A stupid (or worse) story

There is a story kicking around today that McLaren might be doing a deal with Coca-Cola. There are two ways to read such an article. The first is that the author (and the copiers around the web) are just not very clever. McLaren is in a long-term strategic alliance with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). The British conglomerate that makes Lucozade, which is a major competitor to Coca-Cola’s Powerade and to Pepsico’s Gatorade. Thus it is decidedly unlikely that McLaren would be doing a deal with Coca-Cola at a time when the word in the F1 paddock is that Lucozade could be stepping up to become the McLaren title sponsor if Vodafone decides to reduce its involvement.

Obviously the author of the Coca-Cola article is not someone involved directly in F1.

While such stupidity is not uncommon in the Internet coverage of F1, there is still the potential that this is a story that has been deliberately designed to be disruptive.

97 thoughts on “A stupid (or worse) story

  1. I’m guessing gsk can’t advertise any of their pharmaceuticals, although having an antidepressant sponsor might be a bit apt given the drop in form from the start of the season

      1. Nurofen sponsored a rally team in the last 10 years in the UK, so its possible on a national level, but that may vary at an international level as something even as non medicinal as Strepsils cannot be advertised in France.

        Potentially this could be a huge opportunity if the laws are similar to the tobacco advertising laws a few years ago. If a product is banned from advertising in Europe, but is massively branded up in China and broadcast into X million homes in the banned territories it would be worth a fortune, plus the benefit of the rest of the world broadcast.

    1. There is advertising on telly in the US for prescription medicines but the guidelines are super strict and if you fall outta line, the FDA will come down on you like a ton of bricks. That’s not allowed in the UK and I think the EU. They could advertise OTC (over the counter) medicines and their toothpastes, though. Quite obviously, Lucozade is the best fit in terms of branding and the fast paced world of F1.

  2. This type of story (Sponsor X to Team Y) always make me think of this scenario…

    Person 1: McLaren’s current sponsorship is up for renewal/looking shaky/is in the middle of a long-term contract but let’s shake things up anyway. Name a big, world-wide company which contains a bunch of red in the brand colours?
    Person 2: Um…Coca-Cola?
    Person 1: Brilliant! Let’s write a story about them sponsoring McLaren

    To me it’s unlikely as most of Coca-Cola’s sponsorship centres around stopping other brands sponsoring something or reducing the impact of it. If soft drinks were making significant headway into F1 sponsorship then I’d take the rumours more seriously.

    I can also think of a third option, which is similar to the disruptive one mentioned by Joe. A team trying to nab a Coca-Cola competitor (e.g. Pepsi) by suggesting that there is interest from their sector in F1 sponsorship.

    1. After the year of “non-West” sponsorship (2005?) there were all sorts of rumours going round inside McLaren as to who the new sponsors were going to be, with very,very few of the staff having any idea that Vodaphone was going to happen.

      The paintshop was a highly restricted area where the shiny,shiny silver show car was being painted. every day there would be new reported sighting, with an Intel blue car being strongly rumoured.

      When the Vodaphone deal was announced it took most by surprise, as Vodaphone and Ferrari were so close at the time.

      They can keep these things very secret, so I give this Coke story very little credence.

    2. Re: “if soft drinks were making significant headway into F1 sponsorship…”

      Owning two teams and winning a couple drivers’ titles doesn’t count as significant headway these days?

      1. No.

        Name the other soft drink or energy drink companies clamouring to get into F1? The few others involved are at a minor level of sponsorship.

  3. Coca-Cola McLaren Mercedes – doesn’t sound like a legendary, winning team name. I don’t believe their marketing heads would let it happen, anyway.

  4. Lucozade is a very silly brand to get involved in world wide televised sport IMHO, being a UK brand. Coke on the other hand would hit every audience

    1. It is not as silly as it seems, GSK is looking to expand Lucozade into non UK markets and aquire some of the market share held by Powerade and Gatorade.

    2. But then Lucozade has a long-term association with sport and it’s a recognised brand around other sports across Europe. You have to remember the deal isn’t with Lucozade, it’s with GSK who have an entire stable of brands they want to promote. GSK own several of the large sports drinks and protein/muscle building brands as well, so you could imagine that they’d consider putting these into place with Formula 1 over time. Especially as they want to promote these into US markets in future and traditional advertising is being regulated into the ground for anything health-related in europe.

