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McLaren car reveals next stage in BAT’s ‘dynamic branding’

The new McLaren Racing car for the 2020 Formula 1 season has revealed the next iteration of “dynamic branding” associated with the team’s extended and expanded deal with new principal partner British American Tobacco.

The launch of the papaya and blue MCL35 car at the team’s headquarters in Woking, England revealed the tobacco brand’s ‘A Better Tomorrow’ tagline.

During the season, BAT will also display its Vuse vaping brand and, for the first time, its Velo oral-nicotine products at races in some jurisdictions.

BAT products or messaging will feature on the car’s sidepods, inside the halo and on the front wing in 2020.

Mark Waller, managing director, sales and marketing at McLaren, told SportBusiness the step up to the principal partner role demonstrated the value of the relationship for both organisations – and that the branding strategy works well.

He said: “The dynamic branding that we tested and experimented with and learned on last year will again take place this year, and we’re adding in some new markets [the Netherlands, Vietnam] as well.

“Obviously the legislation in that category varies around the world, so different markets are legislated to allow different products and categories.”

The ability to change the branding from one race to another is based on the use of vinyl technology but also facilitated by the greater integration of McLaren’s marketing and racing divisions. These divisions formerly worked as quite separate entities but are now “far more integrated and able to work smarter” for sponsors, Waller said.

Other brands to look out for on the new car, said Waller, are cyber defence company Darktrace on the rear wing of the car and chocolate brand Huski, which is also prominent.

Waller said: “Some partners are looking for real brand awareness as they build their businesses, so Darktrace would be a good example of that as would [software company] Splunk. At the other end of the scale, we’ve got a new relationship with Unilever, and they won’t be on the car at all, because they’re not looking for brand exposure. They’re actually looking to integrate with us to improve performance – a lot of our partners want to be part of making the car go faster and that’s an amazing story to be able to tell.”

Waller said that this year’s sponsorship developments are reflective of the team’s improved performances on the track, as well the personality that comes across from the team and its drivers. He noted: “Digitally and socially, we are a more approachable, accessible brand. More partners are involved and hopefully there’s room for a couple more.”

Waller has come into McLaren from his role as NFL executive vice-president of international, and notes some big differences in the pre-season rituals.

He remarked: “The thing that is almost most exciting and intimidating is you actually have no idea what your competitors have been doing in the off-season. In the NFL, you know who they’ve drafted, which free agents have been signed, and which players have been retained. You have a good idea, in theory, of what any team is going to be like. In Formula 1, we have no idea. I mean, we saw the Ferrari launch this week. It’s a car, but [beyond that] we’ll only find out in Melbourne.”