Marketing Expert Zak Brown Next IndyCar CEO?

A week or so ago, rumors surfaced that IndyCar was inquiring about the possible availability of Zak Brown, who heads one of the largest motorsports marketing businesses in the world.  Is it possible and who is Zak Brown?

IndyCar driver Will Power’s Penske Racing prepared Chevrolet sponsored by Verizon.
Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Marketing, per se, is sometimes looked upon by most of society as an unknown.  Often there is no quantifiable result that can be held up as to the reality of what goes on in business.  Therefore, people’s eyes glaze over when the word marketing is mentioned.  Yet, without marketing, there would be no sales or brands and companies would operate in a vacuum … but of course that doesn’t exist.  Marketing is key to the existence of a business even if people don’t visually see it in concrete.

In motorsports, you have the ultimate in marketing.  A fan loves the sport and brings their enthusiasm to a driver or team and in-turn, whatever marketer supports that guy or girl, the fan then gladly supports the race team and drivers sponsor.  Such is motorsports marketing in a nutshell.

Marketing guru

Zak Brown operates Just Marketing International which has been involved in racing for a couple decades.  According to stories by Associated Press and Sports Business Daily, Brown is being courted for the top position at the largest American open wheel organization.

A racer at one time, Brown started acquiring sponsorships in the racing world at every level.  Brown is from Los Angeles, California, and began driving go-karts as a teen before moving on to open wheel, eventually becoming an Atlantics and Indy Lights driver.  He built up Just Marketing and then came back to driving, this time with sports cars.

Five years ago, he sold a majority of his thriving business to Spire Capital, which is a private equity firm based in New York City.  And that is where the new stories about Brown possibly moving on to IndyCar takes off.  Spire Capital is now looking to sell their portion of the company and with Brown appearing to be a front-runner as CEO of IndyCar, well, the rumors have more substantiation.

Part of Tony George’s group

You might remember Brown was involved last year in the push to acquire IndyCar by Tony George (source: Yahoo! Sports).  IndyCar is owned by the Hulman/George family (Hulman & Co.), but they eventually held off selling the series to Tony.  Having acquired many sponsorships that involved open wheel (such as Verizon), especially in Formula One, Brown has direct knowledge of the sport from a business standpoint.

Interim IndyCar chief Mark Miles said that Brown has business-related issues that need to be resolved before Brown can entertain the CEO job at IndyCar saying,

“He’s [Brown] got a complicated life that he’s got to sort out, and we’ve also got to do our due diligence.  You don’t just fall in love overnight.  We continue to learn about each other and how we think, and he can speak for himself — he’s got other interests, and this isn’t a part-time gig.  So we’ve got to see.”

Zak Brown has had a lot of success in NASCAR as well (such as the Farmers Insurance sponsorship) which may be a benefit and insight for the series and thereby should be a good reason for hiring him.  A successful marketer in motorsports, Brown would bring a host of skills that may be just what the series needs.  Of course, they were on the right path before firing last year’s CEO Randy Bernard, so there’s no telling what Hulman & Co. might do.  With the economy still in the doldrums, a marketing mind like Brown’s could be what brings IndyCar to the forefront.  Now if the Hulman and George families would just stay out of the way …

Topics: Human & Co., IndyCar, Just Marketing International, Marketing, Zak Brown

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