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Paul Marinelli established his motorsport and automotive industry specialised public relations and marketing services company, Marinelli Motorsport Pty Ltd in Melbourne back in February 1995. As 2020 marked the company’s 25th Anniversary, in being such a disrupted year there was no opportunity to mark this special milestone with any kind of significant celebration.
Velocity Editor John Morris’ Note: Darin Mandy (Velocity’s Digital Editor) and I have had the honour of working with and for Paul through his PR roles. We congratulate him on this milestone in an all too often volatile industry and wish him every success for the future. I first met Paul through Dirk Klynsmith when he worked with the Formula Holden/Brabham category with Arthur Abrahams (from memory). I then did some work with him in Supercars when Paul worked with FPR and have continued to help out through Burson Auto parts and Dave Russell.
Now in the 26th year of operation, there is a much more positive outlook across both industries. This makes 2021, the company’s 26th Anniversary, a far better time to make some noise about this major achievement.
It all started for Marinelli after he became a radio announcer and reporter working with a number of Melbourne radio stations during the late 80’s and early 90’s. After being recruited by Melbourne all-sports formatted radio station 3UZ, Marinelli became the station’s motorsport reporter, providing news bulletin and program updates from Australian and international motor racing events. Marinelli also provided freelance editorial contributions to several motoring and motor racing publications from major local and international motorsport events.
It was at the Australian motor racing events where racing team sponsors and suppliers would request Marinelli’s assistance to promote their products to the trade and beyond. The combination of Marinelli’s media experience and his passion for motorsport, saw him branch out on his own with his own media services and PR business.
He did this retaining strong relationships with the media outlets in which he had previously worked along with his motoring and motor racing media contacts gained during those journalism years.
“It was a very exciting time when I decided to set up my business” Marinelli stated.
“The Australian Grand Prix was just about to move across to Melbourne and with that came a significant amount of increased corporate interest in motorsport. The Australian Touring Car Championship also got its act together and successfully became V8 Supercars shortly after, having a similar effect.
“A number of the companies who sponsored my radio reports and program updates on 3UZ came along for the ride with me in my new business.
“They believed in my idea to provide motor racing reporting services to radio stations nationally, while also taking advantage of my PR services to promote their products directly to the trade and to consumers,” He said.
Within one year, Marinelli Motorsport was supplying more than 25 national capital city and their regional affiliate radio stations with reports from the Australian Touring Car Championship, selected international Formula One, IndyCar and 500cc World Championship events and just about everything inbetween, including Nascar / Auscar, Super Tourers, Drag Racing and World Rally Championship events.
These media services along with his growing PR stable of automotive aftermarket clients shaped his one-man operation into a highly specialised motor racing marketing consultancy.
The first Marinelli PR (automotive aftermarket) client was the SAAS Manufacturing Company, a local company that was up there with the best in the world for motor racing and automotive aftermarket vehicle seats and steering wheels, established by Terry Mahoney.
“Terry was more than a client for me, he was my mentor and a dear friend. He helped me through the difficult initial years with excellent advice and support. We had been intrinsically linked from my radio reporting years and well into the formative years of my business.
“He was constantly advocating on my behalf to his motorsport industry colleagues and he instilled a ‘near enough isn’t good enough’ attitude that I have followed to this day,” Marinelli said.
The opportunity for Marinelli Motorsport to work with major motor racing categories and teams to handle their media communications came soon after. One of them was with champion V8 Supercar driver Glenn Seton and his Ford Credit Racing team for the 1996 season.
“It was a big jump and a great opportunity to work with one of the country’s most talented and accomplished racing drivers – albeit that this was very early in my motor racing PR career and there were more than a few people who thought that I wasn’t up to the job – but the media coverage that I generated quietened them down pretty quickly,” Marinelli said.
“I really enjoyed working with Glenn and his team, they were consummate professionals. It was also the start of a friendship with Glenn that would span more than 25 years and would find us working together again in the future,” he added.
Marinelli joined forces with Australia’s fastest motor racing category, Formula Holden in 1998. He was enamoured by these loud and powerful open wheelers and established relationships with many racing drivers, some of whom would progress to major success both locally and internationally.
“I’ll never forget organising media interviews for then 15 year old Kiwi driver Scott Dixon (who went on to become a multiple Indy 500 and IndyCar Championship winner) along with the many other drivers who went on to find major success in Supercars and other international categories. It was a privilege to help promote them during their formative years and to watch their career progression in future years,” Marinelli said.
“It was a fantastic series and we really managed to make an impact with the major media outlets as well. Getting the entire front page of the Herald Sun with an onboard Formula Holden shot on the Friday of the 1998 Australian Grand Prix was an incredible achievement, along with the many television and magazine features we gained over the next three years. I even had major newspaper motoring editors test drive a Formula Holden for what proved to be some very different double page tabloid sized car reviews that were carried nationally,” Marinelli stated.
Towards the end of the 2001 season, Marinelli was approached to assist the privateer Supercar team, Lansvale Racing at the Bathurst 1000.
