How McLaren's data-driven digital strategy is putting its sponsors out in front

McLaren

The pinnacle of Formula One racing and managing digital strategies may seem unconnected and yet McLaren’s head of digital and social media Rob Bloom maintains the same principles apply.

McLaren has a long and rich history in Formula One, with some of the greatest names ever to grace the sport driving for the team including Ayrton Senna, James Hunt and Lewis Hamilton amongst many others.

However, in recent seasons Red Bull and Mercedes have dominated the sport and McLaren’s lack of success has coincided with some big names sponsors including Hugo Boss and Tag Heuer jumping ship to partner with its rivals.

With sponsorship endorsements playing a crucial role in enabling teams to remain competitive on the track, efficiency in activating these partnerships is paramount in helping to maintain current ties and attract new partners.

To this end, McLaren is ahead of its rivals in Red Bull, Ferrari and Williams. A recent analysis from digital sports engagement agency WePlay looked at how effectively each of the Formula One teams used social media video to engage with their audience and placed McLaren in second, behind only Mercedes.

“We now recognise that video is a means by which we can tell our story,” says Rob Bloom, head of digital and social media at McLaren.

It’s not the strategy itself which has determined McLaren’s success in engaging with its audience across digital, it’s the means with which it executes it.

“If you look across the wider McLaren Technology Group there are two core principles that underpin all the companies that operate under this brand. The first is data and the second is innovation".

It’s these two principles which have been applied to McLaren’s management of its digital and social media strategy and have guided its constant refinement on how to best engage with its audience.

“Using these data-driven insights has been incredibly powerful for us in this 'data beta optimisation' climate and has helped us learn how to refine and enhance how we engage with our audience on different channels.

“The way that we can therefore tell our brand and partner stories is very much underpinned by that credible suite of data, which is ever growing and ever more interesting in exposing insights which we can activate upon.”

Even though platforms like YouTube and Facebook are increasingly used to in favour of owned channels, the importance in which McLaren places on them is most evident in the recent launch of the McLaren app.

Bloom says the McLaren is also preparing to launch a new site which will “challenge the norm and convention of how a sports right holder presents itself and its partners online,” while still recognising the value of allowing a story to reside natively within Facebook.

With the more technical focused partners such as ExxonMobil, Bloom says McLaren focuses its activation through the team website and app where the more knowledgeable fans of the sport are. With a lifestyle partner like Michael Kors, the story is best told through platforms like Pinterest or Instagram.

The team’s adeptness on this front has helped plugged the gap left by some of the departing sponsors with Richard Mille, Michael Kors and NTT Communications all coming on board this year.

"To be competing in such a multi-layered sport as Formula One and have the rich history we have, enables us to tell our story and that of our partners against really strong narratives."

This alone isn’t enough to drive a successful digital strategy though, especially with a brand trying to reach fans spread across the globe

"We recognised that the sport consists of fans who have differing interests and are made up of differing demographics so we don’t therefore assume that there’s one way to engage a community of that size and varied demographic."

Bloom explains that the key is to have a range of partners that resonate with the varying demographics of the team's fan base as well as an understanding those people and the best platforms to reach them on.

“The breadth of partners we have is representative of the opportunity that sponsoring Formula One can offer. The rich multi-layered nature of the sport allows us to go out and reach into new communities and tell those stories by packaging them in a way that appeals to a certain demographic on specific platforms."

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Tony Connelly

I cover media, marketing and sponsorship news within the sports industry. This includes breaking news as well as writing feature pieces with insights from experts in the sports marketing world.

All by Tony