Olly Wehring

Diageo and McLaren - a match made in Walsh's heaven

By: Olly Wehring - 23 November 2006 13:19

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Woking, a satellite town just outside London, is not normally a place one would associate with cutting edge 21st century technology.

However, last night (22 November), Diageo gave the industry an update on its much-debated link with Formula One, during an event held at the über-modern McLaren Technology Centre.

Last year, the UK drinks giant signed a sponsorship deal with Team McLaren Mercedes for its flagship Scotch whisky brand Johnnie Walker. An association between a beverage alcohol brand and the sport is nothing new, but what has caused such discussion in the drinks industry is Diageo’s use of the sponsorship to promote a responsible drinking message around the world.

Just-drinks has discussed at great length the merits - or otherwise - of Diageo using Formula One to promote that message, but last night there was no doubting the company’s commitment to the project.

And last night, there was also no doubting that Diageo chief executive Paul Walsh was enjoying himself among the almost space-age glass and steel of McLaren’s HQ, designed by Lord Foster. McLaren Formula One cars, past and present, were parked throughout the building, which must have brought a smile to the face of Walsh, a confirmed Formula One fan.

After giving a speech on Diageo’s partnership with McLaren and its commitment to responsible drinking, Walsh spent most of the rest of the evening rapt in conversation with Ron Dennis, chairman and CEO of McLaren, no doubt talking about downforce, tyre changes and gossip from the pit lane.

If you need an enthusiastic work experience lad to help out around the place, Mr Dennis, one candidate certainly springs to mind.

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