BAT upgrades to Principal Partner with McLaren F1, sponsors Indycar entry for 2020

(Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

British American Tobacco (BAT) has upgraded from a Global Partner to a Principal Partner of McLaren Racing, just one season into its association with the Formula One team.

The enhanced, multi-year deal will include significantly increased branding positions on the McLaren F1 car, including highly visible new sidepod branding, as well as inside-halo and front-wing logo placements.

The deal will also see BAT continue to vary its branding in support of its broad portfolio of new category products. This will include branding for BAT’s vapour range, Vuse, as was the case last season, as well as, for the first time, its modern oral product, Velo.

In addition, BAT will partner with McLaren for its full-time return to the IndyCar series in 2020, with 17 races taking place across the US. BAT becomes an Official Partner of Arrow McLaren SP, formerly known as Sam Schmidt Motorsports and Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

The branding on both the Formula 1 and Indycar cars will be utilised in line with applicable regulations and legislations in each host Grand Prix market.

The enhanced partnership will promote BAT’s ‘transformation agenda’, based on the company’s commitment to a growing portfolio of new category tobacco-related products which have the potential to be less damaging to health than cigarettes.

It will also see BAT continue to work off the track with McLaren Applied Technologies on projects focused on enhancing BAT’s new category product pipeline.

Kingsley Wheaton, chief marketing officer at BAT, said the company was “absolutely delighted” with what the partnership delivered in 2019: “We’re extremely proud of our partnership with McLaren which has been going from strength-to-strength this season – whether it’s increased awareness of our portfolio of new category products, technology insights and expertise to support our R&D activities or using the platform to create excitement amongst colleagues internally.

“The McLaren team are fantastic to work with and it’s great to see the team performing on the track. Our partnership is giving us a truly global marketing and innovation platform to accelerate our journey with our new categories business, focused on creating a better tomorrow for our consumers, shareholders, society and employees.”

Wheaton added: “I am particularly excited about our plans to partner with McLaren for their return to the IndyCar series, after a 40-year break, next year. The 17-race calendar aligns very well with our geographical footprint and business priorities.”

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BAT will hope that its ‘dynamic branding’ approach, where it adjusts its on-car branding according to rules in different market, will continue to work in 2020.

In 2019, for example, BAT used its pass-through rights to support retail partner 7-Eleven for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, where legislative opposition to tobacco-related branding is particularly strong.

The Vype sub-brand was emblazoned the same on-car placements at the Bahrain Grand Prix in March, while BAT’s ‘Accelerating Transformation’ slogan, a specific application of its overarching ‘A Better Tomorrow’ message, branded the drivers’ race-suits.

The ‘A Better Tomorrow’ branding was first seen on the car placements at the Chinese Grand Prix in April. It was also on the drivers’ race suits.

In May, McLaren attempted a one-off return to Indycar with an appearance at the Indianapolis 500, where the Vuse brand was prominently displayed on the car’s side pod in the qualifying rounds. The Fernando Alonso-driven McLaren failed to qualify for the race proper.

The role of BAT at McLaren and Philip Morris International, which carried its ‘Mission Winnow’ logo on Ferrari F1 cars last season, has been heavily criticised by some regulatory and super-national authorities.

In March, the World Health Organisation urged “all sporting bodies, including Formula One and MotoGP, to adopt strong tobacco-free policies that ensure their events are smoke-free and their activities and participants, including race teams, are not sponsored by tobacco companies”.