McLaren’s digital on-car advertising facilitates unprecedented possibilities for Formula 1 sponsorship

McLaren’s digital on-car advertising facilitates unprecedented possibilities for Formula 1 sponsorship

Following their first official outing at the Bahrain GP, digital advertising panels from Seamless Digital will feature on McLaren cars in practice, qualifying, and all 23 of this year’s races.

Using kindle technology, or ‘electronic paper,’ two advertising screens weighing 190g in total have been placed on the cockpit of the car, with one each side of the driver. Later in the year, the revolving sponsors will appear on the drivers’ helmets. The sponsors will be clearly visible through the on-board cameras and will create additional space for sponsors by way of live rotations. McLaren decisively implemented the displays having conducted their initial on-track tests just five months ago.

Perhaps most impressively, these panels enable what CEO of Seamless Digital, Mark Turner, calls “situationally relevant messages,” that respond in real time to changing events. The chameleonic capability of Seamless Digital’s product is singular in the field: picture car service logos during pit stops and increasingly adrenalised graphics during tight final-laps (as well as crypto sponsors during crashes – just kidding). With these possibilities, it remains crucial to engage fans rather than distract them; the experiential success of the project will keep this in mind while making use of the heightened technological responsiveness.

Despite McLaren’s pioneering role in this new frontier, the company’s advertising methods are inextricably tied to performances on the track in the minds of fans; McLaren have, in recent years, been labelled technically insufficient and severely underachieving. During the Bahrain GP over the weekend, Lando Norris suffered a power unit pneumatic issue that led to six pitstops and his eventual retirement in the closing laps, while team-mate Oscar Piastri retired early with an electrical failure. Public reaction to the panels on debut has inevitably angled towards the view that McLaren ought to invest in performance-related innovation as it seeks to escape this rut.

While there is legitimate concern for McLaren’s season, this venture should be considered separately with positivity and ambition. Creative brands will be able to enjoy a unique flexibility in on-car branding, opening the door to a wider range of sponsors and imaginative teams. McLaren’s form will fluctuate, but acquainting themselves early with a revolutionary mode of sponsorship is a shrewd and exciting business turn.