McLaren left in the lurch
For those rubbing their hands at the potential financial demise of the Woking based team following the announcement that Vodafone are pulling out of F1 – I suggest you apply plenty of hand cream. Yes, Vodafone have been paying a whopping £50m a year for the privilege of being McLaren’s title sponsor and this amount is believed to be a record sum since tobacco advertising/sponsorship was banned.
Despite their woeful start to the year and their incompetence demonstrated by not being able to do the simple Meccano like assembly instructions for their suspension, McLaren are still a very sexy and desirable place to stick a corporate logo and the contenders for 2014 are already jostling for position in line.
Of course the first of these was rumoured to be Telmex. Sergio Perez was not a ‘no brainer’ decision to replace Lewis Hamilton and many F1 folk in the know have questioned this decision based upon ability alone. This raised the spectre that McLaren have agreed a deal with Mexican owned global telecoms business Telmex, to title sponsor the team from 2014.
Sergio Perez commented in Melbourne, “I’m a little sad they [Telmex] are not with me this year, because the team still has a contract with Vodafone. I would love to see the blue on my car again.”
Perez recruited for cash
TJ13 reported some while ago that John Allert, McLaren’s Group Brand Director admitted the following when questioned whether marketing opportunities played a part in choosing Perez as McLaren’s new driver. “Yes. I’ve sat in some interesting meetings where we’ve discussed the pros and cons of different drivers, as any Formula 1 team does. There is always consideration given to how quick the driver is, and how attractive the driver is in playing a role to attract funds to the team. To be a successful team in Formula 1 you need significant amounts of sponsorship funding”.
Admittedly in 2013 there appears to be no Telmex associated branding on the car, drivers or pit crew. I do believe there is however an ‘arrangement for hospitality’ which has been agreed and in return a certain consideration will be paid to the team. If this is true, it demonstrates the power of McLaren as a brand to control sponsors and investors.
Whilst the choice of Sergio Perez was not the most obvious one, it surely is not the case that the McLaren Group are contemplating a long term title sponsorship relationship with a an external corporation who wish to exert influence on McLaren’s decision on who will drive their cars.
If Telmex are to be the new associate with the McLaren F1 racing marque then it will be for the reasons Vodafone considered this to be worthy marketing spend; for should Perez not be ‘at the races’ this season one could easily see him dispatched for 2014 regardless.
There is another global giant lurking in the background, GSK (Glaxo Smith Kline). McLaren and GSK formed a partnership in 2011 when the 2 business announced they were joining forces to share knowledge and expertise with the aim of improving GSK’s business performance and driving a more dynamic business culture.
Already the pharmaceutical company has begun utilising McLaren’s engine modelling system and applied it to Glaxo manufacturing processes to reduce breakdowns. Analytical tools have been developed to help decide where and how much to invest in Glaxo’s brands that include Lucozade, Panadol and Sensodyne.
McLaren’s system of in-car driver communications is being replicated to facilitate a method of making minor changes during drug trials, while Glaxo also wants to recreate McLaren’s ‘Mission Control’ operation during a race at its London HQ to respond faster to competitor moves.
There is a joint R&D facility being developed at the MTC at a cost of some £20m and GSK report that already they have delivered efficiencies of a staggering 60% to a number of their 80 worldwide factories from lessons already learned.
“We are learning from McLaren to enhance our processes. During a racing season, 80 per cent of an F1 car will change between the first and final races with 22,000 upgrades being applied to each car over just 9 months. This pace of innovation is a stark contrast to our industry but there are applications of this real time innovation that have already helped us become more efficient in some of our business areas”.
We have seen the Lucozade , Boost and Maximuscle – all brands specific to certain global GSK markets – adorn the McLaren Formula 1 cars and Industry specialists observe this relationship is founded deep and looks to be for the long haul.
Today AMuS announces the candidacy of yet another mammoth corporation as a possible suitor for McLaren-Honda (sorry, that slipped out). ‘Gillette’ is owned by Proctor and Gambol and they spend some $800m worldwide on marketing what is now their core brand. P&G announced a ‘refocusing’ of their marketing in the fall of 2012.
According to adbrands.net, Gillette It has long reigned as the world’s biggest shaving and razor business, now with an estimated 70% share of the global market, and a dominant position in both the men’s and women’s segments.
Ah, remember this one – ‘Gillette. The best a man can get’ – and now these days apparently the best for a woman too, if we’re to believe P&G’s marketing department. Gillette have been rolling out a nicely gendered line in product marketing for years now and the different names for what is essentially just a device for removing hair are quite inventive.
