Brand Purpose Brand Strategy Sponsorship

Why this brand donated its prime logo spot on McLaren’s F1 car to a nonprofit


By Hannah Bowler, Senior Reporter

July 13, 2023 | 6 min read

McLaren Racing and the B2B work management platform Smartsheet have a sponsorship deal into an opportunity to raise awareness of the creative industries UK-nonprofit Steam Co.

STEAM Co. on McLaren's F1 car at the Silverstone Grand Prix

STEAM Co. on McLaren's F1 car at the Silverstone Grand Prix / McLaren

At the Silverstone Grand Prix race, Smartsheet gave up its prized sponsorship slot on the McLaren race car to Steam Co. – the organisation that teaches children the importance of pairing engineering and science with creativity and art.

The initiative is part of McLaren and Smartsheet’s Sponsor X project which is in its second year after it amplified an indigenous charity DeadlyScience for the Australian Grand Prix and The Hidden Genius Project for the United States Grand Prix.

Andrew Bennett chief marketing officer at Smartsheet is behind the strategy. “We are on a mission to tell the world about who we are and what we stand for, so we're trying to really invest in getting our brand out in the world,” Bennett says. “We feel like we can do more than just get our logo out there through programs like Sponsor X we can convey more about what we stand for, and the types of organizations we support.”

Steam Co. was founded by ex-advertiser Nick Corston and runs creativity sessions in primary schools, community fetes and festivals across England to inspire kids to develop creative thinking when it comes to critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Corston said: “By Smartsheet and McLaren asking our organization to participate in Sponsor X, it not only meant they saw the shared dream, but it was validation that this cause truly matters.”

Ahead of the British Grand Prix, the three organizations hosted a ‘creativity day’ at a school in Woking where McLaren driver Lando Norris and Brian Cox along with F1 engineers talked to primary school students.

It’s hoped with the increased awareness Steam Co. will raise enough money to increase the number of Creativity Day Art Trucks so it can reach more British children. Smartsheet will then also provide its tech solutions to the Steam Co. to make the organization more efficient.

“There's an element of campaigning for creativity and there's an element of inspiring what creativity could do. We have to educate parents and we have to support teachers who use creativity in their work,” Corston says.“My call to The Drum’s community is that anybody who cares about creativity, anybody who cares about children, anybody who cares about our country, our communities, should collaborate with us and start running these days”.

Sponsor X

Smartsheet and McLaren said they wanted to develop a sponsorship deal with a difference where there was a deeper integration between organizations and purpose-led initiatives were at the forefront.

“F1 is a great fit for us because we are a global business, we have a really significant presence both in Europe and in the Asia Pacific,” Bennett says. “We spoke to a number of F1 teams, but we were really impressed by McLaren’s challenge to us to try to partner in a really innovative way. We didn’t want to do the standard program with the logo on the car and on the uniform.”

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Bennett revealed Sponsor X has had the unexpected benefit of driving employee engagement by doubling up as a recruitment marketing tool.

McLaren’s executive director of partnerships and accelerator, Matt Dennington says the ambition is to drive impact and purpose. “Any partnership that we go into we look at how we can elevate both our partner and our own brand,” Dennington says. “It needs to be win-win for everyone gone are the days where it's just a cash transaction.”

Going into the second year Dennington says McLaren and Smartsheet are “getting a lot better understanding within both of our organizations, and everyone is starting to become a lot more articulate in the way we describe Sponsor X and work through it with media and through our channels.”

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