McLaren’s aggressive business strategy is paying off on the track

McLaren’s aggressive business strategy is paying off on the track


Zak Brown, McLaren Transformation Captain

Photo: McLaren / Advertising

As you read, Zak Brown closes another McLaren sponsorship. This joke has become frequent in recent years due to various agreements made by the manager of the English team in recent years. But one cannot deny the ingenuity of the American to make the design work.

This is a total change in approach from what was going on until 2016. When Ron Dennis was at the helm of McLaren, the goal was to get the best values ​​possible. So much so that other deals were not completed because Dennis understood that they “did not represent the size of McLaren”. So much so that, after the departure of Vodafone at the end of 2012, the cars became even smoother …

When Zak Brown took over in 2017, the changes began immediately: taking away the team’s original identity. Although not New Zealand’s sporting colors (grey and black), the team marked its path with orange. And in that year, MCL32 (which already meant another phase change for the team and we describe it here) began to have an orange color in physical training.

Faced with the departure of Honda that year, which brought about US$60 million to the team’s cash flow, Brown began to devise a new business strategy. Instead of asking a lot from a few, he decided to grind the space. This is a very popular move in the United States, the origin of Zak, who was also a pilot in his youth. The intention was not only to raise money, but also ways to close partnerships to keep McLaren going.

McLaren and Google: F1's newest marriage

McLaren and Google: F1’s newest marriage

Photo: McLaren / Advertising

In the same year, his first connection with Indy came, through the participation of Fernando Alonso and the partnership with Andretti for the 500 Miles of Indianapolis. This was a window to bring more companies into team projects. In this line, in 2018, we saw more brands emerging. Most importantly, we had the appearance of Dell (the American computer giant) and the oil company Petrobras. Later that year, Coca-Cola put some of its brands on cars.

Some purists were not happy with this position that McLaren had. It seemed like “anything goes” to be able to close the account and stay alive in the unit. He was right, after all, Honda’s departure and the drop in the prize pool and low results made money short. But there was a bigger plan. For example, Dell provided equipment to update the McLaren technology park.

The improvements started to bear fruit in 2019 and the team was also getting results on the track. The launch of the Indy project with Schmidt Peterson served to open up another field for funding. How about supporting two teams in major markets? Therefore, the portfolio of partners was expanded …

Today, entering the McLaren website is to see a list of companies in different fields: IT, oil, chemical industry, tobacco, supermarkets, network of road stations, hotels, tools ….

McLaren website and all sponsors and partners

McLaren website and all sponsors and partners

Photo: McLaren / Advertising

In addition to funding and partners, McLaren was opening farms. In addition to Formula Indy, the team went to Extreme E and is strongly negotiating to enter Formula E. To ensure growth, it closed an agreement for the sale of part of the shares to an American investment fund, which can reach up to 33% of the part of the race until the end of this year.

And on the eve of the start of the season, an impressive announcement that the strategy worked: McLaren closed a “multi-year” sponsorship deal with Google. This year, the team will have Chrome and Android branding on the F1 and Extreme E cars, as well as providing tech support.

McLaren has become very sporty and, although the group is still in a fragile financial situation (the COVID pandemic almost broke it), it has been sustainable and could be a winner again on several fronts. This sums up the words of the founder of everything, Bruce McLaren: life is not measured in years, but in achievements. Zak Brown is the heir to the tradition.