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Driver’s Seat: Travis Auld

With this year’s Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix looking to be the biggest yet, Australian Grand Prix Corporation CEO Travis Auld says it’s his mission to supercharge Melbourne for the record crowd.

The electricity of a sold-out crowd is a familiar feeling to Travis Auld. A former COO and CEO in the Australian Football League (AFL), Auld left the code’s executive team in late 2023 to become CEO of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC).

By trading stadiums for stands, Auld has accepted the challenge of a sport that’s experiencing enormous growth around the world. Hot off the mark following the COVID-19 pandemic, Formula One has outpaced the pandemic to reach new heights in terms of both audience numbers and revenue, something Auld is keen to harness at this year’s Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix event in Melbourne.

“So far, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation has done a wonderful job of capturing the sport’s growth,” Auld tells The CEO Magazine.

“We’ve seen our crowds grow from 350,000 two years ago to 444,000 in 2023.”

Rapid Progress

This year’s event looks to up the stakes, with tickets selling out in less than two hours. The CEO chalks up the spurt to two important factors – a trickling down of the motorsport’s global growth, and a significant change in demographic.

“Last year, 37 percent of attendees were first timers, and almost 40 percent were women,” he says. “That’s a lot higher than the global average. Attendees are younger and increasingly female, which is a wonderful opportunity for us.”

“The Australian Grand Prix Corporation has done a wonderful job of capturing the sport’s growth.”

For the AGPC, this means a rethink of how the event is staged.

“We have to enhance the experience to suit the change,” he says. “We’re thinking about how we connect the event with the city’s iconography so spectators can identify parts of Melbourne within the track.”

Fortunately, the AGPC has Melbourne’s bounty of assets at its disposal.

“We’ve got a huge footprint we can work within, and it sits on the doorstep of the city,” Auld explains. “Melbourne is an incredible backdrop, the envy, I think, of most of the circuits around the world.”

The most important shift the AGPC is working on is to focus on families.

“We’re seeing more families attend, so we want to make sure there’s something for kids,” he says. “We’ve got a big focus on music; we have concerts on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.”

An Indispensable Team

There’s also a determined plan to take the color and buzz of Formula One beyond the circuit.

“We want to activate Melbourne,” Auld says. “For those attending from interstate or overseas, you’ll be able to experience the event without being on track.”

This is done primarily through the AGPC’s event partners, including Rolex, Red Bull, Mecca Max, OzHarvest and Marriott Bonvoy, which last year enjoyed turbocharged occupancy rates during the Formula One event.

“Our partnership with the Australian Grand Prix Corporation fosters the dynamic collaboration of both our organizations. Along with increasing Marriott Bonvoy brand awareness, the partnership has bolstered our hotel occupancy and revenue in our Melbourne portfolio of hotels.” – Sean Hunt, Area Vice President – Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, Marriott International


The AGPC’s alliance with the Victorian State Government has also helped to maximize the economic and social benefits for the state, not just through the Formula One Grand Prix, but the MotoGP at Phillip Island later in 2024 – that event’s 35th anniversary.

“Part of our responsibility is to make sure we maximize the number of attendees and ensure they’re staying at the right accommodation, eating at local restaurants, using transport providers and so on,” Auld says.

“Event-based tourism is, I think, one of the best ways to invigorate cities. We’ve seen that during record attendance of the Australian Open and the AFL, and we’re hoping to do the same thing.”

“You learn how to lead quickly and under pressure.”

Auld’s 25 years with the AFL left him with a deep understanding of the way sports entertainment works in Australia.

“Working in the AFL is a great place to build leadership capability because it’s very public, it’s high pressure, it’s very transparent and accountable, and it’s high stakes for those involved,” he says.

“You learn how to lead quickly and under pressure. When I came to the AGPC, I felt much more comfortable than I otherwise would have, because those skills were very transferable.”

For Auld, the road to success for the AGPC – and its global stakeholders – is a matter of emulating the captaincy role familiar to his previous employer.

“We’ve got so many people here who are really good at what they do,” he says, “My job is to create an environment where they can bring the best of themselves to work every day, love what they do and achieve great things.”

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