      1. Given that the demographic for F-1 fans is aging, perhaps
        GSK can promote “Ensure” instead of Lucozade

    3. Actually, Coke as a sponsor makes no sense. Coke is already a household name – it’s at the point of brand saturation. It doesn’t matter whether they sponsor McLaren or not; either way, their brand recognition will remain the same, so why waste twenty million pounds on it?

      Lucozade, on the other hand, makes far more sense. Either a) GSK want to take the brand internationally, or b) Lucozade is losing market share to Powerade and Gatorade, and the company needs to find a way to get it back. Either way, sports sponsorship makes sense. They already have a presence in football, so expanding their sponsorship portfolio to include Formula 1 is a good idea – how many other sports will get them coverage in twenty (or more; Joe posted a few weeks ago that the 2013 calendar could have as many as 23 races) countries?

  5. The Vodafone agreement has been winding down for a couple of years now, Mclaren have been offering the sponsor window on the drivers head protection on race by race deals for a while, and they sold the front facing rear wing sponsor window to GSK on the eve of the Australian GP 2012. Both formally Vodafone occupied spaces.

    The Coca-Cola to Mclaren story seemed a bit far-fetched given the GSK agreement, but have you heard anything about Coca-Cola entering F1 in another capacity? Possibly as a core sponsor (similar to UBS or LG) it would seem like a more logical agreement.

    That said, I don’t think F1 will see many new FMCG’s backing the sport until 2014 when the “green” engines and the like come through.

    1. Don’t Coke usually require pouring rights before they sponsor anything? Can a single team guarantee that? Probably not.

  6. I saw where GlaxoSmithKline has a $3 Billion fine they’ll need to deal with. Maybe a few things will change?

    1. GSK had a turnover of £27.4 billion last year and profit of £8.4 billion this ($3 billion) is not as terrible as it might seem. Also now GSK has agreed a settlement, confidence and so share price has risen and there has been little effect on the companys’ percieved reputation. In addition GSK has been expecting this payout and has factored it into the future business plans and growth predictions.

      As far as I know (from the GSK side) the GSK/Mclaren partnership is very high profile and if anything likely to increase not decrease.

  7. More interestingly is the reason Vodafone may be withdrawing. A little bird well placed in Vodafone marketing told me they were most unhappy with the Bahrain fiasco and are not confident there will not be a repeat.

    I also believe they requested their logo’s be removed from the cars that weekend, but the contracts excluded such a course of action.

      1. Difficult position if so for McLaren with being partly owned by the (Bahrain based) Mumtalakat Holding Company.

    1. Vodafone are unhappy with the UK broadcasting model, and the potentially worse (for sponsors) future Italian broadcasting model.

      Early indications are that with the cumulative BBC/Sky ratings down 18.54% on 2011, Vodafone are set to lose a minimum of $6.5 million in AVE brand awareness compared to 2011.

  8. The Coke story is Bull but Hamilton playing hardball and going to Lotus is rock solid! You really limit yourself by only writing true stories you need to expand your horizons

    1. Thanks for your advice on my career. I have been doing OK for the last 30 years. What have you been doing in that time?

      1. Mapping genes for disease prevention. By the way I was joking you could hardly utilize fiction as a journalist although it seems the internet brigade seems to fairly frequently. At first I thought your headline was referring to a Hamilton to Lotus story that seems fairly ridiculous

          1. You’re right, I was dead serious suggesting that the one guy on the Internet that goes out of his way to base F1 stories factually and attends races introduces fiction into the mix. In case you haven’t noticed 95% of internet F1 coverage is Crap which the authors probably make money exposing eyeballs to through viewership. My comment was a shot at that ridiculous bunch as the big “Hamilton to Lotus” scoop that did’nt seem to gain traction was ‘breaking'(that’s why I referenced the story in my comment)
            Its never a good joke when you have to explain it. To your claim of my capitulation I would say don’t play Poker anytime soon, a good example of 2 plus 2 = 5. (Hard to read people through the Internet, rare talent)

            1. Hehe. You just never know. Sadly, I could see someone making a statement like that while being serious. Glad to know you weren’t!

  9. Okay, left-of-field suggestion for a McLaren sponsor: Claro. Obviously, it would need Sergio Perez in the team to work. But I think there is a possibility that it could work.

