FEBRUARY 22, 2005
McLaren and Johnnie Walker
McLaren has finally confirmed that it will be sponsored by the whisky brand Johnnie Walker. The label is owned by the vast drinks conglomerate Diageo, which is also involved in NASCAR with its Smirnoff and Crown Royal brands. The Johnnie Walker "striding man" logo will appear on the engine cover of the McLarens, starting at the Turkish Grand Prix, the first race after the ban on tobacco advertising in Europe comes into effect on August 1. The news means that West sponsorship will probably only be seen at non-European events, if at all. The branding will also appear on the driver overalls and on the team uniforms. As part of the new partnership McLaren-Mercedes will demonstrate that alcohol companies can effectively promote responsible drinking and change consumer attitude to over-consumption and drinking and driving. The deal is worth something in the region of $30m a year.
The deal to work with McLaren took many months to work out with several teams having been in the running. Once the team was decided Johnnie Walker had to overcome some internal opposition to the idea but it seems that now that has been overcome. The sponsorship could signal the start of more alcohol backing in the sport as tobacco advertising fades.
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