The McLaren Turbo Series is off to a flying start and to give further insight into the partnership with McLaren Racing, PartyPoker presented an exclusive interview with Nick Martin, Executive Director of New Business at McLaren Racing. In this conversation, Nick elaborates on the dynamic partnership, unveiling the intricacies of how the iconic Formula 1 team collaborates with sponsors to craft captivating content for the digital realm.
With a keen focus on leveraging the reach of social media and the global stage of Formula 1, Nick sheds light on the remarkable success stories of past brand collaborations that have not only enhanced the team’s triumphs but have also left an indelible mark on the sport’s landscape.
What is McLaren looking for when it comes to selecting brand partnerships in Formula 1?
It’s really important that there’s genuine authenticity to the partnership. We want to make sure that any brand we associate with can genuinely influence our performance on, or off the track. And you’ll see that with our technology partnerships specifically, these partners are thoughtfully integrated into our business.
When you look at partners that are more in the B2C space, they’re genuinely influencing and supporting our fan engagement, and how we connect with our audience in a meaningful way. So it’s that authenticity to the partnership which is so crucial, how we can genuinely utilise a partner’s product or service to influence what we’re doing on and off the track.
Also, we always want to find like-minded partners who are going to take the things that we, at McLaren, find important seriously. That could be around their sustainability and DE&I commitments and credentials for example, or how they operate culturally as a business for their employees. We put a lot of emphasis on these considerations and we feel very proud that our partners hold many of these same truths as being crucial to the partnerships they enter into which also reflects well on the journey we’re on as a business.
Finally, we need to like each other! It’s important that we have a strong working relationship with a partner’s leadership or the individuals we would deal with day-to-day. But ultimately, you want to work with people that you trust, or feel are going to do the right thing when times can get challenging and are going to operate with integrity. So for us, this is super important.
Can you give examples of how McLaren collaborates with sponsors to create unique and engaging content for digital platforms and social media channels?
A really good example is what we’ve done together with Entain where we hosted a fireside chat with Zak and Jette, putting two like-minded leaders together to talk about their role as CEOs and their approach to leadership. This was a piece of content that catered to not only a business audience but also a broader audience where again, we are always looking for ways to engage our sizeable fan base.
We’re really comfortable in this space and have a great commercial team who work with our partners to deliver meaningful campaigns and digital activations based on their specific objectives; whether educational or inspirational or anything in between.
Can you provide examples of successful brand partnerships that have had an impact and contributed to the team’s success?
All of our brand partnerships genuinely add impact or contribute to our team’s success. We really have two singular revenue streams at McLaren Racing. That’s commercial partnerships and league-generated (shared) income from Formula 1.
So, all of our commercial partners, and how they support us financially, genuinely influence us to become a better race team. Whether that be via infrastructure investments to enhance our capabilities across performance, production and/or technology or via supporting us in retaining and securing the best talent – drivers included! All of our commercial partners are supporting the race team to become better and perform at our best.
There are also partners who are integrated technically into the business, who are helping us extract and analyse data as quickly and as efficiently as possible, which is crucial as we collect massive amounts of data from the car when we go racing.
We also lean a lot on our partners to influence and provide information about what they’re doing inside their respective businesses to continue to innovate and drive positive change internally. Again, this was shown through Zak’s fireside chat with Jette, which showed a lot of people what it takes to perform at the highest level and share ideas and learnings.
How does McLaren leverage the global reach and exposure of Formula 1 to maximise the visibility and impact of its sponsors and brand partners?
The growth in F1 since Liberty’s acquisition has been incredible. The sport’s audience has nearly doubled, we’ve expanded to new markets, made enormous strides in the USA and most importantly, begun to connect with a new generation of fans.
This growth has been driven by a combination of an improved on-track product, exciting young drivers, a greater emphasis on digital engagement and the roaring success of Drive to Survive.
Our job at McLaren Racing is to leverage this entire ecosystem to generate visibility, value and a strong return on investment for our partners. We do this in three ways.
Firstly, we work to maximise visibility for partners across our most valuable inventory, which is our cars and our drivers. We constantly review the exposure generated race-by-race and we’re constantly looking to optimise partner branding. We also work closely with F1 and the sport’s biggest broadcast partners to ensure we put McLaren Racing front and centre of the sport.
Secondly, we have a real focus on digital. McLaren has led the way in F1 on digital and social, being the first team to join Instagram, the first to join TikTok and the first to launch an app. This has allowed us to capture a greater share of the next generation of F1 fans than other teams and build one of the largest social followings in the sport. Our team is always on the hunt for creative ways to generate enhanced exposure and brand engagement for our partners.
And thirdly, our marketing calendar. We build a strategic calendar of key marketing moments throughout the year where we will “go big”. This could be around major races such as Monaco or Las Vegas, or key cultural moments in the sport such as the launch of Drive to Survive. Tactics include special liveries, unique merch drops and mini-documentaries, all aiming to tell a powerful story that we know will resonate with fans. Our partners are always absolutely central to these campaigns and they have been proven to generate significant brand value for partners.
Above and beyond this, we strive to be a highly engaged and active partner for the brands we work with. Ensuring that we understand their priorities for growth and unlock as much opportunity as possible to deliver on these.
Our partners are the fuel for our team. Without them, we can’t win races. So, we always keep pushing for them.
What are the key areas from McLaren in terms of sponsorships in the next two years?
There are a number of categories that we think are of high value, whether that be commercially or from a performance perspective, and we’re going to put some real focus around those. As an example, the health and wellness of our team is crucial to being a high-performing organisation, so we’ve put a lot of focus into that sphere, making sure that we give the team the right tools to compete at that level.
In addition, there’s a lot that we want to do around leadership development, collaboration and communication. Finding partners who can support our workforce and provide meaningful performance progression and educational opportunities as our people look to grow their skill set and professional development inside McLaren.
Finally, we’re really putting a lot of focus into our sustainability roadmap and our goals here and how we can operate as a more sustainable team. So, there are a number of opportunities here we’re exploring from renewable energy, to waste reduction and beyond.
How does McLaren leverage its association with sponsors to enhance fan engagement and create memorable experiences for Formula 1 spectators?
We are always looking for new ways to enhance our fan engagement. With what Entain are doing in coming up with these unique digital opportunities, whether that’s board games or fun interactive online games. We love this and it provides fans a unique way to interact with the McLaren brand.
At Silverstone this year we hosted a free Fan Zone in Manchester for our fans who couldn’t be at the race itself. This ran across all three days of the Silverstone weekend and gave people the opportunity to cheer for McLaren and watch together while offering interactive experiences on-site. This was a great activation which was quite accessible and brought papaya to the people of Manchester!
Finally, we were one of the first teams to get into Web3 and we’re working with our partners in this space to release limited-edition digital collectibles on a frequent basis. Our audience is near 20 million, across all our social channels, so the opportunity to be able to engage that size audience consistently and creatively while being entertaining is something we’re working hard with our partners to achieve.
Could you share any innovative sponsorship activations or initiatives that McLaren has undertaken in recent years outside of the digital sphere?
We are always looking to engage in interesting initiatives outside the digital sphere. A great one recently was our Returnship scheme with Entain, which helps to reignite the careers of women returning to roles in STEM. As part of the programme, an initial 10 places were offered to women, at either Entain or within our F1 Team, for a six-month period.
We are super proud of this initiative, with DE&I being central to both our brands, which aligns with my point above regarding like-minded partners. We also have a programme called 60 Scholars, where we work with a few of our partners on creating DE&I-focused opportunities and are really proud of what we’ve accomplished here over the last few years.