    Firstly, Luca di Montezemolo has said that Perez isn’t experienced enough for a Ferrari drive. Now, I don’t know the nuances of contract law, but I can’t imagine that a team like Ferrari would have full control over a driver’s career. Perez is a development driver, with the understanding that he will one day race for Ferrari. However, if a vacancy came up at Ferrari and the team did not offer it to Perez, then I can’t see the contract being strong enough to keep Perez where he is. I imagine that the FIA would frown on this practice, because it would open up a potential future where teams sign young talent, but never have any intention of running them – rather, they take that talent to keep those drivers away from their rivals.

    Secondly, Ferrari have had the most-stable driver roster for the past twenty years. When they sign a driver, they tend to keep him around for years on end. Even though Ivan Capelli was released after one year, his original deal was for three. So I don’t buy the idea that Ferrari could drop Massa for 2013, take someone for a year, and then have Perez come in for 2014. Unless, of course, the second seat becomes available in 2014, but I don’t see Fernando Alonso leaving. If they replace Massa in 2013, then that driver will probably stay with the team for a while. And since Alonso probably isn’t going anywhere, Perez would be out of his mind to stay at Sauber until a free seat opens up.

    So if Ferrari pass on Perez, I imagine Perez would become a free agent. In that case, he could be picked up by McLaren. They’re far more willing to take inexperienced drivers on-board that Ferrari, and I see a lot of similarities between Perez and Button – especially in tyre management which would probably help with car development. Even if Ferrari passed on Perez, but held him to his contract, Carlos Slim could probably buy Perez out of it and get him into McLaren.

    Of course, all of this hinges on some very precise timing. It’s probably far more likely that Hamilton, Massa and Perez will stay at their respective teams for 2013. But if I was Martin Whitmarsh and I knew Lewis Hamilton was on his way out, Sergio Perez is the first driver I would go after as his replacement.

      1. Please. They were signed on under extreme circumstances, which you are conveniently ignoring. Badoer was really only a temporary solution until they could get Fisichella, who himself was a temporary solution. Do you think they would have taken Massa’s place if Massa was capable of finishing the season? After all, I’m pretty sure Ferrari weren’t planning for Massa to get a brain injury.

        The fact that you can point this out doesn’t invalidate my point that Ferrari have had the most stable driver line-up for twenty years, and that they are unlikely to sign a driver up for a single season next year.

  10. Coca-cola is a major world wide brand & I find it a little surprising that their involvement in motorsport to date has been quite low profile; as they seem to pop up in a number of other fields. Perhaps, with a (smallish) resurgence of interest in F1 in America they are looking to be involved somewhere….maybe not McLaren even though it’s a relatively well known name in the US (Can-Am success). Time will tell….

    1. Coca-cola is very involved in NASCAR as a sponsor. They are currently involved in several different teams. Their drivers are forced to drink it when they are in the winner’s circle and all have been taught to hold the bottle so the label shows. I’m sure many drivers would rather drink water after driving 500 miles. Coke also is a title sponsor for the second Daytona race, just concluded this last weekend. At least in the U.S., NASCAR, which has a 36 race schedule and is televised weekly (this doesn’t even include the lower tier series of NASCAR, in which Coke is involved), offers Coca-cola more bang for the buck. I’m sure they are scared away by the rate cards in F-1.

        1. would one of the other reasons possibly be related to Redbull being in a position to pull Bernies strings a little maybe?

  11. I’m a bit puzzled by McLaren’s brand management. At Montreal there were all the souvenir / shirt booths and many people in the stands sporting their wares. There were people in Ferrari shirts and caps, appropriately related to the car. There were quite a lot of black Lotus shirts, even though there is little relationship to the actual car. And then came the orange Vodaphone shirts. No sign of “McLaren” on these that I could see. Why would they make invisible their own brand and make the consumer goods all about Vodaphone?

    1. The brand is strong enough that everyone still knew it was a McLaren shirt though, so no need to re-advertise it. An Apple or Audi don’t actually have the name written on them anywhere, just the logo…

  12. Joe,

    i read the Coke story in the Sunday Telegraph, then I noted who the author was and realised it was rubbish. How does he get published in a reputable paper? Everything of his that I have read over the years has turned out to be Bernie’s propaganda or rubbish.


