Sean Brennen - Senior PR Manager for Feld Motorsports
Dale talks with Sean Brennen with Felt Motorsports. Dale talks with Sean Brennen with Felt Motorsports. As the PR director for a major motor organization, what's he seeing with live and new events? Not to mention, his thoughts on supercross surpassing 50 years of existence.
Welcome to Pit Pass Moto, the show that brings you deep dive interviews with the motorcycle industry insiders and racers that make the sport move.
I'm your host, Dale Spangler, and this week our guest is Sean Brennen, senior PR director for Feld Motor Sports, motors of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship.
This episode of Pit Pass Moto is brought to you by MotoAmerica. MotoAmerica's the home of AMA Superbike Racing, and is North America's premier motorcycle road racing series. Rewatch every round of the 2022 series and revisit all the action with the MotoAmerica Live+ video-on-demand streaming service, or visit the MotoAmerica YouTube Channel for race highlights and original video content.
To view the complete 2023 MotoAmerica race schedule, head over to motoamerica.com and be sure to follow MotoAmerica on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for real-time series updates.
Let's get started.
I'd like to welcome back to Pit Pass Moto, Sean Brennen. Sean, I know how it's been from my perspective watching the Supercross series so far this year. How have things been for you?
Well, hey, first off, yeah, thank you for having me. My goodness, 2023 is off to, boy, an amazing start. Thrilled that you have been able to catch all of the racing action so far.
And boy, what a year, three sellouts to start the season with our California run. Both Anaheims were sellouts and then San Diego was a sellout as well. And then Houston we have 50,000 in our first NFL stadium this past weekend.
So, the racing has been amazing and attendance is certainly showing that our fans are into it for this season as well, which is great.
Yeah, you kind of touched on it there. That was one of my questions, like now, that we're kind of back in full swing with the series into some of these places like Southern California where the series traditionally started and the crowds just seem like they're back in full force. And I could tell that just from like A1 and A2.
I mean, what's been your insider's experience and perspective? It's got to be a good feeling when you see that packed full house of fans, and I think the riders probably appreciated as well.
Oh, they do. It is such an energy when you're there in person, as you know. And we certainly, do our best to capture that energy on the television broadcast. But as from being at these races, the energy is unlike, really any other sport.
And we hear it from the athletes all the time. I mean, kids grow up dreaming about opening ceremonies and that energy and the stadium and Saturday Night Supercross and being under the lights. And now, rather than the old days of the rock concerts with the big lighters, it's all about the flashlights on your cell phones.
But that is a really dramatic moment in our opening ceremonies and seeing all the fans out there. But yeah, we hear it from the athletes all the time. The energy is unreal at our races. Our fans bring it each and every time.
To start the season, to your initial point, yeah, I think that the pandemic, boy, we have all been through a lot these last three years. I was just thinking today, it was three years ago that we were here in our home market of Tampa and we were thrilled to be back racing Tampa, this next upcoming round.
We loved it when we're here in our home market, but really that was almost the start of everything where it was really starting to get pretty serious around the Tampa race. And then of course, when we got to Daytona, it really got bad and things were starting to shut down. And of course, by the following round in Indianapolis, the entire sports world was shut down.
So, to your point, I think that some fans, depending on their level of health and their level of concern for the pandemic, it's been in waves as to their comfortability with going to not only live sporting events, but rock concerts and things like that.
But I think from what we are seeing, especially with our fan base, that folks are way past that and just excited to be in person and to be at live sporting events again, and of course our Monster Energy Supercross races.
I would almost go so far to say like a good way to compare Supercross for someone who's never experienced it, is probably the Monster Jam, the monster truck series, which happens to be another series that the Feld promotes. Would you say that's kind of there's some similarities there as far as the overall experience if you're a spectator?
Yeah, for sure. Monster Jam, it is a spectator sport for sure, and we have an all-day experience, if you will, out in the paddock so that you can meet all the athletes, get up close with all of the trucks. We are in the live entertainment business, so experience and fan experience is heavy on our strategy.
And like at Disney World, we think of everything, from of course purchasing your tickets to showing up, knowing where to go, what to expect. Under promising but overdelivering on all of those experiences is certainly something that we try to do.
