‘The Engine Room’ aims to build the profile of Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC) staff members and provide interesting insights into what it is like to be part of the team working on two iconic international events, the Formula 1® Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne and the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix in Phillip Island.
Darian Misko - Division Manager, Commercial
1. You’ve had a 15-year career devoted to sport and events, how has your background prepared you for your role at AGPC?
My devotion to sport and events traces back to growing up in a large Ukrainian family (I was one of five boys). Sport, family gatherings, music, food and wine quickly developed into passions of mine – you could say that they are part of my DNA.
It made sense for me to follow these passions into my professional career, especially when I came to the harsh reality that I wasn’t going to become a professional footballer (I may still be dreaming), I turned my attention to the business side of sport and completed an Honours degree in Sports Marketing.
I have been lucky enough to obtain experience across a wide range of sports and events over the course of my career, including: Rugby Union, Rugby League, AFL and Horse Racing, not to mention working in the hospitality industry during University. These experiences have provided with me a solid foundation and knowledge required for my current role.
Through my experiences I have developed a collegiate style, and at AGPC we all train together as a team all year towards what I call our ’Grand Finals’, to deliver the ultimate showcase.
2. The sponsorship landscape is changing constantly, what have been the biggest shifts over the past five years and how do you stay on top of emerging trends?
The sponsorship landscape is always evolving, in particular in recent years to the point where the term ‘sponsorship’ has effectively been replaced with ‘partnership’.
Gone are the days of logo placement and set menus when it comes to building long-lasting relationships. More than ever it is about a deeper understanding of the partner’s objectives and their plans over multiple years – the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach no longer satisfies the market.
On top of this, a more recent shift that has started to emerge is the willingness of partners to become more involved in co-creating immersive experiences that benefit the overall event and experience for the fans.
As consumers become more discerning, whether it be about technology, sustainability, social responsibility, and food and wine, so too are brands when it comes to the conversation about partnerships and it is now a pre-requisite to have some form of alignment with company values.
Of course, the big trend which has no doubt been accelerated by COVID-19 is the role of digital assets and content creation that will be more and more important in our offering and how a brand tells their story on an ongoing basis.
3. How do you identify new markets and keep building upon the event experience each year?
I am fortunate enough to work with a talented group of people who are passionate about our events and building upon the experience each year.
We were all so disappointed that the 2020 Formula 1® event was cancelled, especially as it was arguably shaping up to be one of best events in AGPC’s history. It was due to be the 25th race in Melbourne and a great showcase of everyone’s passion, ideation, innovation and desire to continually improve the event experience. This included pontoons on the lake, a new corporate hospitality entrance experience and the brand-new double-storey Marriott Bonvoy Lounge that also featured a number of our partners including Heineken, St Hugo and Maui Jim.
Identifying new markets is a core responsibility for anyone in a commercial role, but it also important to work with those in and around your team to gain insights into new consumer audiences, new event experiences that we could offer, access to new technologies, identify the new structures to improve the on-track experience and work with our suppliers and key stakeholders to ensure our events remain fresh and exciting.
Over the years our events have proven to be popular and successful platforms for brands to activate and showcase products and/or services and entertain guests across a large range of hospitality options. Now more than ever it is crucial to continue to obtain customer feedback, learn about our existing audiences and talk to new audiences so that we continue to evolve and innovate.
4. We’re in a strange time at the moment, how has this encouraged innovation around revenue generation and sponsorship at AGPC?
The global pandemic has caused disruptive change across all Australian businesses which has been a significant challenge, but also driven innovative thought as to how we can maintain our customer base and propose in the future.
One of great parts of my role at AGPC is that we are constantly encouraged to evolve and innovate. We have been looking at a range of ways of delivering an exciting customer experience both online, at the track, and even a combination of both.
As much as we would love to pick up from where we left off in March this year and showcase all of the great new innovations that were in place, we are now challenged to think very differently and a key part of this is working closely with our partners, suppliers and peers and learn from each other.
This opens up opportunities to create, adopt and adapt new ideas of which there are already some great examples that have taken place across the globe in our industry, including virtual Formula One Paddock Club™ hospitality, virtual drive-day experiences, drive-in concerts, at-home dining experiences and replicating the stadium seat experience in the comfort of the home.
This new world has also encouraged us to consider how innovation plays a role in our communication to new and existing corporate clients and partners, especially how we showcase our events in a world where we can’t currently host a cocktail party to launch the event or host a partner workshop.
5. You’ve been at AGPC for six years, what aspect of your job are you most passionate about?
There are many parts of my job that I am passionate about and interestingly, it didn’t begin with being a motorsport enthusiast. I was initially attracted to AGPC to work on delivering two of the biggest international events in Australia and applying my passion for events, relationships and commercial partnerships.
In my role at AGPC, I am privileged to work with some of world’s biggest brands, and forge meaningful and innovative partnerships that meet objectives and provide a return on investment.
It is a pretty incredible feeling working with partners and clients from the initial vision to watching it come to life at the event – this makes me proud and even gives me goose bumps just thinking about it.
Whilst chasing a commercial partnership will always be part of my psyche, my role has matured and I am now passionate about the overall strategy of the event, developing key strategic alliances and helping shape the culture of AGPC. I lead a team of Business Development Executives, of whom I invest in and encourage to excel in their respective roles and embrace the values of AGPC.
6. As a Division Manager and emerging leader, what values and skills are most important to you? Do you have a leader that you look up to?
I endeavour to lead by example in always displaying passion for my role, maintaining a positive energy, working hard, and exhibiting resilience.
In recent years, I have also focussed on openness and transparency, as well as displaying vulnerability with my team members. In doing so, I believe this builds trust and encourages others to do the same. It is my experience that when people show vulnerability, it comforts others that when they are challenged, they are not alone.
This did not come naturally to me growing up as the youngest of five boys, and playing male-dominated sports, I was taught that one shows strength by always maintaining an outward appearance of toughness and not being open or forthcoming with my personal emotions or challenges.
In recent years I have embraced self-development learning more than ever and have been proactive about learning how to be the best version of myself. I participate in a great range of learning and development opportunities provided at AGPC and also outside of work including meditation, mindfulness and mentorships.
Through my learnings, I have realised the importance of mental wellbeing, which has led me to become a Mental Health First Aider at AGPC as well as become a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which I have found very fulfilling.
In terms of a leader that I look up to, it is difficult to single out only one person. I have been fortunate to work with some great leaders throughout my career and now at AGPC. I think it is important to learn from a range of different people together with learning about yourself and adopt the things that work for you.
At the end of the day, the people that I have looked up to most are my parents for showing me the importance of resilience and respecting others, and my brothers for igniting the competitive spirit inside of me.