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Brown targets more Asian sponsors for McLaren

Zak Brown walks in the Pitlane before the F1 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone on August 09, 2020 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

McLaren Racing chief executive Zak Brown wants his team to secure more sponsors from Asia, believing brands from the region are under-represented on its roster.

With the recent addition of Miory Steel, the McLaren team has 41 sponsors, of which at least 16 have branding on the F1 car. Speaking at the All That Matters Online 2020 conference yesterday, Brown said, “What we don’t have are a lot of Asia-based partners, and you know in my previous role I was fortunate to bring in LG and Lenovo to the sport…I’d like to see more of those, more companies with their homes in Asia getting involved in Formula 1, and I think we need to raise the awareness, beyond what it is today.”

McLaren has been busy servicing existing sponsors as best it can during this year’s disrupted Formula 1 season. Brown said the team sat with every partner to create new plans for the season: “We weren’t short of having some pain ourselves and we worked through on a case-by-case basis with each partner in a very proactive way, and happy to say we have every single partner we started with, and more, and everyone’s very happy, it’s working well.”

Changes to partnerships included what he called offering ‘incremental branding’ opportunities and rolling over hospitality arrangements to 2021 and beyond.

Brown said sponsors had been happy overall with his team’s, and Formula 1’s, reaction to the pandemic: “As you would imagine with people not travelling, television ratings are up, digital and social numbers continue to grow and extremely fast, our sponsors and the industry sponsors are happy.”

But with many events cancelled this year in Asia, the US and Europe, F1 is facing a painful financial hit, particularly in the area of lost promoter fees. Grand Prix hosts pay substantial fees to run races, which they aim to recoup by selling tickets and hospitality packages.

The F1 race in Singapore was one of those cancelled. In normal years, the All That Matters conference takes place in Singapore the same week as the Grand Prix. Brown hailed the Singapore race as a model for F1, calling the race weekend “the Asia-Pacific Davos”.

“You know, when you go to that Grand Prix, there is no race that has more global C-level executives that attend and attend for business reasons…I applaud the Singaporean government and the promoter of the race, it’s a fantastic race and I think we need more ‘Singapores’.”

The American former race driver also told the conference that he sees a big future for esports within F1, and pointed out that McLaren was the first team in the sport to start an esports team three years ago.

“I think it’s going to generate a younger fan base and that’s going to become the grass roots of our sport. Nothing’s more engaging than having a steering wheel in your hand, that’s going to be a game-changer for our sport.”

Brown also said he believes the coming budget cap in Formula 1 will be a positive for the sport, and would help leaders like him increase the value of team franchises.