  13. joe,
    the same website had a story a few days ago about Williams dropping the “S” logo from the cars, they even quoted Sir Frank saying it was time to move on…… But then Williams dismissed the story via official twitter account…
    Was Sir Frank taking nonsense or are this guys from this spacific web site complete idiots?

  14. Please don’t read this as me believing you are wrong, but I am always impressed by the bravery and sureness (is that a word??) with which you put these things out there. I mean, if the deal suddenly gets announced next week, this will be a story that you can’t hide and you will have coca cola all over your face. I know you are sure of your facts, but you certainly don’t believe in hiding behind the parapet! That’s why this is the first place I come to to see what’s actually happening.

    1. Well yes… he does not hide. But this is also not an official news source. Just a blog full of ramblings. Very legitimate ramblings…

  15. I have to laugh when I read others’ “reports” that usually are published after yours. This Coca-Cola thing is funny at best. Thanks for the good work!
    Incheon, S. Korea
    Ps. Are you coming to Korea? I would love to see you in person and hear your insight on the apparent last Korean Grand Prix and other aspects of Formula 1.

  16. Didnt the story originate from the owner of that site that spouts all the Bernie propaganda? I assumed his links with Bernie had something to do with the reason behind the story although couldnt really figure out what they were trying to achieve in this instance.

    1. Presumably what they are trying to achieve is to bring Coke into the sport by forcing it to show its cards. Or, possibly, to make other companies think they should get in the door now, before the rate cards go up (so to speak).

      1. You are reading far too much into this. In my opinion, there is one simple reason why companies are staying away from F1. The sport has an image problem.

  17. Too bad….Wouldn’t mind a Coca Cola sponsored car.

    Still surprised we still don’t have some of those companies in F1. Where is McDonalds? Coca Cola? Pepsi?

    Am I the only one still waiting for a return of 7Up??

  18. I think F1 should loosen up their advertising rules and go the way of NASCAR where companies can come in and sponsor specific races on cars. I think more companies would come into F1 in this way and stick around for a while. Not many companies can put forth 50-100m in sponsorship year over year, but there are many companies that can do 10-30m no problem.

    Perhaps in this way, the smaller teams can get more competitive as well.

  19. If it is Coke Zero, aimed at “unconventional, uncompromising men who are curious of the world” as per Coca Cola marketing themselves, it starts to make a tad of sense 😉 Unless they want to invest in Burn, which has a tiny market share compared to Red Bull.

  20. Joe – on another sponsor related topic, wonder what the future holds with Williams and PDVSA now that the WSJ is reporting that PDVSA is supplying fuel to assist Syria’s Assad in actions that the world has roundly condemned. Do you think it will have any effect?

  21. What’s the situation with Lotus/Genii these days? Wouldn’t a Coca-Cola title sponsorship of that team be a sensible solution to that bizarre arrangement?

      1. Coca Cola has one of the largest marketing budgets in the world. Why do you think they’re not interested in F1?

        Not that I disagree, in fact I very much agree that it would be a poor use of Coke’s dollars, largely because of the sport’s current commercial ownership. Having TV rights and other commercial decisions made by a private equity firm that doesn’t care about long term growth has greatly distanced the sport from the youth market.

        Without the youth market, I can’t imagine companies like Coke ever giving F1 the time of day. Just how many billions in sponsor dollars have been put out of reach by Bernie’s and CVC’s short-term philosophy?

        When the teams are trying to figure out how much they’re TRULY losing from CVC’s rush to profits, they certainly need to include the lack of access to some of the largest potential sponsors on the planet.

        1. I think you just answered your own question: “Why do you think they’re not interested in F1″… with your own statement: “Not that I disagree, in fact I very much agree that it would be a poor use of Coke’s dollars”.

          1. You misread my intent.

            I was asking Joe for HIS rationale. He doesn’t make clear why HE thinks it won’t happen.

            I gave my reason, I’m still wondering as to his.