But yeah, the Monster Jam experience and Supercross, there are a lot of things that we use on both of those properties that work very well. And any time we learn something with Monster Jam that we think that will work with Supercross, we absolutely employ it and implement it.
And then same with Supercross. There's a lot of things that we do on Supercross that work very well there that we can then use in Monster Jam as well.
And I would further say that all of our brands, everything from Disney on Ice to Jurassic World Live, there are things that we are learning from our other teams. Whether it's fan experience or upgrades, VIP type experiences.
We learn from each other and that is a definite benefit of working with a world class outfit like we have, that are putting on world class events and touring around the world, not just here domestically. So, we learn things and try to throw out the bad and keep the good and always continue to improve.
Speaking of learning, in many ways, it's been a year of firsts. Like this is the first major change we've seen in decades for this new SuperMotocross series where we've got outdoor series, Supercross series, and then at the end of the year you've got these SuperMotocross playoffs.
Not to mention you had a race postponed in Oakland because of weather, and that's something that hasn't happened for nearly 50 years. So, it's been a little bit weird. And I imagine you've had to do some adjustments along the way with this whole new series format and things like the Oakland Supercross having to be moved.
So, tell me a little bit about that, like this new series structure. I mean, the excitement's got to be just over the top.
It really is. And my goodness, a year of firsts, this is our 50th year of Supercross here in America. Think about that. 50 years of Supercross racing here. And as I like to remind people, we're as American as apple pie and baseball. It was born here in America. Of course, we certainly acknowledge our heritage with motocross and immigrating from Europe.
But man, Supercross was born right here at LA Memorial Coliseum back in 1972. And of course, we take our start from 1974 when it was a points pain part of the championship. But a year of firsts, it's incredible that after all this time that we still are experiencing new things.
To the Oakland thing, when flooding is so bad that there is casualties of life in a certain market, it's not about just rain and being uncomfortable. Of course, it's very important that all of our athletes are safe, number one, but all of our fans are safe, number two.
So, we will always take those things into consideration. Because again, you want the ticket buying fans to experience a great race. You want to keep her athletes certainly safe and all of those things. But when there's a loss of life in a certain market because of torrential downpours and flooding and things like that, it really was the only choice to make in that situation.
It was certainly unfortunate. Is it inconvenient on all of us? Absolutely. But was it the right call? Absolutely as well.
So, we were fortunate that we had a built-in bi-week, if you will, and the 18th was open. We certainly, didn't want it to linger into the season. So, we were fortunate that we were able to reschedule everything on the 18th and make those decisions as quickly as possible so that we could communicate that, not only to our fans that have made ticket purchases but for all of our …
The logistics behind Supercross, not only from our standpoint, but from all of our race teams, all the way to the privateers that have budgets already appropriated for the year, it's a lot. There's a lot of logistics that go into moving a date and certainly is nothing that we would take lightly for sure.
But the SuperMotocross World Championship, my goodness this is a neat, neat time in the history of our sport. We have always felt like it is one sport, two different disciplines. And really everything happens for a reason. And I think that coming out of the pandemic and everything that we learned in working closer with MX Sports Pro Racing and the outdoor Pro Motocross series, we learned a lot in working closer with the teams in full transparency and not making any decisions in a vacuum.
We learned a lot with all of that, and that's really what led to where we are now. It is still very difficult, I know in a lot of fans as to what this is going to look like from a storytelling standpoint, from a point standpoint, from a playoff standpoint.
And until we actually get through it and everybody realizes, “Wow, okay, that's what that is.” I think that a lot of fans are still a little curious as to what we are doing and really what is the SuperMotocross World Championship.
But it is going to be a neat fall. The seating in the top 20 in combined points and the best athletes in the world and now, having something to look forward to in a playoff and another championship. And obviously, a big prize at the end of all of this and the richest payout that our sport has ever seen at $10 million across all three. $5.5 million for those final three races there.
There's a lot that we are excited about. And to your original point, yes, a year of firsts for sure.
It makes absolute sense. Me personally, I've been around this my entire life. I mean, it just seems like it's clarified, consolidated everything to where now, like these teams going forward, they know what their season's going to look like, and I feel like it's going to really help with the planning process.
Before it was like Supercross season and then you went into a completely separate outdoor season, and then the fall was kind of like a free for all, like riders were looking for things to do. So, it's really kind of nice from that perspective to have this one series all together.
