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Volume 22 No. 23
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McLaren Racing pleased with Indy 500 sponsor sales

The team known for its Formula One pedigree has been toying with running a full-time IndyCar schedule.
Photo: mclaren racing

McLaren Racing has exceeded its sponsorship revenue expectations for this month’s Indianapolis 500, according to Ben Priest, McLaren’s senior vice president of partnership development for the Americas, a welcome development for the team that could enter the NTT IndyCar Series full time next year.

The England-based carmaker is one of Formula One’s most pedigreed teams but has been weighing a full-time entry into IndyCar under McLaren CEO Zak Brown, the Sports Business Journal Forty Under 40 hall of famer who used to run the Indianapolis-based Just Marketing International motorsports marketing agency.

Currently, it is just running a one-off Indy 500 program, as it also did in 2017, in a dual bid to grow the McLaren brand and pay homage to the carmaker’s history at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. McLaren ran multiple Indy 500 entries in the 20th century.

Sponsors that have signed up for the Indy 500 program include some brands new to McLaren as well as many that were already F1 partners and chose to also buy Indy 500 assets. Those include Dell Technologies, R.J. Reynolds’ Vuse vapor brand, AutoNation, Arrow Electronics, Estrella Galicia, Huski Chocolate, MindMaze, Go Smile and Mission Foods.

Priest wouldn’t disclose financials, but it typically costs around $1 million to $1.5 million to run a top-level, one-off Indy 500 car, so the team’s sponsorship revenue likely at least topped that.

“We exceeded our expectations and this has been a good baseline for if we do more in the area and as we continue to evaluate what IndyCar means for our portfolio,” said Priest, who is based in New York City. “Since the time Zak joined as executive director [of McLaren Technology Group] and then became CEO of McLaren Racing, obviously with his background being so commercially focused in F1 and broader motorsport, there’s been a major focus on commercial efforts.”

McLaren will have about 150 guests at the Indy 500 for hospitality purposes, including F1 partners and guests of McLaren’s automotive business.

Several of its partners will activate beyond their on-car branding. For example, Dell Technologies will have social/digital activations and a customer program that shows off how McLaren uses Dell’s services. Anne Ristau, head of global sponsorships at Dell Technologies, said the partnership with McLaren makes sense for Dell because it involves business-to-business elements where Dell is working with McLaren’s Applied Technologies subsidiary.

McLaren has said it will wait until after this weekend’s 500 to decide whether to enter IndyCar full time. Options the team has explored include buying part or all of an existing team, rather than entering fully on its own.