McLaren partners BAT for ‘A Better Tomorrow’, jury still out on vaping brands

McLaren Racing F1 team has signed a new global partnership with British American Tobacco (BAT). The partnership is focused solely on BAT’s “potentially reduced risk products”, and is “grounded in technology and innovation”.

Like Philip Morris’s Mission Winnow initiative at Scuderia Ferrari, which is being investigated by Australia’s health authorities ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, the multi-year partnership is centred on accelerating BAT’s transformation as a brand and as a company.

In a press statement, McClaren said BAT would be “leveraging its portfolio of potentially reduced-risk products, aiming to deliver the world’s tobacco and nicotine consumers a better tomorrow.”

Kingsley Wheaton, BAT’s chief marketing officer, said: “It gives us a truly global platform with which to drive greater resonance of our potentially reduced risk products, including our Vype, Vuse and glo brands.”

BAT will reportedly have an “on-off presence” on the McLaren car this season in line with regulations and legislation on tobacco advertising in each market. SportBusiness Sponsorship understands that the 2019 car will launch on Friday with the ‘A Better Tomorrow’ logo attached. It remains to be seen whether BAT’s vaping products will be advertised during the series.

That said, BAT has already gone further than Philip Morris in name-checking its vaping brands.

Speaking to SportBusiness Sponsorship last month, Riccardo Parino, PMI’s vice-president of global event partnerships, said the situation around advertising vaping products remains “fluid”, but most health institutions already recognise the benefits of vaping for people who previously smoked tobacco.

Parino also said, in future, Philip Morris would like to promote a movement towards the acceptance of vaping products in advertising and sponsorship.

Christian Sylt, co-author of the annual Formula Money report, told SportBusiness Sponsorship this morning that the BAT move “appears to be designed to push e-cigarettes and the only question is why this hasn’t happened sooner.”

More broadly, he said: “It seems to be an innovative way to raise sponsorship in a market that is clearly struggling due to turbocharged costs and reversing audience numbers as a result of a move to pay-TV.”

For McLaren and BAT, technology is also key part of the relationship. McLaren Applied Technologies will work with BAT on areas such as battery technology and advanced materials. The two companies will also share best practice, innovation know-how and mutual experience.

BAT had a sponsorship presence in Formula One for eight years, from 1999 to 2006, through its Lucky Strike brand and its co-ownership of British American Racing.

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