I would imagine this took a long time planning, but then I also assumed things like the World Supercross series coming along, that probably sped things up.
Yeah. In a way, it did. But we were already having these conversations. We knew that we needed to work closer with the outdoor series. There were some things that were really already in the works, if you will. But I would say the pandemic sped up that whole process more than anything.
In Daytona of 2020, we had meetings already scheduled and had already had conversations with MX Sports Pro Racing. And at that point, it was really more about kind of pie in the sky things. Like what would it look like if we were to combine forces?
And even at that point, Dave Prater and Todd Jendro were really the ones that were in those meetings with Carrie Coombs-Russell and Davey Coombs and other key stakeholders on that side of the fence. And it was really a sit down on how can we work better together.
And then by Friday of that week, the entire sports world was shut down and we really had to come together because we were already 10 rounds in our season. And then of course, MX Pro Racing was thinking, “Boy, what's going to happen with our season that's two months away? How do we, one, finish and complete our championship? How do we plan and keep the athletes safe going into the Pro Motocross season?”
So, that really started everything. And once we started figuring all of that out, then it was, “You know what, this is for the greater good of the entire industry. And there are a lot of other things that we can be working towards in the bigger picture.” So, and that's where SuperMotocross was born.
And the biggest need coming out of the pandemic was a synchronized television and media rights deal. So, after COVID, that was really the next big bucket list item that needed to be tackled. And our seasons and our media rights deals were never really in line with one another. They certainly, have had races and have had partnerships with NBC sports as we have had.
But they've also, the MX Sports and Pro Motocross had deals with MAVTV and things like that but they were never in sync with one another.
So, that was really the next biggest thing is, “Okay, in 2023, we actually have an opportunity for both sports to be able to pitch together and really try and make it easier on fans, number one, but also, find a media rights partner that is investing into the future of the sport.”
And in TV land, even though like as growing as our sport is, as you know, 17 events in media rights land isn't long enough. 12 events in TV land is not long enough. You look at every other major sport and how many races NASCAR has, 30 plus. An NFL season, 17 games plus the playoffs, plus the Super Bowl. These are bigger, longer seasons than we had individually.
So, combining forces, again, one sport, two disciplines combined with a playoff and a Super Bowl now, gives us 10 months of storytelling and 31 events within a 10-month span. That is really what led to NBC and Peacock being more attracted and attracted to a long-term investment over a five-year period.
I would say that the pandemic really is the main driver that had us working together. And did it force our hand a little bit in solving some of these issues a little bit quicker? Probably. But we did know that for 2023 from a media rights standpoint, that it would be better if we were aligned together so that we could go and pitch that and be ready for the 2023 season.
Before you finish today's episode, first, we have a word from our sponsor.
Well, I think it's been absolutely a brilliant move so far. And as you said, we've yet to see these playoffs, but just everything you just talked about right now makes complete sense. We've seen it with like other series like Formula One that's more popular than ever. It's pretty much a year-round series.
So, let's talk a little bit about these playoffs though, because it's really exciting on two fronts. Not only are they going to be hybrid tracks at speedways, but it's also going to be kind of a hybrid fan experience too. So, tell us about that, because I think it's going to be a really unique experience at these playoffs.
Now, you're absolutely right, and that has been something from the get-go that we wanted to incorporate. We wanted to, one, make it very accessible to everyone in the country to attend these races.
So, we have the West Coast represented by the LA Memorial Coliseum and the World Championship final round, the middle of the country at Chicagoland Speedway represented, as well as the East Coast in the eastern seaboard with zMAX Dragway that is part of the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
So, that was one thing, is that we wanted to make these rounds accessible, whether you're flying and or driving. So, I would say that is part of the overall strategy is one which we certainly incorporated.
Secondly, the ability for our sport. And we can talk about Malcolm Stewart right now, we can talk about Austin Forkner, that in every other sport, as soon as a major athlete goes down, what is everybody thinking? Wow, will they be back in time to be able to help our team in the playoffs and the Super Bowl? Every other sport has those storytelling opportunities.
And in our sport, it was always, my goodness the championship is done, the season is done. For us, depending on the severity of the injury, do they not come back for Supercross at all and then just start preparing for the outdoors? Is the injury in recovery and rehab long enough that they'll be out for the entire year? And there's nothing to race for at all within this race calendar?
