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Mat Coch writes:
Formula One must do more to sell itself to the public, believes McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh. Although the pinnacle of world motor sport, Whitmarsh believes Formula One does not do enough to capitalise on its position, nor entice new fans, a point McLaren is working hard to change.
"There are two great world sports: soccer and Formula One," Whitmarsh said. "We've got to buy more people into the sport. This sport is fundamentally a great, great sport. The more you understand, the more you get involved in it, the greater it is.
"We've got to now try and sell that proposition to as broad an audience as we can and Tooned, the McLaren animation, is part of that process."
McLaren's cartoon has proved an instant hit, portraying the lighter side of the sport while making it more accessible to younger audiences. Broadcast on Sky ahead of each Grand Prix the cartoons feature animated versions of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, enjoying some of the team's latest developments.
The cartoons, or perhaps computer animated motion picture featurettes as Ron Dennis might call them, draw on the same appeal as the Disney-Pixar 'Cars' movie, showing a human and slightly mischievous side. They're in stark contrast to the sterile, almost clinically cold corporate image McLaren has traditionally enjoyed.
"McLaren has changed a little bit over the last few years," Whitmarsh explained. "We're not taking ourselves so seriously. We're still very serious about motor racing, we still want to win and we do everything we can, but I think you also have to show a slightly lighter side.
"There's going to be an episode accompanying every Grand Prix this year and hopefully people enjoy it, it's a little bit of a light-hearted moment for three minutes before each Grand Prix, and I think we've had a tremendously positive response to it."
The cartoons were masterminded by Ron Dennis, the former team principal who has now focuses his efforts on the broader McLaren Group. With a burgeoning McLaren Applied Technologies business, the McLaren road car company and, of course, the Formula One team, the Woking based squad has diversified itself away from the core and original racing team while using Formula One to underpin its strategy and brand.
McLaren Animation is therefore perhaps a logical extension, one which makes the brand appealing to a younger demographic. It helps builds McLaren's, and by proxy Formula One's, ageing fan base by connecting with a younger audience.
In what is a particularly complex sport with Tooned it seems McLaren has gone a long way to start breaking down those barriers.
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