With over 25 years of experience in the industry, Sean Belgrade brings a wealth of experience and foresight into his role as Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Daytona International Speedway.
Belgrade has been with the company since 1997, previously as International Speedway Corporation’s Managing Director of Consumer Marketing, where he was responsible for various consumer marketing initiatives including ticket sales, promotions, and customer loyalty programs.
“To have an opportunity to live and work in this industry where I went and saw my first event, this is what I wanted to do, Belgrade says. “When I went to my first NASCAR event, after that, I was hooked.”
Like a number of longtime DAYTONA employees, Belgrade was born in the Daytona Beach area. Surprisingly, he did not begin his career in racing, but with the Florida Citrus Sports organization after graduating from the University of Florida with a degree in sports science.
Although a Daytona Beach native, Belgrade did not have a chance to experience “The Great American Race” until 1993, after he had already begun his career in event promotions.
“My first experience was a hospitality experience,” Belgrade said. “Davey Allison came over, we did a Q&A, we sat in the stands, got to walk on Pit Road. I just thought, ‘this is so cool.’”
The scope and significance of the DAYTONA 500 was not lost on him, and Belgrade realized that his experience may soon guide his next career move.
“I just thought it was so different than every sporting event I had ever attended in my life. You saw the passion of the fanbase, the merchandise of the cars they were sponsoring,” Belgrade says. “Here I was in a business that I was trying to do the same thing, but this sport was doing it better than anything I had ever seen. The passion of the fans and the way that they rallied around their drivers even off the racetrack.”
“This was in my hometown,” he recalls. “I just thought, ‘I’ve got to find a way to work for these guys.’”
In his time with ISC, Belgrade has seen the company grow from four racetracks – DAYTONA, Darlington, Talladega, and half of Watkins Glen, as he says – to the 12 raceways the company now runs.
Despite initially starting on the corporate side, Belgrade is now happy to live and work in his hometown.
“In the corporate office, I lived in this community but wasn’t a part of it- I was travelling most of the time. I didn’t get a chance to live and breathe in the community and give back, and I didn’t get to see things from start to finish.”
Now an active member of the local community, Belgrade has served on the Board of the Halifax Area Advertising Authority and the Bike Week Executive Committee. He is also a graduate of Leadership Central Florida Class V and Leadership Daytona Beach class 22.
In his years of expertise not only in the racing world but across the entertainment industry, Belgrade has developed an employee and fan-centric view of the world.
“Having great employees that work for you allows me to pop in and out of different areas of the business. I’ve been very fortunate over this whole time to have very good people running all areas of our business. I really try to be more of an administrator and give people the resources they need to run their areas of the business.”
From the person that could be scanning your ticket at the gate to those working behind the scenes promoting a race, Belgrade wants to be sure that your experience with DAYTONA is enjoyable and that when you leave, you want to come back.
Now in senior leadership at Daytona International Speedway, Belgrade recently helped oversee the DAYTONA Rising project, a $400M renovation of the iconic stadium that greatly improved the fan experience, creating the “Founding Partners” expanded entrances, more spacious seating, and revamped luxury suites and clubs. One of the central themes behind the project was to “make the fan experience mirror the prestige of the DAYTONA 500 event,” and Belgrade says that being a part of the project is one of the most unforgettable experiences of his career.
Through all of the unbelievable moments he has witnessed, from Dale Earnhardt’s DAYTONA 500 victory in 1998 to the 50th anniversaries of the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA and “The Great American Race” to the first Country 500 music festival two years ago, the ever-changing landscape of the sports world ensures no day is the same.
“Every day continues to excite. It’s an adventure. It’s a challenge. No year is exactly like the year before. Each year brings its own set of challenges and opportunities,” he says.
In an exciting and fast-paced industry, Belgrade continues to look forward to the next innovation that will keep Daytona International Speedway at the forefront of the sporting world.
“I now look at things differently than I did 15-20 years ago. You can’t assume that things are going to be successful just because they’re doing well today,” Belgrade says. “You’ve also got to make sure that we’re setting ourselves up for success for a very long period of time.”
“I always want the DAYTONA 500 to be put on a platform. We feel like it’s one of the top sporting events in the world. I think it’s important to continue to push that forward. I want it to become something more than just motorsports and have something for everybody.”
Belgrade prefers to think of DAYTONA not just as a motorsports icon, but also as an “entertainment destination for all.”
“We want to be sure that we have something for everyone,” he says. “Most importantly, if someone comes through our gates, we want to make sure that they want to come back and visit again.”
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