ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Zak Brown intends to use his commercial expertise to bring a big-name title sponsor to McLaren.
The 45-year-old American was hired as executive director of the Formula One team on Monday as part of a significant restructuring following the departure of Ron Dennis.
“It’s critically important we find a title partner, a major sponsor. We need some logos on the side of our car,” Brown said Friday from McLaren’s motorhome. “The brands we have on the car now are fantastic companies. We need more of them. It costs a lot of money to go motor-racing and we need to deliver a lot of value to our marketing partners.”
Brown is well placed to attract potential new sponsors given his wealth of experience. He founded the motorsport marketing company JMI in 1995 and is an ex-Formula Three racer who started out his junior career in karting.
Brown, who once had aspirations of being an F1 driver, clearly knows what he is looking for.
“If you look at the McLaren brand and what it stands for: it is technology, lifestyle, wealth, competition, speed, precision,” Brown said. “Those are the types of companies that make sense for us to partner.”
Dennis, McLaren’s chairman and chief executive, last week failed in a bid at London’s High Court to stop the team’s board from forcing him out.
Brown paid tribute to him.
“Ron, at the end of the day, is the one who recruited me,” Brown said. “The last couple of years he left the door open. He turned up the volume in pursuit of me.”
The British team is continuing its search for a chief executive to replace Dennis, who oversaw the historic tussle for the F1 title between McLaren drivers Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost in 1988 and 1989, before Mika Hakkinen clinched championships in 1998 and 1999. Three-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton won his first title with McLaren in 2008.
McLaren’s success has since dried up, and its renewed relationship with Japanese engine manufacturer Honda has yet to bring titles. Although McLaren has 2009 champion Jenson Button and two-time champion Fernando Alonso, neither has placed higher than fifth since Honda’s return last season.
This year, Alonso is 10th overall while Button is 15th heading into Sunday’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
However, the car’s improving speed leaves Brown optimistic the team can get podiums next year, when highly-rated Belgian prospect Stoffel Vandoorne will partner Alonso.
“We’ve got what I think is the best race car driver in the world in Fernando Alonso,” Brown said. “I think Stoffel is very much a future world champion.”