The boss of the McLaren Formula One (F1) team has revealed that he has appointed a panel of business advisers, including former London 2012 frontman Lord Coe, in a bid to boost its sponsorship income after years of dismal results.
McLaren has recently announced a string of sponsorship deals culminating in the signing of computer manufacturer Dell on Thursday. However, perhaps more than any other team, it needs to rev up its appeal after finishing second-to-last in the standings last year which was its joint worst result since 1967.
The latest accounts for the team, which is based near Woking and employs 675 people, show a net loss in 2016 of £3.2m on revenue which was down 4.5 per cent to £179.8m.
Last month McLaren hired a 12-man advisory group of business luminaries including Lord Coe, Richard Solomons, the former boss of InterContinental Hotels Group and Keith Weed, Unilever’s chief marketing officer. Their precise duties have not yet been made clear but McLaren’s executive director Zak Brown has revealed that they are there to bring in new deals.
“Sponsorship is absolutely a big piece of it,” says Brown. “Their role is to advise, help and support myself and the leadership team in different areas of growing McLaren’s business and absolutely sponsorship is one of those key elements. No doubt about it.
“They can help everywhere from their rolodex and strategies on industries to supporting when we are in presentations. That’s all on the sponsorship side. We also have some brand experts and the McLaren brand is very near and dear so they can help us bring it into new markets.”
The F1 sponsorship sector has been stuck in the slow lane in recent years following a string of processional seasons which have been dominated by Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton. Since 2013 F1’s television audience has reversed by 22 per cent to 352.3m and the number of sponsors has fallen by 17 per cent giving it a total of 228 last year.
Despite a torrid 2017 McLaren recently announced that it had signed sponsorship deals with news network CNBC and Airgain, which provides wireless connectivity platforms. Its biggest-paying sponsor is believed to be Diageo’s whisky brand Johnnie Walker. McLaren has lacked a naming rights partner since telecoms giant Vodafone pulled out in 2013 and Brown says it isn’t on track to be replaced.
“I think there is not a lot of value in the naming of a team. I want Vodafone on the car but I don't want to be called Vodafone McLaren. I want to build the McLaren brand. When I first started, I wanted a ‘title sponsor’ but now I don’t think the market is there for a title level spend so I have created a business model that has more along the lines of a principal partner, a primary partner, a co-primary partner, major sponsors and associate sponsors. If someone came to me tomorrow and said ‘I really want to be the title partner’ we would have that conversation but we are not pursuing that. We are pursuing big brands and big branding.”