A couple of days ago, McLaren announced that they had launched an animation studio or something. Either way, they came out with this video.
Its pretty mediocre, but I understand the intent. When asked about the video, Martin Whitmarsh expressed a desire to strengthen the brand of McLaren, something I found more than a little surprising for a top-notch F1 team.
But then I stopped for a moment and I understood. F1 teams are very much beholden on their drivers. Recall an article I published on Red Bull and their marketing strategy concerning Sebastian Vettel. In that article, I argued that Red Bull needed Sebastian to win over Webber for potent marketing reasons. Should Vettel no longer be on the team, then Red Bull need to come up with a new marketing strategy that incorporates their new driver. In this modern era, it is not enough for drivers to win, the top drivers must also be branding instruments.
And this is the problem McLaren is trying to distance itself from. McLaren is known as a team that has very intense marketing requirements for its drivers, a sign that the team relies on the branding power of its drivers more than other teams. Should McLaren strengthen its own brand, than its driver’s brands are not as necessary.
Lets look at exhibit Red Bull. The team is known as the party team in the paddock while also showing an uncanny ability to win and perform at a very high level. They bring a harbor barge into Monaco with a pool on top. They host roof top parties at Valencia (I wish I was at this one). All of this strengthens the things that Red Bull stands for and none of it requires Sebastian Vettel or Mark Webber.
McLaren’s branding package is not as organized. But that is where the animation comes in. McLaren is taking aim at young fans and trying to convert them early to the McLaren fold.
We will not know immediately how effective McLaren’s branding attempts are. Remember that Red Bull has been around for five years, establishing the party branding since its inception. It will take quite some time of consistent, effective marketing to see this plan through to fruition.