Here’s one – “The Gillette® Fusion® ProGlide™ Power Razor is Gillette’s most advanced blade ever. Thinner, finer blades with a low-resistance coating glide effortlessly through hair for less tug and pull**, providing incredible comfort, even if you shave every day”.
The products are incredibly profitable as these small but allegedly ‘cutting edge’ (pardon the pun) technological shaving solutions cost a mere 5-6 pence to produce but sell for several English pounds per unit. However, clearly Gillette is all about marketing and this makes it both loved and despised by business analysts and marketeers across the spectrum.
So has the world’s largest purveyor of toiletries created fantastical visions of bathroom machismo but really conned us all into paying premium prices for what is after all a cheap shaving blade? Is this a classical case of form over substance?
Woking can be selective
To partner with McLaren is no whimsical matter and for the historic Woking team their selection will be given proper consideration, due diligence and the public perception of a title partner will not be a matter of insignificance.
As Joe Saward notes, “To put that into perspective it is necessary to remember that since 1974 McLaren’s title sponsorship has been available only twice. The first switch came in 1997 when Marlboro left the team after 25 years; the second came eight years later when Vodafone replaced West”. Prior to that Yardley had the honour for just 2 years and we are then back to the days when it was simply – ‘Bruce McLaren Motor Racing’.
Of course there was no honour in having cigarette manufacturers as partner’s though we do forget that they were a product that was marketed by the rich and famous as cool, masculine, feminine and from many of other angles. Further, they were ‘enjoyed’ by the masses and to smoke in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s was not unusual and in many places smokers were in the majority.
A New Breed of Partner
Along came Vodafone, to replace those terrible cigarette companies and to some this ushered in the dawn of a new era were brand that grew worldwide in almost the blink of an eye and became such a powerful corporate stock on the London Stock Exchange, that in the late 90’s and early 2000’s a shift in the Vodafone share price moved the entire FTSE index.
Then there was the ‘more honourable’ Vodafone – replacing those nasty cigarette companies as a facilitator of individual communications across the planet. Was this a new dawn of responsible partnering?
First up staking a claim for the nose of the MP4-29 is the parent company of Telmex, the real telecommunications powerhouse, América Móvil, and the world’s 4th largest mobile network operator with some 250m subscribers. They are chasing down Vodafone who when they last reported in December 2011 had a stella 450m customers worldwide.
Is it the case that Telmex (AM) are looking to grow and challenge Vodafone and they perceive F1 as the global marketing strategy to deliver this? It is true many F1 commentators see Telmex as a natural replacement on the McLaren cars for Vodafone.
Telmex bigger ambitions
Yet Carlos Slim was heard by an F1 reporter to reveal in Austin last year that their ambition is in fact to own an F1 team. Why then spend $100m sponsoring McLaren.
If it is not Telmex (AM) to partner McLaren then what of the others?
Gillette has a history of sponsoring Bruno Senna at Lotus and Williams and they have been truly global in the their use of sports marketing through the likes of David Beckham, Tiger Woods and a host of galactico sports personnel from the world’s most glamourous sports.
On the other hand we have GSK who finds its origins in St Helens, Lancashire, England, 1843 and is a British multinational pharmaceutical, biological vaccines and consumer healthcare company. They are the world’s 4th largest such business behind only Pfizer, Novartis and Sanofi.
GSK and McLaren announced their ‘scientists in sport’ programme just 2 days ago. This is designed to encourage 11-14 years olds to understand that science and maths are a contemporary field to which they should aspire to belong. the simple message is that to be a geek may actually mean working in a pretty cool environment like F1.
Let’s not forget the McLaren Group is positioning itself as a 21st century ‘responsible business’, part of the community in which it resides and has made great efforts to break new ground in reducing Carbon emissions and being exclusive as the only team to win so far environmental awards.
On the basis of worth, it would appear to be a forgone conclusion. GSK would be McLaren’s title partner of choice. The roots have been set deep for a lengthy relationship.
But in the cold hard world that is F1, if push comes to shove and GSK feel they’ve already received sufficient benefit from their partnership with Woking, it could be Gillette who cough up a record busting $100m a year.
This cash of course enables McLaren to do what they were fundamentally created to achieve – fight with all their might the power of Ferrari and now new kids – Red Bull – for supremacy in the world’s greatest motor sport competition ever conceived. Forza Formula One!