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Sports Business

Local marketer in midst of F1 fight

June 19, 2009

brownJust Marketing International’s Zak Brown has found himself in the middle of the fight between Formula One teams and organizers. In London the past week and this weekend for the British Grand Prix and some meetings with his sponsor-clients, Brown met yesterday with F1 czar Bernie Ecclestone and several other series and team higher-ups.

Brown said he had a lengthy lunch with Ecclestone yesterday to underline the gravity of the situation. While Brown is optimistic the conflict will get resolved without a split, he said the revelation that FIA President Max Mosley intends to sue Ferrari and the other teams is troubling.

“Sponsors don’t have a high tolerance for this situation,” Brown said. “They have hundreds of millions of dollars invested, and they’re uncomfortable. [F1 and team officials] are definitely playing with fire.”

Indianapolis-based Just Marketing counts ING, LG, Johnnie Walker, Hilton Hotels and Lenovo as clients. Johnnie Walker, Hilton and Lenovo are McLaren team sponsors; ING is a Renault sponsor. LG—as well as the others—are F1 series sponsors.

“I’m not here to say who’s right and who’s wrong in this,” Brown said. “It’s not a sponsor’s place to say how the sport should be run. But I did tell them sponsors don’t want a breakaway series and they don’t want F1 without Ferrari, McLaren and the other core teams. My big message is to get this resolved and get it resolved quickly.”

Brown, who before founding Just Marketing drove in an F1 feeder series, said in all his years in the sport and in sports marketing, he’s never seen anything quite like this.

“This is one of the most intense negotiations I’ve seen,” Brown said. “There are a lot of negotiations still going on via significant threats by both parties. Both sides are very stuck on their own position.”
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