McLaren Racing has appointed Google as official partner of the McLaren Formula One Team and the McLaren MX Extreme E Team from 2022. The multi-year partnership aims to bring "the best of Google products to McLaren" to provide a more seamless technology experience across devices, McLaren said in a statement. 

As part of the partnership,

Android and Chrome branding will also be carried on the engine cover and wheel covers of the MCL36 Formula One race cars, and on the helmets and race suits of McLaren Formula One drivers Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo.

The partnership will kick off for the 2022 Formula One season. Throughout the season, the partnership will see McLaren use 5G-enabled Android devices and Chrome browser across its operations during practice sessions, qualifying and races to support the drivers and team, with the goal of improving on-track performance. 

Zak Brown, CEO, McLaren Racing, said that the company looks forward to an exciting partnership that spans across Formula One and Extreme E. "Google is a global leader in technology and has been a ground-breaking innovator in connecting people around the world. By integrating platforms like Android and Chrome across our operations, our team will be better supported to focus on driving performance," he added.

Additionally, Google branding will be visible on the Number 58 McLaren MX Extreme E race car, and on the race suits of McLaren MX Extreme E drivers Emma Gilmour and Tanner Foust from the 2022 Island X Prix.

Nicholas Drake, VP of marketing, Google said that McLaren Racing represents the very best of what's possible on a racetrack across performance, inclusion and sustainability, which are values Google shares as well. "We’re bringing more innovation to platforms, such as Android and Chrome, and seamlessly connecting them to other Google services to optimize McLaren's race day performance," he added.

Great synergies, say industry

Commenting on the synergies of the partnership, Prashant Kumar, founder of Entropia – part of Accenture Interactive said Google is rapidly expanding its business into performance clouds, quantum computing and automation. Its future lives in ability to process and mobilise information with zero latency and errors across industry 4.0 platforms and especially at the cusp of hardware and software. Moreover, F1 as a sports sits at the cutting edge of technology. While the move is a bold one, he says it makes “great sense”.

“Let’s not forget that Google is a great brand when it comes to search, media and entertainment, but in other areas, it’s had mixed equity. It needs the right associations not just to learn and test but also to build cutting edge street cred,” said Kumar

Ambrish Chaudhry, managing director, of Superunion Singapore, India, Indonesia added that this is “almost a symptom of manifestation for a lot of digital businesses that have come to the realisation that their communications needs to be offline as well”. In fact, another collaboration similar to Google and McLaren's was when National Basketball Association (NBA) and Microsoft Corp also announce a multiyear alliance “to transform” the way fans experience the NBA in 2020. Through the tie up, Microsoft and NBA Digital — co-managed by the NBA and Turner Sports — aimed to new, innovative, direct-to-consumer platform on Microsoft Azure that used machine learning and artificial intelligence to deliver next-generation, personalised game broadcasts.

“Many people are surprised that a lot of online business advertise offline, but what Google is doing that is interesting  as it show of real strength,” said Chaudhry. Moreover, advertising is about context. One of the perks of the partnership, said Chaudhry, is that it is still “very much about enterprise tech and the competitive advantage” and thus Google trying to up its game in the space is an overall win-win.

“For Google, the move showcases performance of its hardware and its software and McClaren is the user and vehicle in which enterprise tech can associate with companies. Hence it really brings the message of the performance,  where every second is precious,” said Chaudhry.

Chaudhry added that the placement of the branding was equally interesting. “Google used the only real estate that is probably not maximised or used by other players."

Having the tyre in Google colours maximises the real estate and is really smart. When you see the four colours together, you instantly can tell its Google given its consistent strong branding and brand building.

Zayn Khan, SEA CEO of Dragon Rouge added that Formula 1 sponsorship has traditionally been dominated by oil majors and global lubricants brands which leverage F1 to showcase their fuel and fluid innovations and to build their brands with a wider global audience.

The reality of F1 racing now however is that data and digital technology play a huge role - arguably as important as the fuel that powers the vehicles and fluids that keep them running at peak performance.

According to AWS’ website, with 300 sensors on each F1 race car generating more than 1.1 million data points per second transmitted from the cars to the pit, F1 is now truly data-driven sport.

“When the vehicle and driver are on the track, everything from the driver’s heart rate to fluid temperatures to tire tread depth is scrutinised and factored in the racing game plan. In this context, it makes sense for a brand such as Google to support Formula 1 and Extreme E as a means for trialing their own data and OS innovations and positioning their brand at the cutting edge of racing technology,” said Khan.

He added that while motorsports may not be directly relevant to all consumers and B2B customers, F1 certainly has a large global audience and enjoys high visibility in broadcast and digital media. If Google invest in building the profile of this partnership, its  sponsorship investment should deliver a positive ROI in the longer term.

Looking at the vehicle livery, one can see that the brands in McLaren’s sponsorship stable are from the non-traditional (motorsports) industry brands, added Jessalynn Chen, managing director, Labbrand Singapore. This is not unusual because Formula 1 is one of the most global and most popular sports – targeting a wide audience and a varied lifestyle; from the regular man on the street to corporate spenders to high rollers.

“In motorsports, it is all about the car’s performance, how fast can the crew react to changes and provide micro-level improvements to stay on top of the game. All the more appropriate for this partnership between McLaren Racing and Google because there is a direct exchange of technology,” she explained.

Furthermore, the partnership is to Google’s advantage to be associated with the perception of high performance, intense competition, precision, endurance, resilience – all of which links back to the cognizance of motorsports. Vice versa, McLaren Racing can and will leverage Google technology to support the racing team’s operations from data analytics, performance monitoring and optimisation.

“This can push the innovation of both brands by tapping into the brand equities and technology depths; much like how Amazon Web Services (AWS) have provided machine learning and fan experience insights to F1 through their partnership,” said Chen

Separately, in January, Singapore renewed its contract to host the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix (Singapore GP) for another seven years, from 2022 to 2028. This is the fourth contract renewal for Singapore, and the seven-year extension is the longest for the race to date. This will give Singapore a longer runway to capture pent-up demand as international travel recovers. It will also allow the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), Singapore GP, and industry partners to develop new experiences to meet the evolving interests of locals and visitors. 

Singapore has hosted the race 12 times since its debut in 2008, with about 268,000 spectators attending the event when it was last held in 2019 - the second-highest attendance for the race. The Singapore race experience is also elevated by an exciting line-up of lifestyle and entertainment programmes that extend beyond the Circuit. Since its debut, the race has generated more than SG$1.5 billion in incremental tourism receipts and attracted more than 550,000 unique international visitors, STB said then.

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