But right now, Austin Forkner has a lot to come back for. He has a reason to come back. And if that ends up being at the tail end of Supercross and or if it's able to come back in Pro Motocross, he is still working towards combined points and seeding into the playoffs, which we've never had.
Malcolm Stewart, same thing. I don't know if he has made it public or the team has made it public what his recovery process will be, but if there is a chance for him to come back and be a part of the playoffs and the World Championship final, like that is excitement that all of — I mean, we all want to see that.
And our sport has never had that opportunity before. So, I think that that is going to be incredibly exciting for all of us moving forward. And again, it's hard to see what this is going to look like until we've all lived through it, but there is still a big prize at the end.
The integrity of the Supercross Championship is still in play. I mean, that is still the best riders around the world compete in Supercross. The best riders around the world come to America to compete in Pro Motocross. And the integrity of winning each one of them championships is still intact.
But to be able to now, come and have another championship to play for, that is completely unique in our sport, is going to be amazing. So, the combined, as you were mentioning these tracks, we've never seen them before. I shy away a little bit from using the term hybrid because our vision is 100%, these are going to be unique, never seen before SuperMotocross Championship level tracks.
And they're going to incorporate the best of both worlds, as I like to say, that you'll still see signature triple jumps, you'll still see fast rhythm sections in speed that is typical in the outdoors.
So, the racing is going to be really unique. The challenge on the race teams is going to be unique. The setup for these are going to be completely different than prepping just for Supercross or prepping just for Pro Motocross. So, that is going to be a challenge like we've never seen in our sport before.
But then the fan experience, like you were mentioning, that is a little surprise I think that we are bringing to the party, if you will, where we're hosting these events at zMAX Dragway, Chicagoland Speedway, and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. These will all allow enough footprint and a big enough footprint that we can create a very unique SuperMotocross fan experience.
What's unique from a fan experience on the outdoors and Pro Motocross is being able to line the fence and show Jett Lawrence a poster, that you love him and being up close to the action. And that's going to be a first for our sport under this umbrella. But that is very much a part of our design, not only from the race front, the track building front, but also, the fan experience front, making this completely unique.
Yeah. I mean, personally I look forward to it. I think the final round being in the LA Coliseum, I was able to race there way back in ‘89 on the East-West shootout, back when you still raced in that stadium.
Yeah. So, much history with that. I saw where they were just racing — I think they were racing NASCAR in that stadium this past weekend.
Yeah, they had the Clash event. So, this is the second year of the NASCAR Clash and yeah, very unique race that is different for them and the great start to their season. It seemed like it went off really well. I know it was really attended by a lot of celebrities.
It's neat, Whiz Khalifa attended our celebrity event in Anaheim, and then this week he was a featured performer as part of the NASCAR Clash as well. So, it's neat seeing different celebrities and different folks all enjoying motorsports. Any way that you can bring new fans over to experience what we are doing is a big part. It is a big win for all of us.
Not everybody grows up on two wheels. I rode, you race, so kudos to you. But my goodness, anytime you can get anybody out to a race, once they experience what Supercross and even Pro Motocross is from a live event standpoint, man, they become fans for life.
Well, I'm more jealous of your music background and some of the different celebrity musicians you've been able to see through the years.
And speaking of that, you kind of mentioned it like at A2, it was celebrity night and I saw some great photos of you with members of Whitesnake and Twisted Sister and Green Day, and I mean, probably the list goes on and on. Was there a favorite of a musician that you got to meet that night?
Oh, my goodness, absolutely. Rudy Sarzo. Rudy Sarzo, for sure, my goodness. Founding member of Quiet Riot. Rudy ended up going with Randy Rhoads. They both went from Quiet Riot over to Ozzy Osbourne, the groundbreaking first two records with Ozzy that really put his solo career on the map.
And then from that he went to Whitesnake. Very, very active still with recording and touring. But yeah, Rudy Sarzo is definitely my personal favorite, for sure.
Well, one question I wanted to ask you here as we wind down this interview is I'm curious to know, like in your position as being the senior director of public relations, like what's one of the most challenging things about your job?
The most challenging? It's interesting you bring it up. It's on two fronts. And I bring it back to journalistic integrity. There's a younger generation right now that … and we talked a little bit about music, so let's go back to the Napster days. Do you remember Napster?
