EXCLUSIVE: McLaren’s new title sponsor revealed

As we all know, McLaren and Vodafone announced that their six-year title sponsorship agreement would not be renewed at the end of the season.  McLaren have already revealed that a new title sponsor has been signed up, but they have not revealed who that sponsor will be.  They have set 2 December 2013 as the date that all will be revealed.  Now, nearly nine months is an awfully long time to wait, especially in the fast paced world of Formula 1, but fortunately we don’t have to wait until December for the answer.  In a first for my blog, I’m able to reveal, as a WORLD EXCLUSIVE, the identity of McLaren’s new title sponsor from 2014 onwards.

Sergio Perez has been sponsored by Telmex throughout his career

Sergio Perez has been sponsored by
Telmex throughout his career

With the arrival of Sergio Perez at McLaren this season, many had speculated, even before the announcement of the end of Vodafone’s title sponsorship agreement with the team, that Vodafone and McLaren would part ways.  This is because of the Mexican’s long running sponsorship agreement with Carlos Slim’s telecommunications giant Telmex, a Vodafone competitor.  Telmex, of course, are already in Formula 1 as sponsors of the Sauber team, Perez’s former employer for whom Esteban Gutierrez, his compatriot, now drives.  So, does a move to McLaren beckon for Telmex?  I can reveal that the answer to that question is no.  Telmex will not be McLaren’s new title sponsor.

So, if not Telmex, then who?  Well, I’ve managed to tease you for a couple of paragraphs, but I’m going to answer that question right now – eight months and a day before McLaren’s official announcement.  I’m able to exclusively reveal this news now because of contacts at the company involved, rather than at McLaren, which explains why I’ve been able to get the scoop on more established Formula 1 journalists.  McLaren’s new title sponsor from 2014 will be…McDonald’s.

Jamie McMurray driving his McDonald's liveriedChevrolet at Pheonix last month

Jamie McMurray driving his McDonald’s liveried
Chevrolet at Pheonix last month

The American fast food giant serves around 68 million customers daily in 119 countries and certainly has the financial muscle to be able to enter into a long-term sponsorship agreement with a Formula 1 team, despite the global economic downturn.  They also have a history of motorsport sponsorship.  They have been involved in NASCAR for quite a number of years and as recently as late last year they announced that they would be increasing their sponsorship of Jamie McMurray’s Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, after the departure of previous primary sponsor Bass Pro Shops.

The exact value of the McLaren McDonald’s deal has not been revealed to me, but I am able to say that the figures involved are significant.  The value of the deal is in excess of McLaren’s previous $75m per year deal with Vodafone and will certainly be enough to give the team a significant financial boost at a time when a number of Formula 1 teams are struggling financially, as evidenced by the recent demise of the HRT team, and the dramatic increase in the number of pay drivers in the sport, particularly among the smaller teams.

Expect to see McDonald's fleet of McLaren P1s on the roads from 2014

Expect to see McDonald’s fleet of
McLaren P1s on the roads from 2014

McDonald’s and McLaren had been in negotiations for quite some time.  Discussions started well before Vodafone had decided to withdraw from Formula 1.  McDonald’s have spotted an opportunity to steal a march on competitors like Burger King and will shortly be announcing a move into the home delivery market, having identified an increasing trend towards families economising by staying in, rather than going out.  This has led to a noticeable reduction in footfall for McDonald’s which they’re determined to address.  It is this home delivery service  – Speed Assured Delivery – that the McLaren sponsorship deal will serve to promote.  The SAD service will utilise Formula 1 technology, developed in partnership with McLaren, to ensure that food is delivered to the customer’s door no more than 20 minutes after an order is placed.  McDonald’s will be able to guarantee this thanks to the acquisition of a fleet of McLaren’s new P1 sports cars.  Unfortunately, my sources tell me that McDonald’s will not be able to offer Happy Meals with the SAD service.

Alongside the headline sponsorship figure, the deal with McDonald’s will also see the McLaren’s trackside catering operation being run by the US firm, who will also be launching a range of new products to their menu as part of the sponsorship tie up.  As I mentioned, McLaren’s negotiations with McDonald’s have been going on for quite some time, pre-dating Lewis Hamilton’s departure from the Woking-based team.  Indeed, the Englishman’s departure almost scuppered the deal completely as one of the big new promotional tie ups was set to be a brand new McHAMburger, which was to be promoted by the 2008 world drivers’ champion.

Some of the existing McDonald's menu

Some of the existing McDonald’s menu

The loss of Hamilton did not prove to be fatal for the deal, though.  This is mainly due to the strength of the other menu based promotional concepts that the companies have managed to develop.  Chief among these is the new ‘double Mac’, a double size Big Mac which celebrates the partnership between the two ‘Mc’ companies.  It’s also rumoured that a new spicy hotdog item will be part of the promotional menu, to be fronted by Sergio Perez; the Devilled Roasted Sausage (DRS) McHotdog.  Jenson Button is expected to promote a new Jelly Bean (JB) McFlurry.  All of these new menu items will, of course, be available with the SAD service.

With the arrival of McDonald’s we will have to bid farewell to the iconic McLaren chrome and red livery from 2014.  As you might have guessed, McLaren will be painted in the McDonalds red with the ‘golden arches’ yellow accent.  This may well upset Ferrari, and there is already some talk that the Italian team will retaliate by launching their own restaurant chain.  The menu is already under development with the ‘Prancing Horse Burger’ set to be the chain’s signature dish.  Given the recent Europe-wide horse-meat scandal, some rethinking may be required, though.

I have asked McLaren to comment on this article, but as expected they’re unwilling to confirm or deny anything ahead of their official announcement on 2 December.  Their media relations officer, Jo King would only say “We don’t comment on speculation. Our new title sponsor will be announced on 2 December”.  I was also unable to get any official comment from McDonald’s sponsorship co-ordinator Stu Pidd.

* Did you notice today’s date?  If you’re reading this after the publication date, you might want to pay some special attention to that before taking this article too seriously.  Happy April Fools day!


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