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Elisabetta Bonetti: "When girls are presented with examples they're more likely to follow that path"

Elisabetta Bonetti was certain that she would end up working in the publishing industry, and her dream came true when she decided to follow her passion. She became a Marketing and Sponsorship Manager for LCR Honda and has been a part of the team for almost 10 years.

Elisabetta grew up in a family where watching MotoGP and Formula 1 was an important part of the weekend activities. Even though she enjoyed watching motorsports, she also loved writing and decided to study Italian literature, so she could work in publishing. Once she decided to take her passion into account, she changed direction.

“Publishing is a very difficult environment,” Elisabetta told Females in Motorsport. “So I decided that if I had to make sacrifices, I was going to do it for something that I really love.”

Her aim was to find a job in the motorsport industry after her Masters in sports. LCR Honda’s commercial director called her when she finished her degree and announced that they were looking for someone new to join the marketing team. She had always wanted to be in the paddock and could not say no to this amazing opportunity, especially since the job connected to all her interests.

“At the beginning I thought that this was not going to be the right job for me, because I’m a shy person,” she says. “But I quickly understood that the job is not just about looking for sponsors, since you also need to organise marketing activities, and that became my favourite part. It involves writing and I get to use my creativity, so I get to do the things I really love.”

Her work entails two tasks: looking for new sponsors and organising marketing activities. Whenever she is working in the office, she gets in touch with companies if she feels that they can benefit from a partnership with LCR Honda. They look for companies that are interested in operating on a worldwide market, since the MotoGP races take place all over the world.

Approaching a new company adds a challenge, since Elisabetta needs to convince them that a partnership is beneficial.

“It’s easier when you approach a company that already has some partnerships, because they know what the benefit is,” she says. “Part of my job is to teach new companies how it can benefit them, because they often think that they need to pay money to see their brand on a bike, which is true, but there is so much more to it.

“I do a lot of research before I reach out to new companies, since I want to try and impress them. This means that I learn something new every day. Based on that research, I arrive with some ideas that connect to their goals. Sometimes they listen to my ideas and sometimes they don’t, but that’s part of the game. ”

When she is at the race track, she is responsible for customer care, looking after the guests that have been invited by sponsors. She also organises marketing activities, such as photoshoots, and has a lot of meetings with new customers. When they come to the track they can see what the MotoGP paddock is like and meetings are often more successful because of it.

Due to her customer-facing role, two skills are vital: patience and flexibility. Guests are sometimes overexcited when they arrive in the MotoGP paddock and Elisabetta needs to be patient and tell them what they can and cannot do.

Flexibility is also key, because not everything goes to plan in motorsport. Something unexpected can ruin your plans and you need to be able to adjust to that. Being flexible also means that you sometimes engage in tasks that are not part of your role.

“I always joke about it with my colleagues, because it has happened in the past and it will happen in the future,” she says. “There have been times when I was talking to a customer about a contract with lots of zeros in the morning and in the afternoon I would be cleaning the hospitality.”

Elisabetta is happy to be a part of a small and independent team like LCR Honda. There is room for creativity, which you may not have at a big factory team.

“We can do a lot of things,” she says. “If I was working for a factory team, I would definitely have less freedom. A factory team must maintain a certain image, so I don’t think they are going to do crazy photoshoots like we did for sponsors in the past. It’s very fun and being able to create anything you want gives you a lot of energy.”

The highlight of her career was LCR Honda’s first class win in 2016. Cal Crutchlow claimed his first victory after starting 10th, which was also the team’s first MotoGP class win.

“It [the win] was not because of me, but it’s great to be a part of it knowing that I was able to support this win with my job and the sponsors,” she says.

Working in MotoGP is a dream, but the environment is also utterly demanding. There is little space for your private life and you miss a lot of important celebrations, like weddings and graduations. If there’s one thing you undoubtedly need to work in MotoGP, it is passion.

“I’m lucky because I do not have to go to every race, but some of my colleagues are away from home for more than 150 days per year, which is a lot,” she says. “You only work in MotoGP if you are really passionate about it, since that gives you the energy to go on.”

Even though women are a minority in the MotoGP paddock, Elisabetta has always felt respected.

“In the paddock it is fine,” she says. “The guys think that it is completely normal if a woman is in a certain role. But when I go to visit a new company, the experience is different. They assume that I am the secretary or the assistant.

“They are still surprised that a woman is working in motorsport. People have asked me if I am a grid girl. Even in 2022, some people still think that every single woman working in motorsport is a grid girl…”

Support is essential to get more women to work and race in motorsport. Elisabetta explained that the women in the MotoGP paddock have their own support group to keep spirits high.

“Whenever young girls and women are presented with an example, they are more likely to follow that path,” she says. “Just talking about it and showing girls that there are a lot of women in motorsport is a very good thing because they can see that they can do it.”

Her advice for women that want to work or race in motorsport is to excel in something that you are very passionate about. You need to find something you’re good at and become the best.

“The worst thing you can do is be good at everything,” she says. “Tell me why I need you. Why are you good at this position? Why do I need to choose you? Why are you better than others?”

Elisabetta is living her dream but, like all of us, sometimes forgets to appreciate it. The moment she realised that she was really working in motorsport was really special to her. It reminded her that she had to appreciate her job more.

“I was asked to tell students about my experience,” she says. “That day I realised that I had made it. Sometimes I need to take a step back and remind myself that I am working in motorsport.

“I want to be a better version of what I am now and become a better Sponsorship Manager.”


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