And really for the music industry, that was a groundbreaking moment. And everything is for free, it's on the internet, file sharing, fans could just rip their entire catalog and share it with whoever they wanted. And there's no recourse as far as your musician who created it.
And I would say that we struggle with the exact same thing. And especially with media in the sense that there are aspiring media folks that think it's absolutely fine to sit at home and rip from our Peacock live stream and add analysis to stuff and think that that's journalism and it's not.
There is a YouTube generation, same thing, that are stealing photos from legit media sources that invest in going to events. And we have an entire generation of media that's growing up on YouTube thinking that it's absolutely fine to just steal things off the internet.
So, my biggest challenge is dealing with this new generation of media folks and trying to educate them on copyright and what is journalism, what is allowed, what is not allowed, and things like that. And even photography from the stands, same thing. They sneak the cameras into our events.
And it's one thing to tag Eli Tomac in a photograph because you want to show him, but we have aspiring media and aspiring photographers that you know it's going towards a commercial endeavor when not only if they tag an Eli Tomac, but why in the heck would you tag everyone of Eli's sponsors?
There's no reason to do that other than you're trying to get noticed and you hope that they use your photo that will eventually lead to additional work. It's a huge issue and one of the most challenging things that I deal with on a day-to-day and a week-to-week basis.
Yeah. So, it almost sounds like that old school kind of like journalistic integrity slash etiquette is just not there, and you're having to educate them. And I know exactly what you mean. Every time I open up YouTube, I swear there's another person, like, “Where'd this count come from?”
And so, yeah, they're just basically taking someone else's footage or photos and then overlaying their commentary. So, yeah, it's definitely a wild west out there, isn't it?
Yes, it really is. And my message to any of these guys are that we are happy to work with you on a legit way. Certainly, you have to have a big enough audience to get the type of access that is warranted for media credentials and things like that.
But there's a lot of other things that we can provide, that we are happy to do so in a legit way if you are really investing and you want a career in media, because YouTube certainly does play a huge role in the spectrum of platforms. Podcasts still play a huge spectrum as far as platforms. And we are certainly, adapting to these different mediums and are happy to work with these newcomers into our sport.
Again, it's all about growing it, it's all about new eyeballs and having new people come in. So, anytime that we can tap into a new audience, we are happy to do so and happy to work with you. But there are rules in this game and it's about respecting the roles of that and adhering to it that is our biggest challenge right now.
Well, it's exciting stuff what's going on in the Supercross series this year and the entire SuperMotocross series. To me, I look at it like this is something we've needed for a while. Maybe we didn't even know it, but like you said, maybe COVID woke us up a little bit.
But I feel like it's the next evolution in this series and I'm really happy to see it. And super excited for you guys, what you've been able to put into this series and looking forward to those playoffs.
So, before we close though, any last words or shoutouts you'd like to share? Now, would be the time. Again, great job on the series this year. Just looking forward to seeing the sport continue to grow.
Hey, thank you again for this opportunity. And yeah, I would just say a big thank you to all of our fans for continuing to support what we do. Whether that is through Peacock subscriptions, attending the races, live in person, tuning in when we're on NBC and USA Network.
We have great fans. They're loyal fans. They support the industry, they support the athletes. They buy motorcycles, they buy gear. We are a very loyal sport, which is amazing.
But then also, Dale, a big thank you to all of our media as well. So, I appreciate this opportunity. And we really do have a healthy landscape of media that are beat writers, if you will, and we're fortunate to have that.
Every one of our athletes is unique. Every one of them has a story of sacrifice. And I would say right now, if you were a fan of Supercross and Pro Motocross and SuperMotocross, there is so much content out there now. There are so many different access points.
We really are in a media rich environment right now, and these different entities and the different mediums like YouTube and TikTok and certainly, podcasts. I mean, there is so many different ways to consume our sport now, that is just a true blessing of the times.
Never been a better time in my mind to be a fan of Supercross and Motocross. So, just awesome to see. And again, Sean Brennen, thank you so much for your time today. Keep up the awesome work with the series.
Thank you very much.
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I'm Dale Spangler, I hope you'll join us next week for another episode of Pit Pass Moto. Thanks for listening.