Founder and CEO of MBP, Mark Blundell, reflects on the company’s ten-year anniversary with pride, charting those initial conversations all the way through to the 2023 landmark.
“For me, it’s a very personal journey as well as a professional one. When it comes to sitting behind the wheel, that was my thing, that was all I’ve ever known but to be able to translate that into building a successful business surrounded by people and clients that I truly respect and enjoy working with, sits right up there when it comes to the achievements in my career.”
From sitting with Mark, it’s clear that pride is a constant feature in any conversation where he details the journey of MBP as a business. Whether it be in his sporting career or otherwise, Mark has not been one to shirk a challenge and the prospect of building out a sports agency in his own image provided the former Formula One driver with a unique challenge as he transitioned away from his racing career.
While the scale of the task was not lost on those around him, as has been a common feature in his career successes, Mark understood the importance of surrounding himself with like-minded people who would support, challenge and guide him through the process. With that in mind, Mark pays great testament to his fellow Directors in the shape of Chairman, Theo Paphitis, and Managing Director, Ian Childs. As with all great racing stories, it was a conversation that kickstarted on the back of a boat in Monaco at the Grand Prix.
“As a business, we were already enjoying some success in the management side of motorsport but there was a clear desire personally to go bigger and better. I felt that there was a gap in the representation space of sport that combined a genuine understanding of the challenges that a sportsperson faces with a sharp commercial focus.
“I was actually quite far down the line with another group of investors but if something doesn’t feel right, it normally isn’t so I was very pleased to hold a conversation with Ian on the back of Theo’s boat at the Monaco Grand Prix. I remember vividly chatting with Ian about where I felt others were letting talents down and Ian shared with me the depth of experience that he and Theo had experienced in previous sports agencies that they had built.”
“From there, things developed fairly quickly. I shared my business plan with Theo and we discussed it at length - thankfully I was spared the Dragons Den elevator pitch though! As with anything that Theo and Ian get involved in, there was a proper process of due diligence which in itself was an experience. I had run successful businesses before in other sectors but this was the first time that I had taken on investors and shareholders and built out a formal Board of Directors.”
The business was launched formally in November 2013, with selected guests and clients invited to One Hyde Park, McLaren to mark the occasion and the new chapter. From the outset, the intention was to build out the business in the talent management sector.
“What the combined experiences of our Board held was a truly unique understanding of the commercial arm of the sports industry and I knew that that would enable us to offer something very different in the marketplace. My Chairman did get his first ‘I told you so’ moment in the first few years though. I remember him telling me that we would never make any money in football as were too transparent. Although it hurt to admit he was right a couple of years down the road, that is why you have these structures in place.
“Over the years, Theo and Ian have proved to be the best business partners that I could have asked for. You only know what you know and I’ve been through my own learning and process as a Founder and CEO but having the pair of them to support, guide and provide sanity checks along the way has been invaluable.”
With time, the breadth of the business began to build out with the formation of the business's Official Partner Programme back in 2015 marking a real turning point.
“In whatever I have done, I have always tried to help by connecting dots and putting people together. It was that principle that the Partner Programme was built out of. Initially, it was around surrounding our talents with industry leaders and best-in-class providers but over time the programme has really pushed the business forward.
“The relationships that have been built from the programme have really blossomed over the years, whether that be between the partners themselves or ourselves growing our depth of relationship with our partners. Everything around that programme revolves around providing opportunities - whether that be opportunities to network with like-minded people or to build new commercial relationships.
“For MBP as a business, it has enabled a host of opportunities; forging new relationships between our drivers and our partners or leading us into work with our partners across other areas of the business, be that in the shape of our events, digital or marketing pillars.”
When it comes to picking out what he is most proud of from the business’s first decade, this is something that Mark struggles with given how the business has transformed in that time.
“The driver side of our business will always be passion-driven, it is what I have lived and loved since I was a boy and there are a number of successes with our drivers that have been really personal journeys being honest over nearly twenty years of working together. Whether that be seeing Gary Paffett crowned a two-time DTM Champion, helping Mike Conway on the way to his FIA World Endurance Championship titles and a 24 Hours of Le Mans win or seeing Tom Blomqvist completely knock it out of the park across the pond with two Daytona victories and now an IndyCar campaign in front of him.
“Away from the driver's side, the business is now at the stage where it truly stands up against some of the biggest names in the sports marketing sector. Whether it be our ability to deliver over 100 corporate events a year, our expertise in terms of digital content and marketing or our sponsorship and activation skillset - what I always reflect on with pride is our ability to deliver. That’s a key principle here at MBP - we are only as good as what we deliver to our clients on a regular basis and we hold ourselves to the highest of standards.
“When you take the time to reflect on that, something important to note is that the values that we started with on day one of the business are still the same values that we continue to live as a business each day. I don’t think that is something that is easy in a growing business, but we will never lose sight of our people-first and relationship-based approach that guides all our work.”
With ten years of learning, success and fun in the books, Mark is excited about the future direction of the agency and sees the anniversary landmark and its associated rebrand as a key marker in the business’s journey.
“Although it is a subtle change, the rebrand from Mark Blundell Partners to MBP is reflective of the change and future direction of our business. While I have always been very proud to have my name above the door, for me this is about marking that the business has grown up now and stands fully on its own two feet within the sports marketing sector.
“The team at HQ do such a fantastic job, whether that be in events, digital, partnerships, sponsorship or our talent team - the time is there now for each of those divisions to flourish and be built in their own image with our fantastic spread of clients.
“It is a bit of an ongoing joke internally that we often feel a bit ‘Scrappy Do’ - punching well above our weight when it comes to our delivery. When you look at it, it’s quite remarkable to see an agency of our size actively delivering and doing an excellent job for some of the biggest brands and talents in the world. The next chapter is about losing that “little old MBP” mentality. We know we are as good as anyone in our sector and we conduct ourselves in a very unique way, so it’s now time to take ourselves to that next level and I can’t wait to lead us on that journey.”