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MotoE and sponsors: Carlo Merlini explains the strengths of the MotoGP electric class

The MotoE of the Indonesian E-Racing Gresini team

The Gresini Racing team has always had a certain feeling with new adventures. When Moto2 debuted in the World Championship in 2010, the Italian team won the title with Toni Elias. Nine years later, they did it again, with Matteo Ferrari the first winner of the MotoE World Cup, the electric class of MotoGP. We talked about it with Carlo Merlini, 51 years old, from San Benedetto del Tronto, in the Marche region, who has been for twenty years the sales and marketing manager of the Gresini Racing team.
“For us, MotoE was a totally new world and a very interesting experience despite the initial difficulties that we all remember. Dorna and the FIM have been very reactive to intercept the new trend of the eco-sustainable mobility, particularly the electric one. This trend is in a more evolved phase for cars, but it is right that a path has been set for the two wheels. As FormulaE was born, so it is right that MotoE was also born, and the right choice was to have it within the MotoGP paddock."

Matteo Ferrari, first winner of the MotoE World Cup

“Dorna created the category, found room between the other classes and was able to put together all the essential elements, in particular the sole manufacturer of the bike. That was a key choice for the initial sustainability of the MotoE. Among other things, they found it here, in Emilia Romagna, in our territory. The start of the MotoE was very difficult, and at the time, Dorna had a very firm position which gave the idea of the determination and the will to launch this new Championship.
It seemed strange for the most romantic motorbike lovers to hear about electric motorcycles in MotoGP, but it was necessary for the world of racing to open up to this new phase. It was a similar situation to 2002 when MotoGP moved from 2T to 4T to ensure that competition remains a field of research and development at the service of the market and to promote the manufacturers' commercial product."

Andrea Mantovani during the test in Jerez

You said it's right that MotoE was born inside of MotoGP, not as FormulaE; why?
“For us, as teams, it is certainly easier to take part in a new category that already has the complete and consolidated structure of MotoGP behind it. But it's not just a matter of the best context to work in. A new category needs to grow and be known; on this side, the MotoE can rely on the strength of the MotoGP. I'm talking about the calendar, the circuits, the schedule of the race weekend, the TV broadcasting. Starting in the frame of MotoGP, MotoE had the benefits from the international networks (such as Sky in Italy, Canal + in France and BT in Great Britain - ed.) that brought it into contact with the people. Otherwise, it would have been a much more uphill walk."

For those who have to find new sponsors, what is the main attractive item of the MotoE?
“We, the Gresini team, have experienced how the ‘Green’ has become an essential topic in communication. Everyone wants to show a specific sensitivity towards environmental protection and eco-sustainability. We have observed good interest from many companies, and we have made this topic a strong point for the commercial activity of our team. Besides, MotoE allowed us to contact a category of companies that, due to the type of product or company guidelines, could not be associated with a sporting event that intrinsically generates emissions into the environment. A clear example is Trentino, which was our main sponsor in the first two editions of the MotoE. Trentino, a notoriously environment-friendly area for eco-sustainable lifestyles and the promotion in support of electric mobility, would never have appeared on the fairings of a MotoGP or a Moto2 or a Moto3."

Matteo Ferrari, first winner of the MotoE World Cup

“The relationship with Trentino was perfectly centred on the founding values of the MotoE. A wonderful collaboration was born from here, enriched by many collateral activities, such as the fitness training of our riders in Trentino. Being the main sponsor of the winning team in 2019 and runner-up in 2020 also guaranteed excellent visibility for Trentino. In terms of the gained visibility by the brands, the analysis of the MotoE put our team second in 2019 and first in 2020, an exceptional result that we shared with our sponsors in MotoE. These analyses and studies are carried out by independent agencies that have no relationship with the individual teams."

What is the main limit of the MotoE regarding sponsorship? What would allow it to be more attractive?
“Certainly the number of races. At the moment, the number is limited, while the category would need a wider calendar. This from a marketing perspective because then there are other aspects to consider that currently do not allow it. Putting ourselves in Dorna's shoes, they have to develop a new championship. There are issues related to the circuits, the already very tight race weekend schedule for the sessions of the other categories, and the surrounding activities. I do not doubt that the calendar will be broader with more races in the medium term and will reach strategic markets for the electric class.
For the technical part, according to everyone, these bikes are still very heavy; we expect a step in battery technology which is the part that most determines the weight of the bike. A lower weight would help the riders a lot during braking; currently, the most critical phase is this because of the difficulty of finding the exact point to brake. If you make a mistake, such a heavy bike will never stop."

The victory of the MotoE World Cup 2019

The races are TV broadcasted, and Dorna is very active in creating contents on the MotoE and sharing it on social networks. What is still missing with media?
The fundamental equation underlying our marketing activity is more competitions, more media coverage, more visibility of the sponsors' brands. Surely the media aspect needs to be further developed; we already talked about it in our meetings with Dorna, who clarified the desire to increase the media exposure of the MotoE. It is evident and understandable that even regarding that point, it is unthinkable to start immediately at the maximum, but, over time, it will be important to create boxes in the flow to present the teams, the riders, and to analyse all the aspects of the category.
The media space is not unlimited, and it has to be shared between all four classes; the MotoE must deserve it if it wants more space. With the current MotoE calendar, we can still give good visibility to those who invest in this category. Furthermore, it has to be remarked that the current investment levels in MotoE are not excessively high. This helps us create very interesting and competitive proposals for our sponsors in terms of return on investment."

After the partnership with Trentino, from this year, the team's main sponsor is the Indonesian Racing Team; what can you tell us?
“Indonesian Racing is a brand created by our partner MP1, an Indonesian company that operates in the sports management sector and which aims to develop motorsport in Indonesia also by creating an academy to find the best Indonesian riders to support and accompany on the way to the World Championship. The Gresini team is very well based in Indonesia, we have been operating in that country for ten years, and many of our sponsors in Moto3 and Moto2 are important Indonesian companies. More than other teams, we have contributed to developing a sector in a strategic nation for MotoGP. Indonesia is a strategic market because there, and partly also in the other countries of Southeast Asia, transport is not by car, but by motorcycle. There are four motorcycles for each car; the total number of motorcycles sold is 7.000.000 per year. One fact above all: on the various social platforms, the nation that most follows MotoGP is Indonesia, by far compared to any other country, including Italy or Spain."

The next date is for the second pre-season test, from April 12th to 14th, again in Jerez, before the debut race on May 2nd.

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