“The Lansvale Racing period through the end of 2001 and the full 2002 season was a fantastic time, as I was working with a small team of the most passionate and hard working motor racing people that I had ever met. Gaining podiums and several top ten finishes with just nine staff and a fraction of the budget of the competition made this a great experience,” He said.
The greatest motor racing PR challenge Marinelli faced would come in late 2002 when he had been recommended to world leading motor racing engineering company, Prodrive, for a major PR consultancy role with their soon to be established Ford Performance Racing V8 Supercar team.
This was an incredible opportunity to work with a brand new super team running three V8 Supercars, one of them being driven by the country’s most famous racer, Craig Lowndes, along with old friend Glenn Seton and speedy newcomer, David Besnard.
Above all that, the owner of Prodrive, ex World Champion Rally co-driver David Richards, was actively involved in the project as was the Prodrive CEO of the time, Nick Fry, the role including being their publicist during their frequent visits to Australia.
The next four years saw the FPR team face major challenges but Marinelli maintains that it was still an incredible experience to be a part of.
“It wasn’t easy for any of us, there were a great deal of issues throughout the initial FPR years, but to say that I didn’t love my years there would be a lie. It certainly made sure that I could deal with anything that was thrown at me from a PR perspective – including the team blowing up FIVE engines at one race event.”
“It was rising above all of the challenges that made the success we enjoyed so much more rewarding. Working with guys as well known as Lowndes and Seton (again) was fantastic when it came to gaining media coverage as they were such polished performers.
“Publicising international star racers like Alain Menu, ex F1 drivers David Brabham and Mika Salo and being re-united with IndyCar driver and ex Formula Holden pilot Matt Halliday along with several other major international and Australian drivers who raced, tested or co-drove with the team was very memorable,” Marinelli said.
Working closely with and learning from highly experienced international motorsport identities such as Richards and Fry was the major highlight of the FPR years for Marinelli. These relationships would also prove to be valuable in the future when he turned his hand to race driver management.
“My only regret, as a life-long Formula One freak, is that Prodrive’s plan to enter Formula One as a customer team for the 2008 season didn’t happen. I had already been approached about being involved and if it had gone ahead, I was willing to drop everything and head over to Europe to join them on that adventure,” He said.
By the end of the 2007 season and after five years with FPR, an interesting call came from Supercars, seeking a new circuit commentator for the 2008 season. While broadcasting had been Marinelli’s first love and something he had missed a great deal, this opportunity came completely out of the blue and timed in with the need for a new career challenge.
By this stage, Marinelli had worked with the smallest teams through to the largest, the most unknown Australian and international drivers to some of the most famous, so the time seemed to be right to take this step.
What followed was a year where Marinelli was able to become a race fan again and enjoy the amazing spectacle of a world class motor racing series at its absolute prime – rather than seeing it solely from a single team perspective.
“To say I loved 2008 would be a gross understatement. I can only describe it as the best fun, combined with moments of sheer terror when things went technically wrong or when fumbles were made as everything was live. It was very much like radio in that respect.
“My first gig that season was at the Adelaide 500, alongside the world’s most famous motor racing commentator, Murray Walker. I had to pinch myself several times that I was calling races with this man whom I had listened to commentating F1 in such an entertaining style since I was a kid,” Marinelli said.
The V8 Supercars commentary role did not continue beyond 2008 but other far more exciting things followed it. After commentating in Bahrain when the Supercars raced there in 2008, the organisers invited Marinelli back to call Formula One and Sportscar races at the venue and this continued across the next decade. From that came television race commentary work with ESPN Asia, India’s STAR Network and the hosting of an international Formula One television program called GP Racing over a three year tenure.
These event and television commentary roles were accompanied by a number of major international convention, sporting and media event MC roles. The NT Government even contracted Marinelli to be their Supercar event host commentator and special event MC for several years following his initial Supercar commentary role.
Marinelli also gained corporate hosting and commentary assignments with the Spanish, Italian and Singapore Grands Prix in future years and continues as the international television and event commentator for the UIM XCAT World
Championship offshore powerboat racing series, which he describes as Formula One on water.
The media communications and business side of Marinelli Motorsport continued strongly alongside all of this motor racing, with the company attracting a who’s who of blue chip international automotive aftermarket PR clients over the years.
These included Monroe Australia, Dayco Australia, Hella Australia, ZF Asia Pacific, Schaeffler Asia Pacific, Bob Jane T-Marts, Coventry, Repco, GUD Group, Pennzoil, Holden Engine Company, SEW Eurodrive and several smaller companies, achieving extraordinary trade and consumer media coverage.
Representation of these companies at trade exhibitions across Australia and all over the world also continued to grow Marinelli’s reputation as an Australasian and international automotive aftermarket industry PR specialist.
Still as a one-man operation working directly with slightly more than a handful of clients after 25 years, Marinelli points out that it was never his intention to be a one man army for so long.
“I had employed some talented young people over the years, but they were quickly snapped up by other much larger companies (sometimes my own clients!) or they were not willing to put the effort into their work that was required for such a specialised and hands-on small business,” says Marinelli.
