Sean Bratches, Formula 1’s managing director of commercial operations, admits to being surprised to have arrived to run the business side of the sport, only to find that there was not a business side to take over.
Bratches, alongside Ross Brawn, was brought in by Liberty Media when they took over the sport from Bernie Ecclestone to improve the sport, but the lack of any teams to deal with sponsorships, media rights, digital platforms and research needed addressing, and it made him feel he was dealing with a start-up business, not one with a fan base of around half a billion fans.
All of this has meant that the former ESPN executive has found areas that he exploit to improve Formula 1, using 21st century business practices, whilst also maintaining the parts of the sport that were being done well.
“I was asked to come and run the commercial side of the business,” said Bratches to RACER. “We have an expression – I don’t know if it’s an American expression or English too, but it’s bait-and-switch. So when I got there to run the business, there was no business side!
“So probably the biggest surprise was there was no sponsorship team, there was no media rights team, there was no digital team, there was no research team and no research. So having an entity that is 67 years old, with a global brand, with over half a billion fans, with a rather enviable balance sheet, to have no commercial team was quite astonishing.
“I think that when you take a step back and look at the lay of the land in terms of how successful Formula 1’s been without any focus on the commercial side – with this global brand, half a billion fans and doing well financially – think about the opportunity where you can bring in 21st century business practices and leadership.
“So in effect I really believe that I’m managing a start-up. While there were a number of things that were done extremely well, there are a litany of opportunities that were laying fallow that are right to be exploited to better serve Formula 1 fans around the world and drive good business to not only Formula 1 but our broadcast partners, our sponsorship partners, promoters and fans.”