Ron Dennis says the changing nature of Formula 1’s sponsorship models means his McLaren team has prioritised signing smaller deals for longer, rather than sell prominent space on its cars to a single company for a shorter period of time.
Dennis was speaking at the launch event of McLaren’s new partnership with fashion brand Michael Kors, which will become the team’s “lifestyle partner” and have its logos visible on the MP4-31 and the overalls of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button.
“The sponsorship model changes year on year and for many years it was about a predominant brand on a Grand Prix car,” he said. “The activation budget needs to match the investment and the numbers in Formula 1 have gone up and up and up.
“[When] you then start looking at funding and racing, it becomes so expensive that no one company can put it together. So what we’ve done over the years is go down the path of different types of comparable products that sit comfortably here with a common objective.
“We’ve been very much focused on brands and the long-term, rather than short term [as] a dominant force on the car.”
McLaren has been without a title sponsor since the end of 2013, when its deal with Vodafone expired, but the team has since signed a number of sponsorship deals without putting high profile branding on large sections of its cars, as was previously the case.
Dennis described how the team had decided to focus on reaching deals with brands that share its values and used the Michael Kors deal as an example of that process.
He said: “Our search for a fashion brand has been very much focused on a brand that lives by the same sort of brand principals and values as ourselves. It’s an honour to have Michael Kors on the car because of what it stands for.
“We have to under-promise and over deliver on our side of things and then the whole thing will just take on a natural scope.”
Speaking about the deal, which his company is marking by releasing 50 limited-edition black leather jackets, Michael Kors said: “This partnership is about the convergence of style and speed, which is inherent to both the Michael Kors and McLaren-Honda DNA.
“There is an energy, sophistication and confidence to both of our brands, and we wanted to create a limited-edition piece that spoke to that.”
Lawrence Stroll, the father of Williams’ development driver Lance, floated the Michael Kors brand. Although he has now sold his stake in the company, the Canadian businessman now has links to three F1 teams, including Ferrari, which was sponsored by Tommy Hilfiger, another of Stroll’s business interests, during the Michael Schumacher era.
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