“It also became very apparent that after working closely with me for so long, my clients wanted it to remain that way.
“So whether I liked it or not, the formula to continuing as a successful business was to be small and very highly specialised. I also never accepted any work from companies who conflicted in any way with the products or services of any existing clients, which several larger PR companies didn’t care too much about.
“Several companies come to me over the years completely dissatisfied with the much larger agencies, so being boutique, niche and personalised was definitely the way forward for me,” Marinelli said.
Another interesting facet to Marinelli’s business portfolio includes athlete management. The highest profile of these was Supercar driver Mark Winterbottom, who joined forces with Marinelli from 2009, after they had worked together at Ford Performance Racing.
This alliance resulted in several new major sponsorships, ambassadorships, major television appearances and perhaps the most exciting, helping to land the Supercar driver a cameo role in the blockbuster Disney Pixar animated film, Cars2.
“Working with a leading Supercar driver at the peak of his career, negotiating contracts, gaining long term personal sponsorships, organising major media and corporate event appearances locally and internationally, meeting with Disney’s management – it was all very exciting.
“I’d like to think that the work that we did together during those years helped a great deal to set Mark up successfully for life – and that is a very good feeling,” Marinelli said.
Marinelli continues to manage the career of talented Supercar enduro, international GT / Sportscar and Porsche Carrera Cup driver David Russell and has played a smaller role in the careers of a number of other drivers through personal and team sponsorships. Marinelli also managed Winter Olympic Gold Medallist Lydia Lassila during a two year period between major international competition.
“Every time I tried to break out into something new in sport, I was always somehow brought back to motorsport. A classic example was while I was managing Lydia Lassila and we were courting Emirates as a potential personal sponsor. The Emirates marketing manager takes me aside during a meeting and tells me that they will be sponsoring the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix so could I assist them with promoting it to travel agents across Australia – that kind of thing happened a lot,” Marinelli recalled.
In terms of highlights, Marinelli remembers his years working alongside one of Australia’s most successful racing drivers and automotive aftermarket industry entrepreneurs, Bob Jane, as some of the fondest.
“Bob’s talent as a champion racing driver was the stuff I grew up reading about and watching on TV,” Marinelli said.
“Working with him across both his motorsport and automotive aftermarket businesses was mind-blowing. Bob’s business acumen was truly incredible.
“He was the first major Australian franchiser with his T-Marts empire and he invested millions in motorsport, race drivers, cars and venues over the decades.
“Bob was also a human publicity generating machine, anything we did together for the press worked brilliantly because he understood the power of PR so very well. In fact, he built a massively successful business empire on mastering his own PR,” Marinelli said.
Marinelli’s current client list includes Australia and the Asia Pacific’s largest automotive aftermarket company, Bapcor Limited, world leading engine component manufacturer Dayco Australia and Australasia’s largest automotive parts buying group Capricorn Limited, with motorsport involvements involving a number of teams and drivers through sponsorships and marketing consultancies. Over the years this has included his former team FPR, now known as Tickford Racing. It was Tickford Racing who gave Marinelli the honour of marking his company’s 25th Anniversary by running a sign on Cam Waters’ pole position setting and second place finishing Mustang at the 2020 Bathurst 1000.
“Having a Marinelli Motorsport sign on such a fantastic car at Australia’s greatest motor race to mark my 25th Anniversary was a wonderful gesture by Tickford, a team that despite the changes over the years, my company has been closely linked with for almost two decades,” Marinelli said.
Now in its 26th year and still as strong as ever, Marinelli heads into the future where reliance on PR and marketing consultants remains stronger than ever.
“The media landscape has changed so much over the years. Sadly we have seen many publications fall by the wayside and others continue to flourish. The demand for editorial content in line with the digital media explosion is greater than ever and with media organisations forced to reduce their journalistic resources, the reliance on quality PR content still remains very high.
It has been an amazing quarter century journey for Marinelli Motorsport, the little company born from the desire to combine passion into a career.
Australian motorsport has changed a great deal too during this time and some of if sadly not for the better.
“The fact that we let people in control of our sport basically destroy open wheeler racing in recent years has been extremely disappointing, the one thing that when I started out was so healthy and strong in this country. A definite career path existed and it produced some of the greatest Aussie and Kiwi drivers of our era in Supercars and internationally,” He said.
“It has been said that if you make your passion your career you never work a day in your life – but I don’t entirely subscribe to that. For me it is the sheer hard work and the constant extending of your boundaries that makes the difference. For many years there were no holidays, no weekends, no family special occasions, just work. That is how it had to be in order to succeed.
“Sure it can be more enjoyable, but from backing myself and taking this leap I went from living off a credit card in my first year and not knowing how things would go, to running a business that has taken me all over the world and provided the most incredible opportunities to work with and learn from some outstanding people in motorsport during the past 25 years.
“Throughout this journey one factor has remained exactly the same, the hard work ethic that makes sure my clients get the service and the results they deserve all of the time, keeping them at the front of mind of their customers.
“That along with my fierce competitive spirit, which is probably a bi-product of chasing racing cars all over the world for so long!” Marinelli concluded.
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