many women working in F1, in hospitality, in marketing and events,” she says.
“Where we need to see more women is in the STEM roles - engineers and mechanics. We have some at Williams, but I’d say the majority of them work in communications and hospitality.”
Experience is essential to working in the motorsport industry, as well as networking, which is of course how Bárbara landed her job at Right Formula.
“Don't just think business cards are a piece of paper, you never know where you are going to end up,” she says. “It's such a small world where people know each other, you need to network.
Through all the socials reach out, you may not be successful all the time but you only need to be successful once and then you're there.
“If you're not successful at first it doesn't mean you need to give up. Focus on what you want and what you need to get there, and you will eventually.”
More information about job vacancies at Williams can be found here.