The story so far
TJ13 reported back in early March that Gillette were in the hunt to become a McLaren title sponsor. The international toiletries giant then upped the anti by announcing a more modest sponsorship arrangement with McLaren – for now. Allegedly this made Jenson rather miffed because it was ‘requested’ he tone down his facial impressions of a baboon.
The other 2 contenders we mentioned at the time were GSK, who of course already have a fairly significant link with Woking in the Centre for applied performance, and Telmex who are the personal sponsors of Sergio Perez.
The considered opinion of TJ13 was that Gillette are in reality a marketing gimmick – albeit one of the best in the world – and McLaren had aspirational values that transcended anything Gillette could offer. It was suggested in the article that GSK appeared to be the best placed long term partner, though which brand would become associated with the McLaren team was unclear.
Many in the F1 media believed Telmex were the front runner last autumn when Perez was signed as a driver, yet this was insight based upon ‘Telecoms out – Telecoms in’, with little further substance.
Love them or loathe them, McLaren group have set out their stall to present as a modern corporate group who actively care for the world in which they live. McLaren’s work in implementing green technology at the team’s Woking factory earned it a prestigious Edison Award, which celebrates “innovation and excellence as well as “groundbreaking scientific achievement”. They were recently awarded a another award for achieving a carbon neutral status.
McLaren have championed the cause of British high technology engineering lobbying the government to develop engineering skills because they believe the future is bright for high technology engineering in the UK export market.
In turn they have aligned themselves with a number of programmes promoting engineers such as the motor industries Skillauto competition whose winners were announced December 2012.
GSK announced last month a new programme for ‘Scientists in Sport’, an education initiative using the excitement of the science behind Formula 1 to encourage an interest in science subjects at school. Part of this programme – The Fast Forward Challenge – is championed by of course, the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1 team, who are challenging schools to design a test to help improve the performance of their drivers.
Bye bye Lucozade?
Recently, the Guardian announced that GSK were selling their two brands Lucozade and Ribena following a ‘strategic review of the drinks’. Their chief executive, Andrew Witty did however add, “No decisions have been taken or options ruled out – we could increase investments in certain parts of the world, find a partner or divest the products,”
Following a press release yesterday there were a plethora of stories across a number of F1 sites all quoting GSK sales figures. Apparently Lucozade and Ribena sales are flat but their Indian brand Boost was up 23% and Horlicks up 16%.
This has led to speculation that GSK’s strategic drinks review would move their promotion towards their Indian brand ‘Boost’ and it is this that will appear on the cars from Woking – The Boost McLaren Mercedes/Honda.
Boost! Turbo or otherwise?
Whilst this may seem either opportunistic or indeed cheesy in the new era of Turbo engines the theory is that GSK are nice people and their lovely drink for the sub-continent is the antithesis of that nasty stuff the Austrians make in association with their Thai partners.
Boost is marketed by GSK by some of India’s biggest sports stars as a “nutritional energy drink” and campaigns in there have included the strap line – “Vitaminised Energy Fuel”.
The theory continues, now that GSK have a tight fit with McLaren ideals their combined message is – ‘we care about your children’s health; we care about the education of a nation’. This of course is a drastic juxtaposition with the brand message of Red Bull’s high octane brand efforts – ‘get extreme in your sport and maybe you won’t be killed or maimed but you will definitely be high on our stimulants’.
Boost was of course part of McLaren’s livery at the 2012 Indian GP and again the theorists believe this was a market test to see how the brand fared. Yet this action was hardly a serious attempt at reviewing a global marketing strategy as no one in the cricket mad sub-continent cares about F1 and the race organisers saw their GP attendance fall by a third in 2012.
Which Boost drink is it? Or is it chocolate?
There is another problem with the brand Boost in the UK… ie it already exists as – surprisingly – an energy drink which claims to be the UK’s second largest seller shifting some 60m bottles a year. Its values are more akin to Red Bull’s high octane message than the ‘au natural’ karma from GSK’s Boost India (Boostdrinks.com).
Oh yes… and there is also a popular chocolate bar of the same name… though Cadbury’s may be chuffed by some gratis cross marketing.
Of course GSK are clearly making huge efforts to promote their candidacy to become only the fifth ever title sponsor of the Formula 1 McLaren racing team and some media writers are suggesting this is already a done deal. TJ13 still believes GSK are an incredibly well suited to partner McLaren, but the question over the title brand which will become the prefix to the McLaren name is still far from clear.
What else is certain is that McLaren will not want to chop and change the title name depending on whichever product GSK wish to next promote. If GSK are seriously plotting to take out Red Bull with a global attack from their Boost ‘nutritious and good for you’ drink’ – well it could be the brand has the longevity to satisfy McLaren’s demands.
Whilst philosophically GSK and McLaren Group are aligned almost to perfection, clearly there are still questions over the GSK bid to become more than a good friend and close partner to McLaren.
Don’t forget the man with the ‘mostest’
There is of course one other small matter to consider and that is Telmex, run by the son of the richest men in the world. According to Forbes Carlos Slim Snr is worth a cool $73bn, by comparison, Red Bull supremo Dietrich Mateschitz is worth just over $7bn.
Gillette and GSK have been revealing their hands but the Telmex tale is yet to be written. Some believe that this story will be one of investment replacement, rather than pure marketing spend. Even if this were the case, it is easily conceivable that the Telmex brand will yet adorn the nose of the Woking rocket ships and GSK will remain to McLaren ~ ‘just good friends’.
Out of interest whilst writing this a marketing company for GSK contacted me asking would TJ13 readers be interested in seeing how Lucozade are working hard with the McLAren drivers. Obliging as I am, here they are.