14 December 2015
Dennis steadfast on McLaren sponsor ‘rate card’
Ron Dennis says he won't reduce his 'rate card' at McLaren to provide prospective sponsors greater team presence than they can offer financially.
Ron Dennis has assured that McLaren remains in a favourable financial situation despite the loss of key sponsors in recent years and a forthcoming drop in prize money after its dismal 2015 F1 season, insisting he won't drop rates in order to lure more backers.
Considered one of the strongest brands in the sport having forged iconic relationships with the likes of Marlboro, West and Vodafone over the years, McLaren has nonetheless struggled to build on its portfolio of sponsors since then.
Having failed to replace Vodafone as its title sponsor, McLaren had persevered with less lucrative partnerships with Diageo (Johnnie Walker), TAG Heuer and ExxonMobil, but the former two will likely defect to Force India and Red Bull for 2016.
Coupled to a plummeting prize money fund as a legacy of its dismal 2015 season, the first year in its high profile relationship with engine supplier and key partner Honda, it has been suggested that McLaren may be forced to budget more stringently for 2016.
However, Dennis refutes this, saying other strands of the business are performing very well, while it hasn't had to direct funds to erstwhile engine supplier Mercedes either.
“Do I lose sleep over sponsors? No I don't. We're strong, very strong, financially and the equity value of our company is now well over £1bn and all of our businesses are profitable,” he said. “We're profitable and our technology company, which lost last year, will report a nominal profit this year. There was a lot of non-repairing cost last year as we transcended from Mercedes, who were pretty severe on us fiscally in the last year, and we had a lot of restructuring costs and things like that.”
Reflecting on whether McLaren's brand has become diluted, Dennis plays down the defections, but maintains he will remain 'robust on the rate card' and not entice more sponsors to have a prominent presence for less money.
“Things are rarely as they appear to be and certainly, in this instance, the simple fact is that we didn't lose Vodafone, they chose to stop,” he continued. “There's a big difference because big corporations have senior management changes and it's inevitable when you have senior management changes, they have a different perspective. In respect of Vodafone, we were just caught up in these changes.
“Then there are inevitably other challenges, which is, when you start to wrestle with competitiveness, people inevitably try to use that to optimise their commercial relationship with the team. I'm very robust on rate card so I have the overview as chief executive of the group where the revenue streams are, and it's my job to predict where we're going to go.
“You don't need to be an Einstein to know that the climate for F1 and sports sponsorship overall is challenging – I don't think you've seen a new sponsor at Ferrari in the last two years for example – and the worst thing you can do is get into a situation where you drop your rate card and everything spins out of control."
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