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XTB and Hilton check out of McLaren livery

NEWS STORY
11/02/2011

Just last week Pitpass revealed that Hilton, the sole hotel company currently involved with F1, could soon have a rival as an international chain is circling the slot of F1's official hotel partner.

Hilton first became a McLaren sponsor in 2005 and it has had logos on the rear-wing endplates every year since then. However, now comes the news that Hilton's logos have disappeared completely from this year's McLaren launch car. Instead the hotel chain now has logos on the left sleeve of the drivers' overalls.

It remains to be seen whether this move has been driven by cost cutting, strategy or something else. One thing that is for sure is that it is rare for a sponsor to remove its logos from the car, particularly one as successful as McLaren is at the moment, if it stays with the team. Indeed, the only other sponsor to migrate from the McLaren launch car to the overalls is Forex broker XTB which joined the team just last year.

The departure of Hilton from the McLaren livery opens the window even wider for a rival hotel company to enter F1 and monopolise the on-screen exposure. One wonders why Hilton and XTB would no longer want their logos on the car but we can say with complete confidence that the decision must be down to people on the sponsors' side and not McLaren. The team had an excellent season last year and its sponsors enjoyed some of the highest exposure ratings in F1. It is the only team in F1 to have two world champions driving for it and with its stunning track record it really does have everything that a sponsor could want.

That's not to say that the move of a sponsor from the car to the drivers' overalls can't be strategic. For example, the logo for TAG, which made ceramic turbochargers for F1 cars, first appeared on the McLaren cars in 1983. After it bought the Heuer watch company in 1985 its logo was replaced on the car with that of TAG Heuer from 1986. It became virtually synonymous with McLaren through strategic use of its drivers in its advertising campaigns.

Indeed, the association between the two became so strong that TAG decided that it wouldn't get any stronger by continuing to have its logo on the car. So in 1992 its logo left the car and only appeared on the drivers' overalls. Later it left the overalls and moved only to the drivers' helmets and now is no longer there either. But you would be hard pressed to tell - with both Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton featuring prominently in TAG advertising the association with McLaren is as strong today as it always was. This is the true power of an association with McLaren and perhaps only Ferrari could match it.

However whilst it was possible for TAG to achieve this over nearly a decade it would be foolhardy for anyone to expect that XTB could expect this kind of a connection over just a few years. In F1 terms it is the blink of an eye.

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