Branding is usually considered to be a mix of visual elements and an image or tone it conveys. This could be through a logo, colors, a certain type of language and many more things. Charlie Martin – graphic designer and Ginetta GT5 Championship racer in unison – explains how building a personal brand is a crucial element for a career in motorsport.
Charlie started her motorsport career in the mid-2000s and made her way from hillclimb races into the British Ginetta GT5 Championship by 2018. In that time, she also graduated in graphic design at the Nottingham Trent University and went on to use her skills to build up her own brand GoCharlie. Her mantra: "Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way."
As a designer, Charlie is able to work firsthand on what you would call the foundations of a great brand; the logo, the typography, the colour palette and the overall tone that these combine to create. But in a competitive environment like motor racing, it's about more than just the look. "For me it's about having something that defines you beyond just being a driver."
The key element of Charlie's brand is showing an approachable, positive personality to fans and followers, which in turn is also more attractive for commercial partners. That's where her brand goes beyond the 'graphic look'. It's the combination of design, her blog posts and her overall online presence that accomplishes it. This is especially important because of the big amount of racing drivers who are in need of sponsorship.
Your brand is the total of everything you do, at least in the public eye, even the small things. "Whether this is a logo or colours you use, music on an ident, the thing you always say at the start of a video, it's the small things that become part of your persona - that thing that instantly defines 'you'."
Designing her own brand, managing her day job, and going racing simultaneously naturally results in a need for good time management. "I have a tendency to overwork on content when perhaps I should be focussing my attention behind the wheel. I think the key is making sure I dedicate the time & energy to focus at a race weekend, so in terms of social media I make sure I don't overload myself."
Combining design and racing gives you a unique skillset that few people can offer, so that can only be a good thing. It's a great asset to bring to a team as a driver as you can create a lot of exposure.
Of course, being a designer and a racing driver also brings major benefits. Charlie not only manages her social media channels by herself, but also designs her liveries, manages her own website, produces and edits her own videos, and much more. "I can make sure that everything is regularly updated. It also means I can make a lot of content and constantly increase my digital footprint." Being a designer actually also brings professional benefits for Charlie. "It's a great asset to bring to a team as a driver as you can create a lot of exposure." This skill set got her in touch with KDC Racing, the newly-founded racing team of Sauber F1's former team principal Monisha Kaltenborn which is currently racing in the German and Italian Formula 4 series.
The greatest excitement for all designers is to see their creation come to life. So does it have that extra special feeling racing your own livery? "I'd be lying if I said it didn't. When you absolutely love cars and get to design the way they look, then race them on track, it's just so rewarding. […] I'm really happy about how the Ginetta GT5 turned out with it's NGK colour scheme."
And who knows what's yet to come?
I guess the holy grail for me would be to design something that gets to race at Le Mans. Now if I also got to drive it...