As NASCAR plans on a future filled with growth, they’re counting on an old friend to help attract Fortune 500 brands to the sport. Sean Downes, a former employee of the company returned this week to become the new Managing Director of Business Development, happy to return to the sport in a new, important role behind the scenes. Reporting to NASCAR Chief Sales Officer Jim O’Connell, Downes will be tasked with the responsibility of coming up with new, creative ways to open up new sponsorship categories while helping ensure that traditional categories are filled.
Of course, many of NASCAR’s current partnerships are ones Downes has already worked hard on in a previous life; as NASCAR’s Director of Partnership Marketing, from 2005 to 2009 he has plenty of deep-rooted relationships with the company’s most integral supporters. Coca-Cola, Mars (with their M&M’s brand) and P&G are just some of the many corporations he’s worked with extensively, and are embracing his return to the sport and offering universal praise for his management skills.
Downes returns to the sport after a two-year, highly successful stint at Madison Square Garden in New York City. As a senior executive in the sports division, he was responsible for bringing in $200 million in new business while creating and selling corporate entertainment partnerships for an arena that houses the NBA (New York Knicks), NHL (New York Rangers), the Big East Tournament of Men’s NCAA basketball and dozens more special events and competitions each year. Downes also worked with a team in selling and creating corporate entertainment solutions for more than 250 events per year at the “World’s Most Famous Arena.” Add in his partnership client engagement with more than 30 corporations, and it’s clear his time away from the sport allowed him to develop even more connections which could greatly benefit NASCAR in the future.
“Sean has always understood the unique value proposition of being an official NASCAR partner,” O’Connell said. “He has a deep knowledge of our industry and has successfully built and maintained strong relationships with Fortune 500 companies while at MSG and throughout his career. Sean will play a key role in helping to open up new categories and attract even more blue chip brands to our sport.”
Overall, the NASCAR executives sports marketing experience spans more than two decades. Beginning in 1995, he held partnership marketing roles at companies ranging from Octagon, to the Philadelphia Eagles and the NBA’s New Jersey Nets. Developing a strong group of diverse clients and partnerships, coupled with his already extensive knowledge of the sport, will make his transition to NASCAR a winning proposition for business.
A Villanova University graduate, Downes resides in Morristown, N.J. with his wife and three children and will work out of NASCAR’s New York City office. If his past accomplishments are any indication, it won’t be hard to spot his work every Sunday; a long line of new sponsors will surely follow as the sport’s newest executive looks to keep building up its support over the long-term.
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