McLaren executive director Zak Brown has explained why the team is unlikely to have a title sponsor in 2018, with a focus on strengthening his own company’s brand.
Vodafone was McLaren’s last title sponsor, with that partnership coming to an end in 2013. In the following years, then-team boss Ron Dennis was accused of having too high a rate card for prospective sponsors, with Brown previously suggesting one of his main tasks would be to bring in a title partner after taking up his role in late 2016.
However, Brown has confirmed there is unlikely to be a title sponsor in the coming years, believing that such a deal is unlikely to offer the right value for either the team or partner.
“We don’t want one,” Brown told RACER during an exclusive interview when asked why there wouldn’t be a title sponsor. “The headline sounds different to the story and people will unfortunately just read the headline, but I’ll explain it.
“We’re McLaren and anything is open for discussion but we really want to go forward with the McLaren brand and unlike NASCAR where Jeff Gordon gets out of the car and calls it his DuPont Chevrolet, Fernando Alonso or Lewis Hamilton don’t get out of the car and call it the Vodafone McLaren or Petronas Mercedes.
“So why when you’re trying to build a brand – because we’re different to most other teams, we have a desire to build our brand in a way maybe a Williams or a Force India doesn’t need to, and Mercedes does – I think it delivers not that much value to the sponsor, because the value is on the branding on the car not what the name of the team is.
“When have you ever written, ‘Lewis Hamilton in the Petronas Mercedes’? You call it the Mercedes. So I think all that does is kind of cloud your own brand and doesn’t deliver huge value to that [other] brand, so what I do want to sell is title level branding.
“I’m open minded because [if] someone said, ‘Not for any money?!’ Well, yes! I’m not saying we won’t, it’s just not our preferred route. We’re more of a business model of a principal partner, a primary, a co-primary, major and associates.
“I think people can make it look like, ‘Oh they didn’t get a title sponsor!’ No, I’ve come in and that’s my area of expertise. Yes I want the car looking just like it did in the good old days of Vodafone and Marlboro and blah blah blah, but I don’t really want a name before McLaren, because then when you go out into the marketplace and you’re building the McLaren brand you’ve got to bring along another brand with you that could change again in three or five years.
“They don’t go on forever and you’re constantly [changing] – one era we’re West, next we’re Marlboro, next we’re Vodafone, and I’d rather be McLaren.”