            1. I have been covering motor racing for 29 years and I have heard the Coca-Cola rumours a hundred times. Coca-Cola is a global brand and does not need any exposure. Thus when it does a sponsorship deal it is looking for better ways to engage with fans, or to sell more drinks. They tend to go to sports because they are engaging. F1 is simply not the right place for them to be. It has a shonky image because of things like Germany and Bahrain. Not to mention the sporting scandals and the politics of the last 10 years. The sport is not inclusive of the fans. Silverstone’s disaster last week was an indication of this kind of thinking. These things will only change when there is a new generation in charge of the sport. In addition to that the management at Coca-Cola is exactly the same as it has been for some years, and I see no reason why they would suddenly have changed their minds. The only thing that might make sense is if Coca-Cola was to buy Monster, as was rumoured a few months ago (but denied by Coke). Monster would be a good fit in F1, in direct competition to Red Bull. However, even in that scenario, I don’t think F1 is cool enough for Monster’s idea of its own image. Don’t forget the level of the McLaren-GSK partnership. The new buildings going up at Woking are going to be “a state-of-the-art learning facility” which will be called the McLaren GSK Centre for Applied Performance. Thus it would be illogical for McLaren to go off with a GSK competitor. Add to this the fact that for the last two years GSK has been rolling out Lucozade as a global brand, up against Pepsi’s Gatorade and Mountain Dew and Coca-Cola’s Powerade. Their primary target these days is the developing markets. Therefore my feeling is that the rumours of Coke in F1 have been deliberately placed to be disruptive to McLaren.

      2. Actually Joe are you sure about that? Michael and Nico both have Monster advertising, which is distributed in the UK by Coca-Cola. As Monster is an american brand I wonder if the money for that advertising is coming from Monster itself or from Coca-Cola UK?

  22. Can you explain why a magazine as respected as Motorsport is now printing stories by Christian Sylt of Pitpass?

      1. I was quite surprised, and the article (about the future of F1) was – let’s be delicate – favorable to certain viewpoints and dismissive of others.

  23. The Coca-Cola non-story has already become a yawn. However, I am intrigued that after many years of sponsoring Ferrari and then McLaren, many people still incorrectly spell ‘Vodafone’ as ‘Vodaphone’ . . .

    1. I think those people need to watch more content on a unique animation-based platform with integrated sponsor-partner brand messaging!

      On that note, McLaren surely wouldn’t commission a whole series with such a limited shelf-life because it features sponsors that are about to jump ship. (Same applies to drivers – it’s evidence, for me, that Lewis isn’t going anywhere.)

  24. Always glad to have Joe’s insight into these things – helps to separate the wheat from the chaff. But he does highlight a bigger issue – why are internationally-known blue-chip companies now so reluctant to get involved in F1? With the exception of Vodafone, most of the teams’ title sponsors have become well-known through their sponsorship – not the other way round. Compare this with the situation 20-25 years ago when major companies such as Canon were involved. Could this be due to the lack of transparency surrounding the business dealings in F1?

  25. The story on the site that it seems doesn’t get named around here says something about GSK and Coca Cola having the same parent company. Which, as far as I know, is not so (and I googled and my mind was not changed).

    RE engergy drinks – they have been in F1 for some time now. Red Bull were on the Saubers for some years. There was another that sponsored Arrows back in the 90s (“Power Horse”) and Monster logos have been around for a few years.

  26. It’s time for you to stop rubbishing other journalists, despite your prejudice against those who don’t attend all races.
    You are all in the reportage business and it belittles your history and knowledge to waste time with bashing others reporting the sport.
    You’re better than that.

    1. Thank you for advice. I have some for you.
      I think it is wrong that fans are conned by these people I think people deserve to know who is bullshitting.
      I am not going to stop, so if you don’t like it, you can go and read their stuff.

  27. Good journalists (and good publications) keep reportage and opinion separate. This is Joe’s blog. I think we can expect a rather higher percentage of personal opinion here than if he doing a race report for, say, Autosport.

  28. Lucazade would be a better bet and maybe it could put a bit more fizz into their performance, which has been very laclusture of late…..

  29. joe a bit off topic but i,m angry at other sites that profess to know the sport that lay the blame for mclarens poor performance on sam micheal what do you think please tell me you disagree

    1. Things did not work out well for Sam at Williams and the new people have improved the performance of that team significantly, which suggests that those who believed him to be in the wrong job may have been right. There is no question that he is a clever and hard-working guy and he is in a completely different role at McLaren, so there is no obvious reason why his arrival would have caused problems. Teams can be knocked off balance when new characters are introduced into the mix but I see no signs that this is what is happening at McLaren.

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