Zak Brown has fast become one of motorsport’s biggest tycoons, taking up the helm at McLaren alongside his commitments at United Autosports and all while managing one of the industries biggest media conglomerates, Motorsport Network.
Brown also has ties to Liberty Media, who are poised to complete their deal which will see them become the majority shareholder of Formula 1 within the next few days. With that in mind, I caught up with him at this years Autosport Show and discussed how the sport plans on growing and increasing it’s media exposure – particularly in the US.
“It (F1) certainly wouldn’t be up with the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball – it’s not in those leagues,” said Brown, referring to the US marketplace. “We know in Europe and other parts of the world, it is. When people are exposed to it, they love it, so we just need to expose more people to it.”
‘Getting fans closer to the sport’ seems to be the big buzz phrase in Formula 1 at the moment. There are fans forums that take place already at some Grand Prix’s and even circuits like Silverstone host an extra day dedicated to fan engagement. But Brown believes that should extend outside the circuit, where each race should be on the same level as the Super Bowl.
“I think we need to let the towns know about the race earlier,” he said. “I’ve landed at some Grand Prix’s in the airport and you wouldn’t know that the race is on, whereas with the Super Bowl by the time the plane has pulled up into the gateway, you know the Super Bowl is in town. So I think the marketing needs to start at the city level, in the airports, I think the drivers need to turn up earlier, get the media there earlier and maybe have some events. I don’t think the fan engagement has to be just at the race track, it can be in the town centres etc…”
Talks of shaking up the weekend format have also been put forward, with the potential for shorter races and one on a Saturday as a way to make the racing more entertaining. Brown believes the current format works well, but says it could benefit from consultation like other sports have done.
“I’m ok with the format,” he states. “I’m certainly open to suggestions and if you look at other sports they have made modifications to their sport, to try and be more appealing to the way people view sport now, so I think it does need to be reviewed but I’m not convinced that the on track product and the format of the weekend has much wrong with it.”